After nearly four months of being in the most restrictive purple tier, Orange County is moving back into the red tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy regulatory system.
The move into the less restrictive tier gives way to many businesses like zoos, movie theaters and restaurants to allow indoor activity at 25% capacity. Retail stores will also be operating now at 50% capacity, an increase from 25%.
Previously, businesses like wineries and bars were not able to open at all, though the move into the red tier allows for outdoor activities only.
The county was preparing for the move into the red tier March 17 but after the state met its goal of vaccinating 2 million people in communities hit the hardest by the coronavirus, the timeline was moved up.
Twelve other counties including San Bernardino and Los Angeles announced they will also be moving to the red tier as early as Monday.
The surge of COVID-19 cases during the holiday season prompted the move back into the most restrictive purple tier Nov. 2020, forcing Gov. Gavin Newsom to also issue a regional stay-at-home order as the rates of ICU cases increased.
Despite the signaling of restrictions easing up, health officials continue to urge the usage of masks and social distancing.
The amount of vaccines distributed is also affecting the way the state measures its metrics for counties to move tiers. With 2 million doses administered in vulnerable areas, the state is planning to change when counties are able to move into lesser restrictive tiers after hitting the next milestone of distributing 4 million doses in the vaccine equity quartile.
“As more people are vaccinated and more vaccines are available, especially in our most impacted communities, we can envision a day when California can enter the ‘green tier’ – in which strict public health measures will no longer be needed,” Gov. Newsom said in an announcement March 4.
The Secretary of California Health and Human Services, Dr. Marh Ghaly, also announced March 4 that California amusement parks in the red tier will be able to open beginning April 1 at a capacity of 15%.
The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek announced on Twitter that Disneyland will begin recalling furloughed cast members but did not mention a precise date of the parks reopening.
The rate of new cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 continued its decline according to the Orange County Health Care Agency, reporting 172 new cases and 26 deaths Saturday adding to the 4,434 fatalities since the pandemic began.
For more information on Orange County’s COVID-19 rates visit the OC Health Care Agency website.