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Highland Park Bowl
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Los Angeles County has been moved into California’s orange tier

The county will allow businesses to increase their capacities starting April 5.

Michael Juliano
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Michael Juliano
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Los Angeles County was stuck in the most-restrictive purple tier of California’s reopening plans for more than half a year, but after only three weeks in the red tier, the county is taking a step forward again into the orange tier.

On Tuesday, the state released its latest county rankings and L.A. (as well as Orange County) has met all of the requirements for the orange tier for two straight weeks. This now paves the way for the county to allow a number of sectors to increase their indoor capacities, and for bowling alleys to reopen and for bars to return outdoors.

Later in the day, the county announced that it will officially allow businesses to operate under the orange tier guidelines starting at 12:01am on April 5. Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the county will be waiting a few extra days in order to make sure that three weeks have passed since the red tier guidelines went into place, which allows the county to ensure that case numbers don’t increase before then.

The full sector guidelines will be posted on Friday, but here’s a rundown of what will change in the orange tier:

Restaurants: Indoor dining capacity doubles to 50% or 200 people, whichever is less.

Bars: For bars that don’t serve meals, they can reopen outdoors between the hours of 11:30am and 10pm. There’ll be no counter seating or live entertainment allowed, but TVs can be turned on. Tables are limited to a max of six people from three different households. Indoor service can’t return until the yellow tier.

Wineries, breweries and distilleries: For spots that don’t serve meals (the ones that do are considered restaurants), they can open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. TVs are only permitted to be operated outdoors.

Movie theaters: Indoor capacity doubles to 50% or 200 people, whichever is less.

Family entertainment centers: Bowling alleys and escape rooms could reopen indoors at 25% capacity.

Museums, zoos and aquariums: Indoor capacity doubles to 50%.

Gyms: Indoor capacity increases from 10% to 25%. Indoor pools can open, but hot tubs and saunas must remain closed. It’s worth noting that these same changes would apply to hotel facilities, too.

Retail: Grocery stores can increase their capacity to 75%, though the county suggests they stay at 50% capacity until April 15, to allow more time for employees to be vaccinated. This actually differs from the state guidelines, which call for full capacity; this 75% limit will apply to other retail stores and malls, too.

Offices: The state’s recommendations soften a bit at this point, from insisting on remote work to merely encouraging telework.

Stadiums and outdoor performances: The state issued new guidelines for these that take effect April 1, so we haven’t even seen these in action yet. But outdoor stadiums and performances venues can increase their capacity from 20% to 33%. They’d still be limited to in-state visitors only.

Theme parks: Similarly, the new theme park guidelines also go into effect on April 1. Both overall park and indoor capacities would increase from 15% to 25%. They too would still be limited to in-state visitors.

In order for a county to move forward, it needs to meet a few key coronavirus metrics: the seven-day average of cases per 100,000 county residents as well as the positivity rate of all Covid-19 tests. In addition, the state has equity requirements for both numbers that take into account the status of some of the hardest-hit populations (the state specifically references Latino, Black, Pacific Islander, low income and essential worker communities). To move from the red to orange tier, the county needed two straight weeks of no more than 3.9 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 4.9% or less (and specifically less than 5.3% in the health equity quartile). On March 30, L.A. County posted 3.1 cases per 100,000 people, a positivity rate of 1.5% and a health equity quartile positivity rate of 2.1%.

To move forward again into the yellow tier—in which bars could open indoors—L.A. would need a case rate below 1 per 100,000 people. While L.A.’s number of new daily cases is still quite low right now, it’s flattened a bit, so expect that yellow tier jump to still be a bit of a wait. On the other hand, if things were to move in the opposite direction and we failed to meet our current tier requirements for two straight weeks, the state could move L.A. back a tier—so masks up, Angelenos, and consider getting your vaccine once you’re eligible.

This story has been updated with the county’s plans.

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