11/18 Update: This week Gov. Newsom rolled back all Southern California counties to the most restrictive tier of the state's reopening guidelines, the "purple" phase, along with a number of counties located in central and northern areas of the state. Currently a rough 94% of Californian's now live in a "purple" county, meaning indoor dining, gyms and movie theaters are banned.
Also this week, Los Angeles County (which has always remained "purple") announced a series of new precautions and restrictions that will be triggered by case or hospital rates: As of Friday, November 20, a curfew for restaurants, breweries, wineries, bars and all non-essential retail establishments will run from 10pm to 6am indefinitely; should these figures increase beyond new thresholds, outdoor dining will be temporarily banned and the curfew will become countywide and trigger a three-week "Safer at Home" order.
11/10 Update: Coronavirus cases are climbing across California, and this morning when the state updated its county-by-county reopenings map, it issued that San Diego must roll back to the “purple” phase. San Diego now rejoins Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the “widespread” phase, which means indoor dining and other modified activities will need to cease.
Riverside County was rolled back from “red” to “purple” in late October. L.A.’s neighbor to the north, Ventura County, posted case rates this week above the “red” threshold; another week like that could roll it back to “purple.”
10/6 Update: Today Ventura County received approval to move into California’s “red” phase of reopening procedure.
“This is great news for our County and our business community,” Mike Powers, a county executive officer, said in an official release. “We will continue to advocate for our local businesses and appreciate this opportunity to move forward.”
In the “red” phase restaurants can reopen for indoor dining at a maximum capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever figure is fewer, while wineries are permitted to reopen with outdoor service. Retail shops and malls can reopen at 50% indoor capacity, and gyms, yoga studios, climbing centers and other fitness organizations can reopen at 10% capacity. Zoos, museums and similar organizations with indoor activities can reopen at 25% capacity.
Ventura’s move to “red” joins neighboring counties San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara. Los Angeles County remains in the “purple” phase; L.A. County would need to remain at or under 7 daily new cases per 100,000 people for the next to weeks in order to move into the red phase by the end of October.
9/8 Update: Governor Newsom announced today that Orange County can now move into the “red” phase of the state’s new reopening plan, meaning new, limited reopening capabilities for the likes of indoor restaurant dining, gyms and other fitness centers, zoos, aquariums and museums, retail and more.
Currently Orange County and San Diego County are the only counties in Southern California permitted to move into Gov. Newsom’s “red” phase; Los Angeles and other regions remain in “purple.”
Our original 8/28 story: In the last few months Californians have witnessed complete business shutdowns, near-complete reopenings, another wave of closures, a few regulatory rollbacks and new industry-specific laws all designed to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Today, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a new four-part, color-coded system that should, in theory, help keep the state’s reopening a bit more easy to navigate.
The new system assigns California counties a color based on their case and positivity rates, with purple designated as “widespread” (more than seven daily new cases per 100,000 people, and more than an 8% positivity level) and red for “substantial” (4–7 daily new cases per 100,000; 5–8% positivity), followed by the even lower-risk orange “moderate” and yellow “minimal” tiers.
As of now L.A. County hovers in the purple zone along with around 87% of California’s counties, meaning most non-essential businesses must remain closed, with some outdoor activities permitted; the state will update county results each week. But a move to red would mean some major moves forward, like the return of indoor dining and even movie theaters, both with very limited capacities. Just because the state says something can open doesn’t mean it will, though; back in June, L.A. had permission to reopen movie theaters but chose not to.
Counties can still individually determine whether they want to enact stricter reopening guidelines, but if L.A. County decides to stick to the new statewide guidelines as-is, we could—best case scenario—be seeing a wave of reopenings by the end of September, provided our county test positivity rate and new cases continue to decline.
L.A. is still many weeks, if not months, away from the orange or yellow tiers. But looking more closely ahead, here’s what industry reopenings look like in the state’s new red or “substantial” risk phase:
Restaurants: Continued outdoor dining, plus the reinstatement of indoor dining (capped at 25% indoor capacity or 100 people, whichever figure is less)
Bars, breweries and distilleries: Still closed.
Movie theaters: Open at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever figure is less.
Museums, zoos and aquariums: Indoor services can reopen, but at 25% capacity.
Gyms: Can reopen indoor activities, but cap attendance at 10%.
Retail: Indoor capacity limit increased to 50% for retail shops as well as shopping malls, destination shopping centers, and swap meets; food courts can reopen at 25% capacity or 100 people at a time, whichever figure is less.
Offices: Still mostly closed with an emphasis on remote work.
After improving numbers beyond the red phase, counties could continue to increase indoor capacities or reopen additional sectors as they move into the orange (1 to 3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 citizens, and 2% to 4.9% positivity level) and yellow (with less than one daily new case per 100,000 citizens, and less than 2% positivity level) tiers.
Currently San Diego is the only Southern California county that can move forward into the red phase, and it can begin so on Monday should county officials agree.