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When will Los Angeles reopen and what are the latest social distancing rules?

As L.A. reopens gradually, the social distancing rules can often be confusing. We set them straight.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

It’s a time of some caution in Los Angeles. More and more of our favorite things about the city were returning each week in the spring—and then they were rolled back in the summer. As thankful as we are to still have year-round access to beaches and trails (especially as the rest of the country braces for winter), there’s a long way to go before things return to normal.

But L.A. is on a path to something that resembles the city we used to know. Figuring out where exactly we are on that path can be confusing, though, so we thought we’d dive into what exactly going out and about town entails right now.

Looking for even more info? Check out our guide to everything open right now, what you can and can’t do outside and what’s still closed and canceled

Los Angeles reopening FAQ

So… when will Los Angeles reopen?

That depends on what you consider “open”: Restaurants, bars, museums and gyms are open for outdoor service only, while malls, retail stores and hair salons are open for indoor service with a limited capacity.

But California effectively put the brakes on its reopening plans in mid November. And locally, L.A. County could see the closure of outdoor dining or even a curfew and the return of the Safer at Home Order if conditions worsen.

As for the rest of L.A.’s sectors, should conditions improve? Before we can tackle when we need to cover the how. In late August, California unveiled a new framework for its reopening plans that uses four color-coded tiers. L.A. is currently stuck in purple, the highest-risk tier (you can check its current status here). In order to move forward to red, which would ease a number of indoor restrictions, L.A. must hit that tier’s minimum requirements for two straight weeks. That’s also true for making the jump to orange and then yellow, which each ease even more restrictions.

But there are a couple of catches: You can only move one tier at a time and if you’ve just moved from, say, purple to red, you must wait at least three weeks before you can move to orange. On top of that, the state may say that you can reopen a sector, but the county ultimately has the power to keep it closed. It’s also important to note that even if L.A. were to achieve the yellow tier, most venues would be capped at half capacity and all major events would still be canceled.

Moving back to now, it seems unlikely that L.A. will progress into the red tier by the end of 2020. But whenever it does, that means the county could reopen indoor service at restaurants, museums, movie theaters and gyms.

Beyond the four tiers, we still await a day when we can once again enjoy live performances, conventions and festivals—all of which still remain closed or canceled.

Am I allowed to leave the house yet?

Yes. As its name implies—but probably doesn’t make clear enough—L.A.’s “Reopening Safer at Work and in the Community Revised Order” (a mouthful that we’ll simply refer to by its former name, “Safer at Home”) asks Angelenos to limit the time spent outside of their homes. But it doesn’t mandate that we stay inside at all times: You’re still allowed to partake in essential activities like grocery shopping, filling up your gas tank or just going for a walk, as well as an increasing number of non-essential ones (more on that below).

As of mid November, local officials are urging Angelenos to stay home as much as possible.


When does L.A.’s “Safer at Home” order end?

After an initial extension through mid-May, L.A.’s “Safer at Home” order now has no end date (the similar statewide order is until further notice, as well). But L.A. officials have consistently said—and shown through their actions—that they’re committed to gradually easing restrictions.

Do I need to wear a mask?

Yes. L.A. requires that you have a cloth face covering (not a medical-grade mask) with you any time you leave your home, and you’ll need to wear it whenever you may encounter other people, whether at a retail businesses or while walking through a crowded area. This has been extended to all of California, as well. Even if you’re not around other people, you’re still urged to have a face covering handy at all times. In addition, you should be maintaining at least six feet of distance between yourself and other people that aren’t part of your household.


Can I go for a hike?

Yes. On May 9, all trails in both L.A. County and the City of Los Angeles were allowed to reopen. In all cases, you must wear a mask in the trailhead parking lot, as well as on crowded stretches of the route. You may encounter reduced parking or temporary closures, so we recommend checking the latest county trail alert.

Can I go to the beach?

Yes. After reopening in mid-May for active recreation, beaches all over L.A. County are now open for leisure activities, as well. What exactly does that mean? You can surf, swim, walk or run up and down the coastline, as well as sit, sunbathe and picnic with members of your own household (however, the City of Los Angeles still insists that its city-run beaches are for active recreation only). In addition, piers, boardwalks and bike paths can open (the Venice Beach Boardwalk is technically only open for going to and from businesses, but good luck finding anyone adhering to that). And yes, like the rest of L.A., face coverings are required (except when you’re in the water).


Can I go out to a restaurant in L.A.? Or a bar?

Restaurants, yes—but only if they’re outdoors. On July 1, the state ordered indoor dining rooms to shut for at least the next three weeks, and it’ll remain that way until L.A. can move out of the purple tier. Outdoor seating and reservations are encouraged, while face coverings (while not eating) are required.

Bars, no—unless it’s a bar that serves food, in which case, for the purposes of reopening guidelines, it’s a restaurant and, well, see above. Similarly, breweries that serve food and wineries can offer service outdoors.

When L.A. reaches the red tier, the state says that restaurants can reopen dining rooms at 25% capacity—though it’ll be up to the county to decide whether or not they’re actually allowed to. Bars will still need to remain closed.

Can I visit my friends?

For the first in months, the answer to that question is actually “yes”—sort of. In mid-October, L.A. amended its health order to permit private outdoor gatherings between no more than three households, as long as everyone is wearing a mask and households maintain six feet of distance. The county also suggests limiting such gatherings to two hours or less.


Can I travel outside of L.A.?

Nothing’s stopping you, but officials urge Angelenos not to travel right now. If you absolutely must leave the area, the county asks that you quarantine for 14 days upon your return.

Closer to home, you’re free to go for a drive, whether to pick up food, clear your head or set out in search of some quality outdoor time.

Outside of L.A., public health guidelines vary from county to county, but in general hotels around the state are reopening. But we’ll again turn to the public health guidance, which reminds Angelenos that they should be limiting interactions with other people, so keep that in mind as you plan your trip. There’s a lot more to unpack about travel, though, so we’ve put together an entire guide to day trips.

What should I do if I’m feeling sick?

If you’re feeling mildly sick with a fever and cough, you need to stay home for at least 10 days since you first started experiencing symptoms, and then another three days after you’ve recovered. If you’re concerned that you may have Covid-19, you can schedule an appointment for a free test at sites around the county (and even if you’re asymptomatic, the city is offering a limited number of tests).


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