Gov. Gav Newsom announced Monday morning his decision to revoke California’s stay-at-home order, a change that will reopen small businesses and outdoor dining
Due to the latest projections for ICU capacity, California health officials gave permission to lift the statewide lockdown, which is going into effect on Friday. Statewide, the ICU capacity rate projected for Feb. 21 puts Southern California at 33.3% and Northern California at 27.3%. These numbers put the state in a positive place towards remaining at a substantial risk or even moderate risk level.
While the order went into effect regarding the entire state, this was a big step for Southern California, San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area regions that have been under 15% ICU capacity. These areas are home to more than 90% of the state’s population of 39 million people and were hit the hardest.
There was significant criticism centered on Newsom regarding the state concealing virus data from the public. After the winter surge, it was unclear to state officials when the stay-at-home order would be lifted. State health officials said they rely on a very complex set of measurements that would most likely confuse the public if explained.
Local officials and businesses were caught off guard when Newsom lifted the lockdown. Last week, no regions appeared likely to have the stay-at-home order lifted soon because their capacity was below 15%. But within a day, the state announced it was lifting the order for the Greater Sacramento area as well as Southern California regions.
California’s health department on Monday released to the public previously secret projections for future hospital ICU capacity throughout the state, the key factor in lifting the lockdown. State officials did not explain how regional per capita virus cases and transmission rates might also impact how much ICU space will be available within four weeks.
Amid the criticism, Newsom released information on Monday regarding how health officials determine projected ICU capacity. The four components are: current estimated ICU capacity available, current community transmission, current regional case rates and the proportion of cases admitted to the ICU.
“Today we can lay claim to seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel.” Newsom said during a press briefing Monday. He later added that they were not out of the woods yet.
Moving forward, counties will be returning to the state’s color-coded blueprint for a safer economy reopening system, which places all 58 counties into one of four color-coded tiers. Each tier indicates how many business operations can remain open based on the daily adjusted case rate. 54 counties remain in the purple-colored tier, referring to a widespread risk level. Many nonessential business operations remain closed in these areas.
While case and hospitalization numbers are decreasing in the state, the number of daily deaths accredited to the virus has remained high, setting a new record of 761 on Thursday.
Los Angeles County continues to experience severe threats of exposure. The 7-day daily average of persons tested peaks at just over 80 thousand. The number of new cases reported as of Jan. 25 is roughly 6 thousand.
Although Los Angeles County continues to face a significant number of covid cases, county officials remain positive. Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer, confirmed the county’s plan for reopening. Effective immediately, outdoor activities at family entertainment centers and other recreational sites can resume.
Personal care services such as barbershops, nail salons and indoor malls may reopen indoors at 25% capacity. Hotels can reopen for tourist business.
The now lifted stay-at-home order previously limited the county from nonessential activities between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. With the curfew and lockdown now lifted, officials announced that outdoor dining can resume Friday as long as it follows CDC guidelines. Restaurants will still have occupancy limits, be required to enforce the wearing of masks by staff and social distancing between tables.
Ferrer stressed that even with many restrictions lifted, the state’s citizens should still maintain a sense of caution.
“This is not the time for people to think we can get back to our normal business and our normal ways of interacting with each other,” Ferrer said. “If we’re not careful, our metrics that are headed in the right direction will quickly change. So, please, do your part to allow us to move forward with careful reopenings.”
As the state progresses through reopening, health officials are warning those at most risk to acquire the vaccine. Los Angeles county expects to receive about 143,900 more doses of vaccine this week.
Dr. Paul Simon, Chief Science Officer at Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, warns that Californians must remain aware. “I do want to emphasize that the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far too high,” he said. “So while there’s reason to be hopeful, we all must remain vigilant and continue to be disciplined when outside the home.”
With a hopeful return to normalcy, Newsom is looking to quickly reopen schools and more businesses. The record $89.5 billion education budget he talked about on Friday includes $2 billion in grants aimed at nudging schools to reopen classrooms for its youngest students by mid-February and $4.6 billion for summer school to address students’ learning.
With the color-coded blueprint intact, Newsom said the hard-hit Golden State is, “not out of the woods,” but its models suggest that it has overcome the most “challenging” part of the latest wave.