COVID-19 what we know: Most of California now in purple tier. What's different from stay-at-home?
California health officials lifted COVID-19 stay-at-home orders across Southern California, the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley on Monday.
As a result, all of the state's 58 counties will return to the color-coded tier system that uses various metrics to determine the risk of community transmission. The state is also lifting a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.
But, with 99% of the state's population remaining in the strictest tier, what really changes?
As of last week, all but four California counties were in the most stringent purple tier. Purple indicates there's a "widespread" risk of transmission, and imposes substantial limitations on commercial activity and gatherings.
Alpine, Mariposa and Trinity counties were one tier up from that — in red — indicating a "substantial" risk of spread. Sierra County, north of Sacramento, was in the orange or "moderate" tier. No county is in the least restrictive yellow tier.
On Tuesday, the state will release new tier assignments based on the latest data.
Here are the differences between the previously mandated stay-at-home orders (which was based on regional ICU capacity rates and projections) and what it means to be in the purple tier:
What changes in the purple tier
Counties in the purple tier have a case rate of greater than seven cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of 8% or higher. Unlike the previous stay-at-home orders, the purple tier allows for outdoor dining, and for hair and nail salons to open.It also permits outdoor church services. Counties, though, can set stricter rules if they deem it necessary.
Riverside County businesses such as restaurants and gyms can now resume outdoor operations, according to county spokesperson Brooke Federico. Additionally, barber shops plus hair and nail salons can operate inside, she said.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said a new health order allowing outdoor dining to resume will be enacted Friday. Personal care businesses such as nail salons and barbershops can reopen for indoor operations immedately, with capacity limited to 25%.
Here are some of the key state regulations for counties in the purple tier:
- Grocery: open at 50%
- Restaurants: open for outdoor dining and take-out only
- Retail stores, malls and libraries: open at 25% capacity
- Hair salons and barber shops: open
- Wineries: outdoors with modifications
- Bars: closed if no meal provided; otherwise, subject to restaurant rules
- Personal services, including body waxing, nail salons, and piercing and tattoo shops: open with modifications
- Museums, zoos, aquariums: open for outdoor operation only
- Movie theaters: outdoors only
- Family entertainment centers (kart racing, mini golf, batting cages): outdoors with modifications
- Churches, mosques and other places of worship: outdoor services only
- Gyms and fitness centers: outdoors only
- Campgrounds: open with modifications
- Hotels and lodging: open with modifications
- Cardrooms: open outdoors with modifications
- Cultural ceremonies: outdoors with modifications
- Small private gatherings: outdoors only with modifications including masks and physical distancing, no more than three separate households attending (including the host’s), gatherings should be two hours or less, those with symptoms must not attend, those at high risk of severe illness strongly encouraged not to attend, and singing, shouting, chanting, cheering or exercising strongly discouraged
- Offices: Non-essential businesses should operate remotely
- Hotels: Open with modifications
- Higher education institutions: Closed for indoor lectures and student gatherings. Some courses conducted in certain indoor settings, like labs and studio arts, may be open.
- Schools: May not reopen fully for in-person instruction until the county has been in the red tier for five days. School officials may decide to conduct in-person instruction for a limited set of students in small cohorts. Note on exception: Schools that have already reopened if the county was in a less restrictive tier do not have to close. However, if a school had not already reopened for in-person instruction, it may not reopen until the county moves back to the red tier for five consecutive days.
What doesn't change
Mask and social distancing orders remain in place.
These business will remain closed:
- Bars, breweries, and distilleries that don't serve food
- Indoor dining
- Entertainment: amusement parks; conventions, festivals and concert venues; indoor recreational facilities, bowling alleys, sports with live audiences
A refresher on the color-coded tier system
California will now return to its four-tiered, color-coded system of county-by-county restrictions, state health officials announced Monday. The "Blueprint for a Safer Economy" was unleashed back in August and updated in mid-November.
The state determines which tier a county is in based on two metrics. The first is the case rate, or the number of new cases per 100,000 residents, based on a seven-day average. The second is the testing rate, or the number of coronavirus tests coming back positive.
Originally, a county had to remain in a tier for a minimum of three weeks before being able to advance to a less-restrictive tier, although there was a slight exception for purple counties: By Sept. 8, those counties only needed to meet criteria for one more week to move to the red tier.
The state said if a county’s metrics got worse for two consecutive weeks, the county would be rolled back to a more restrictive tier. Additionally, the state could step in with an "emergency brake" if hospitalizations began to surge.
To move forward, counties had to prove to the state that they could meet certain health equity measures. This applies to aspects of pandemic response like data collection, testing access, contact tracing, supportive isolation and outreach to the most impacted communities within a county.
New rules announced Nov. 16 state that:
- Counties move tiers after one week of increased COVID-19 cases instead of waiting two weeks.
- Some counties could move back multiple tiers if they are experiencing a significant increase.
- Businesses must shut down within 24 hours, instead of 72 hours, when their county moves to a more restrictive tier.
- The state will announce tier changes twice a week, instead of once a week. The announcements will not come every Tuesday, but in real time as necessary.
The California Department of Public Health says that the list of activities and sectors affected will be based on risk-based criteria. In other words, the lower the risk of the activity or venue, the sooner something can reopen.
Risk-based criteria include the ability to allow face coverings, and the ability to physically distance from others. It also is based on the ability to optimize ventilation (such as indoor versus outdoor), and the ability to limit activities that will involve people from different households and communities mixing.
Each tier has its own specifications on what is and is not allowed to be open, or to be indoors. Counties can enact restrictions that go beyond what's allowed in the tiers, but they can't be less restrictive.
Masks and social distancing still required
Californians are required to wear masks when they are outside their homes and exposed to other people, according to the state.
This means you should be wearing a mask when you are walking down a street where you will cross paths with others, when you pick up a to-go food order, when you go shopping, or when you wander across the street to say "hello" to a neighbor as they are putting up holiday decorations, among other scenarios.
The exception is when you are clearly by yourself, such as riding in your own car alone or hiking with no other people around. In an instance such as hiking, you should still carry a mask with you in these moments in case you encounter others while hiking.
In addition to the mask mandate, Californians are expected to physically distance during any interaction with someone outside of your household — even when outside, even while wearing a mask.
Are there changes coming to vaccines, too?
The state plans to roll out a new eligibility framework once it is done inoculating health care workers, seniors age 65 and older, first responders, and essential workers in food, agriculture and education. From there, it will transition to "age-based eligibility."
Newsom said more details will be forthcoming Tuesday.
Previous reporting from The Desert Sun and the Associated Press was used in this report.
Maria Sestito covers aging and the senior population in Coachella Valley for The Desert Sun. She is also a Report for America corps member and new to the desert. Please say "hello" via email@example.com or @RiaSestito.