Orange: As cases decline, the county can ease restrictions and pave the way for more economic activity. Courtesy images

On Wednesday L.A. County hit the state health metrics to enter the orange tier, and officials announced that a new series of sector reopenings will begin next week.

Outdoor bars will reopen for the first time since last June and socially distanced live entertainment will take place again for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic. In addition, indoor and outdoor capacities will expand for many previously opened sectors.

While L.A. County qualifies to institute these changes immediately, the health department has decided to proceed cautiously and wait until April 5 to put updated health officer orders in place.

“This allows the County to follow the state guidelines and wait until we’ve completed three weeks in the red tier to be sure that our case numbers do not rise this third week since our earlier reopenings,” said Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Under new regulations, indoor capacities will expand to 25 percent at fitness centers and cardrooms; 50 percent at movie theaters, restaurants, and places of worship; and 75 percent at grocery stores, retail businesses, and personal care services.

Bars will be allowed to reopen outdoor between 11:30 a.m. and 10 p.m., provided that tables are spaced eight feet apart and seat no more than six people from up to three different households. Breweries, wineries, and distilleries are allowed to be open indoor and outdoor at 25 percent capacity.

Live theatre, music and other performances are also set to resume outdoors with restrictions in place. There must be a 12 foot distance between the stage or performance areas and audience. All audience members must reserve a place in advance and be seated in groups at least six feet apart.

“With the orange tier comes even more opportunities to open parts of our economy that have been closed and hurting for months,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis. “After a year of fear, anxiety and tragic loss, we’re seeing glimmers of hope once more.”

Cases in Los Angeles are the lowest they’ve been since the early days of the pandemic. The County’s current adjusted case rate is 3.1 per 100,000 residents and the average testing positivity rate is 1.5 percent.

If these trends continue, the County could qualify for the even less restrictive yellow tier in another few weeks. Although this is exciting news, officials urged strong caution and diligence to ensure cases do not begin rising again.

While cases are currently declining across California, they are rising in 27 other states. This week the country’s 7 day average case rate increased by 10 percent compared to last week.

“There is much to be optimistic about. L.A. County has administered nearly 4 million vaccine doses,” said Ferrer. “But we can’t let our guard down. Another surge in L.A. County would be dangerous and it would stop our recovery progress, cold. We would move swiftly to introduce measures to limit transmission and these measures would have us stepping backwards.”

Clara@smdp.com