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Stay-At-Home Order Lifted for Orange County Businesses

Monday, January 25, 2021

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

Owners and staff in some Orange County business sectors, including restaurants, gyms, and hair and nail salons, welcomed the surprising news on Jan. 25, that they could immediately reopen – at least outdoors in some cases – after state health officials lifted the latest stay-at-home order, which all Southern California counties had been under since Dec. 6.

Restaurants and gyms can open outdoors and nail and hair salons can reopen indoors at limited capacity – but everyone must wear a mask, said Gov. Gavin Newsom during a news conference on Jan. 25. Certain youth sports competitions can resume, he said.

However, Orange County remains in the most-restrictive purple tier of the state’s four-tier pandemic tracking system, which had been somewhat relegated by the blanket stay-at-home mandate. The order was introduced to limit gathering before the holidays in response to available ICU beds in the state running dangerously low amid an end-of-year surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

“We’re excited and we’re happy and optimistic that (nail salons) can reopen today,” said Tam Nguyen, president of Advance Beauty College, which has locations in Garden Grove and Laguna Hills, and a board member of the Pro Nails Association, a trade group.

Having to open and close several times throughout the pandemic has caused “irreparable damage” to hundreds of nail salons in Orange County, Nguyen said.

“Many of us in the nail salon community are in so much debt that we’re on the verge of being closed (for good),” he said. Early in the pandemic, the Pro Nails Association estimated that up to 40% could close permanently due to pandemic closures.

“With each closing and reopening, the estimates of course have continued to climb,” Nguyen said. “That is huge for a family-owned, small business industry.”

Being allowed to reopen now is too late for some that have permanently closed already, Nguyen said, but just in time for others, who on Monday were scrambling to organize staff to let their regular customers know via social media, phone calls, and text messages they can come back in.

Other sectors such as movie theaters must remain closed, while religious services still must be held outdoors only.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner and Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley both welcomed the news of the stay-home order being lifted.

“I’m glad. I think it’s a long time coming,” said Wagner, who has been openly critical of Newsom’s handling of pandemic restrictions and is supporting a campaign to recall the governor.

“The bottom line is there was no science that the governor ever shared with anybody” that showed outdoor dining and similar activities were driving the increase in COVID-19 cases the state saw in recent weeks, Wagner said.

Foley said it makes sense state officials are projecting ICU beds will be freeing up in the next month because some hospitals have added capacity, and now that health care workers are being vaccinated, fewer of them are getting sick and the strain on hospital staffing should improve.

Foley disagreed with the decision to close outdoor dining and personal services, she said, so she’s happy that they may be able to reopen. But it will be even more important for people to follow guidelines for masks, social distancing, and sanitation, she said.

“The state’s decision to lift the stay-at-home order is a relief to many, including business owners, but it also comes at a time when we face uncertainty caused by the new variants in Southern California,” Supervisor Andrew Do, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, said. “Southern California and Orange County still have high rates of infection and hospitalization. It’s important that everyone act with caution, particularly over the next few months.”

Improving numbers on the coronavirus’s spread and intensive care capacity allowed the state to loosen its restrictions, Newsom said. “Today we can lay claim to starting to see some real light at the end of the tunnel as it relates to case numbers.”

Those projections are based largely on the fact that about 12% of coronavirus cases are hospitalized about two weeks later, and about 12% of those wind up in intensive care, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Service.

Nearly tapped out for the last few weeks, Southern California’s ICUs are now projected to have 33.3% of intensive care units available in four weeks, Feb. 21, Newsom said.

Orange County has made significant gains in ICU capacity, Andrew Noymer, a professor of public health at UC Irvine, said, noting that there were 100 fewer critical patients in hospitals by Monday than there were about two weeks prior.

The governor responded to accusations that Monday’s announcement was related to the recall campaign against him and lawsuits against the orders, including one brought by San Bernardino County.

“That’s complete, utter nonsense, so let’s just dispense with that,” he said.

While the data is encouraging, especially with more vaccinations occurring, people still must be careful, Newsom said.

“Deaths continue to be significant,” he said. “This is a sobering reminder of how deadly this pandemic remains, more so now than ever.”

For the past seven days, an average of 504 people per day have died of COVID-19 statewide.

On Monday, the South Coast Air Quality Management Department lifted restrictions on the number of cremations allowed in Orange County as officials try to address a backlog of cremations.

Orange County is still deep in the purple tier, with a rate of new cases at 67.1 cases per day per 100,000 residents. Other local pandemic metrics are improving, but still aren’t far off all-time highs recorded earlier this month.

Fifty-four counties, including all of Southern California, are in that most-restrictive purple tier, which still prohibits indoor dining and many other activities. A metrics update, which determines a county’s tier, is expected Tuesday.

To dip into the next, less restrictive red tier, which would relax more rules and would allow for indoor restaurant dining, for example, the county’s case rate would have to fall below 7 cases per 100,000.

At this point, it’s impossible to say how quickly Orange County’s case rate and other pandemic tracking metrics could fall to qualify it for less restrictive tiers, said Andrew Noymer, a professor of public health at UC Irvine.

“We’re seeing things moving in the right direction, and the stay-at-home order is lifted, but we’re still purple,” Noymer said. “If we were a little further along, if we were in February now, I would say it’s less likely that we’re going to see another peak” in new cases and hospitalizations.

More recent news on California reopening:

CA lifts regional stay at home order, will announce change in vaccine eligibility stages soon

California lifts regional stay-at-home orders as ICU crowding eases

Category: COVID-19

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