More Orange County Businesses Can Reopen as Region Advances to Red Tier in Coronavirus Battle

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

Orange County has shown enough progress against the coronavirus in recent weeks that it shifted Tuesday, Sept. 8, from the most critical purple tier to the less-restrictive red tier in the state’s pandemic tracking system.

That means Orange County’s two most crucial coronavirus metrics, a daily average of new cases and the share of tests that come back positive, are low enough to allow a new range of business sectors and other public places to reopen – though in many cases with restrictions such as limits on capacity.

With the tier shift from purple for “widespread” risk to red for “substantial” risk restaurants, movie theaters, and places of worship can now resume indoor operations at 25% capacity, or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

Gyms, yoga studios, museums, and others forced to operate outside can now open indoors – gyms and yoga studios at 10% capacity, museums at 25% capacity.

Piercing and tattoo parlors, which had been ordered shut, can reopen indoors with modifications, and grocery stores and other retailers can beef up their indoor capacities from one-quarter to half.

But other sectors such as bars, concert venues, and theme parks must remain closed; employees at non-essential offices are to continue working from home.

View the complete list here.

While the county’s new status will again open doors at a variety of businesses, workers, and patrons still have to abide by social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Spots that either have been shuttered for months or with makeshift parking lots setups – such as restaurants and gyms – were eager to at least partially move back inside.

Regal Cinemas, for example, announced that 13 of its theaters from La Habra to Mission Viejo would reopen Sept. 8, hours after Orange County made the red tier.

But crowds will be sparse: Capacity is set at 25% of a theater’s regular volume with a max of 100 people.

Regal says guests have to wear face masks, except while eating or drinking, and groups must have two empty seats between them. Menus are shorter and refills on drinks and popcorn suspended.

Wandering around institutions such as Bowers Museum in Santa Ana also will conform to the new normal; staff there already are working to make its reopening on a safe one.

“We’re doing everything that is outlined in the precautions (and) going above and beyond what we have to do,” said Kelly Bishop, director of communications and branding.

Guests will be greeted with temperature checks. Everyone must wear a mask and follow foot traffic signs on the floor meant to keep people moving and separate. Museum staff also have removed interactive exhibits – displays that attract lots of fingerprints.

But aside from pandemic precautions, staff members are excited to welcome guests back, Bishop said, particularly to its Walt Disney Archive exhibition, which opened just two weeks before museums were ordered closed.

Bishop hinted the museum could extend the exhibition past its planned closure date, so visitors won’t miss the showcase of Disney drawings, movie costumes and props.

Staff also will keep putting out the virtual programming the museum had generated in the interim, including video tours and downloadable art lessons for kids, Bishop said.

And after nearly six months of relative quiet for the animals, the Santa Ana Zoo on Sept. 9 will reopen its gates for visitors.

“It took us a while to get everything ready where we were comfortable that we were providing a safe experience for the visitors and for the animals and for our staff,” manager Ethan Fisher said.

Staff were forced to close some attractions where people and animals mix, he said. But there will be chances to observe the zoo’s residents, including a relatively new anteater, from a distance.

“I think some of the animals will be very interested and curious seeing the visitors again,” Fisher said.

Tuesday’s drop to the red tier also means Orange County’s K-12 schools again are on track to reopen in two weeks, on Sept. 22. There had been initial confusion after the state unveiled its new tracking system about whether local schools could reopen this week, per a timeline set by the state’s now-defunct watch list.

About 50 people with colorful signs rallied outside Beckman High School in Irvine on Tuesday for the speedy reopening of schools.

“The goalposts keep moving,” said Syndie Ly, a parent in the Tustin Unified School District who helped organize the rally. “We want the schools opened soon.

“Distance learning,” she said, “hasn’t been working for various reasons.”

The state’s new coronavirus monitoring system, unveiled Aug. 28 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, was billed as a simpler and more deliberate way to track each county’s metrics, as well as what types of businesses should be closed or can open.

Orange County’s adjusted case rate by Sept. 8 was 5.2 daily cases per 100,000 residents and 4.2% of tests are coming back positive, lower than the red tier’s testing positivity target.

Counties remain in one of the four tiers for at least three weeks. Tiers can’t be skipped and counties that backtrack in key metrics could be returned to a more restrictive tier. Going forward, state health officials plan to update county metrics every Tuesday.

Orange County is joined by neighboring San Diego County in the red tier, while Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties remain in the purple tier.

Four other counties, including Santa Clara, also shifted from purple to red.

Even if Orange County keeps on its downward trend, it would remain in the red tier until at least Sept. 29 before it could qualify for the next tier, colored orange for “moderate” risk.

Photo courtesy of Traveling Newlyweds.


Category: COVID-19, Business News, Economic News, Community News