California Plan To Speed Reopening Hinges On Vaccinations

California has relaxed the rules dictating when counties, such as Los Angeles and Orange, can move out of the most restrictive purple tier of coronavirus restrictions and allow more businesses to open as part of a plan to increase vaccinations in communities across the state that are most vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

State officials said Wednesday night that the plan would begin with the state setting aside 40% of available vaccines for residents in hard-hit areas, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Already, 1.6 million vaccinations have been given in these areas. Once 400,000 more vaccinations have been given in the neighborhoods, it will trigger a new lower threshold for counties to exit the purple tier — the level in the state’s four-tiered approach with the most strict operating restrictions for businesses. 

Those additional vaccines are expected to be given out in the next week or two, officials told the Associated Press, though it’s unclear how quickly after the tier reduction happens that changes to operating procedures would go into effect. 

Under the more relaxed rules that will go into effect after the state hits its vaccination goal, counties with a case rate of up to 10 new cases per day per 100,000 people would be able to move into the red tier.

The new rules would mean LA and Orange counties would already meet requirements to pass into a less restrictive red tier, which would mean the reopening of indoor dining and movie theaters, though they would still have capacity restrictions. Retail capacity would increase to 50%, up from the current 25%. At this tier, schools are also allowed to open for grades 7 through 12.  

LA and Orange counties narrowly missed the current threshold this week, but they were expected to meet the requirements very soon. The current assignment of tiers is based on a few factors, including having a maximum adjusted daily case rate of seven new cases per day per 100,000 people for the red tier. This week, L.A. County’s adjusted case rate dropped to 7.2 new cases per day per 100,000 people, according to the county’s Department of Public Health. Orange County’s adjusted rate was 7.6 cases per day per 100,000 residents as of earlier this week

The restrictions for moving to other, less restricted tiers (red to orange, orange to yellow) would also be relaxed, though specifics on how they would be altered were not shared.

At the orange level tier, restrictions on office work indoors would be allowed with modifications like social distancing and masking. The current threshold for the orange tier is between one and 3.9 adjusted daily case rate and the corresponding test positivity rate. The yellow tier, which allows for indoor operations of most indoor businesses with modifications, would kick in when the adjusted daily case rate is less than one case per day per 100,000 residents and the corresponding test positivity rate. 

Many counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco, Santa Clara and Napa, are already in the red tier.