Los Angeles County moves to orange tier, loosening restrictions for businesses and gatherings

A person reaches out to pump some hand sanitizer into their hands.
L.A. County moves from the red tier into the orange tier, meaning that the 5Cs can now hold lectures and student activities at 50% of capacity. (Courtesy: Jonathan Maloney & Inga Beckmann)

Recent COVID-19 vaccination and transmission metrics placed Los Angeles County in the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy as of Tuesday, allowing the county to further reopen businesses and other facilities. 

The new rules will go into effect Monday, after a week of monitoring case levels to ensure cases do not rise before the shift. 

In the orange tier, capacity restrictions in stores will be lifted, movie theaters and restaurants can open indoors at 50 percent capacity or 200 people — whichever is fewer — and office workers can return to their office spaces at 25 percent capacity.

The shift to the orange tier also has significant implications for potential campus reopenings come fall. Though colleges and universities haven’t seen campus-specific health guideline updates since March 12, the orange tier will allow lectures and student activities to gather at 50 percent capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer, with modifications. The LA County Department of Public Health said higher education should limit on-campus residency to students with “no alternative.”

According to a March 11 community email from Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr, colleges can house students on campus if they remain in the orange tier or previous red tier. The county also communicated it will lift “nearly all” its higher education restrictions surpassing statewide guidance, according to Starr.

The county’s shift in early March to the red tier lifted some higher education restrictions and created nascent possibilities for on-campus summer research, according to recent announcements from Pomona and Harvey Mudd College. There were still three counties in the purple tier, 36 in the red tier, 17 in the orange tier and two in the yellow tier as of Thursday

To move into the final yellow tier of the reopening plan, counties in California have to reach less than one case of COVID-19 per 100,000 people for at least two weeks. LA County is currently averaging 39 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents per week as of Thursday.

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