With yesterday’s news that Orange County could once again reopen for limited indoor dining, a primary question has been floating around LA proper: When is that happening here?
Currently, Los Angeles County — home to a quarter of the state’s population and the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases — sits in the state’s highest reopening tier, part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s color-coded scheme to use trackable data as a way to slowly modify certain public health orders. But that could be changing, and soon.
As it stands now, Los Angeles County as well as nearby Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Kern counties, sit in the purple tier, the highest rating for counties at risk of community spread of the coronavirus. The two metrics used to determine those tiers are adjusted case rates (based on the number of new cases per day per 100,000 people) and the positivity rate, which tracks the number of confirmed new cases based on testing. Here are the benchmarks for each colored tier:
So where does Los Angeles fall in terms of the data? Right now the county adjusted case rate is 9.6, above the less-than-seven dividing line needed to move to the next lower red tier, though that number has been falling in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the county testing positivity rate is a scant 4.3 percent, well down from the double-digit numbers seen earlier this summer, and well under the mandated eight percent threshold needed to move to a lower tier.
That’s all to say: LA isn’t reopening its indoor dining just yet, but that could change before the end of this month. Right now new tier assignments are being meted out every Tuesday by California Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, so there are three more announcements to be made between now and October.
If LA’s cases continue to fall and the positivity rate stays as low as it has been, then LA County restaurants from Pasadena to Long Beach should be prepared to potentially reopen for indoor dining at 25 percent of total capacity (based on occupancy), or 100 total seats, whichever is fewer. There is one big caveat, though: Just because the state allows for reopening based on its tiered system, that doesn’t mean that local public health officials will approve the plan. For example: Up in San Francisco, local public health officials there have not allowed for the resumption of indoor dining despite that county meeting the needed state criteria; the state says that it will continue to defer to local public health orders that are tougher than its own.
This is all to say: LA County is likely close to being able to reopen indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, but the data shown by county officials over the next few weeks will tell the full story. Unfortunately, government officials have not been great about giving advanced notice to businesses like restaurants (or hair and nail salons, gyms, or anyone else) to help them ease back into reopening safely. That means when the announcement comes in some upcoming public press conference, indoor dining could be allowed immediately, just like in late May. So just be ready, at least as ready as is possible given these tumultuous times.