Moving one step closer to the state’s most lenient pandemic restrictions, Los Angeles County will soon approach yellow tier. The turnaround has been swift in Los Angeles, which only months ago was among the world’s epicenters of COVID-19 infections but now has one of the lowest rates of COVID cases among the America’s most populated counties. Thanks to state and local mandated social distancing, restrictions on outdoor and indoor dining, relatively high vaccination rates, and increased immunity due to historically high case counts, Los Angeles now has the opportunity to move into the most lenient color tier, reports the LA Times. Before LA County fully moves into yellow tier, it must maintain its sub-two percent seven-day case rate for at least another week, a stark contrast to the more than 15 percent positivity rate from this past winter.
The biggest changes would come for LA’s restaurant and nightlife scene; yellow tier would allow bars to reopen indoors at 25 percent, something the county hasn’t permitted since a brief period during the summer of 2020. Bars stayed afloat through the 2020 and early 2021 lock downs by serving alcoholic drinks to-go, or served drinks on premises in an outdoor area with food. LA’s move into the orange tier in early April allowed bars to serve drinks in outdoor areas at 50 percent capacity without a food requirement.
Yellow tier would allow increased capacity for other establishments, such as sports and music venues up to 67 percent (up from 33 percent, which could transform the gameday situation at Dodger Stadium), amusement parks up to 35 percent (from 25 percent), as well as wineries and breweries up to 50 percent.
LA’s move into yellow tier is the last phase before Gov. Gavin Newsom’s projected full statewide reopening of June 15, which in theory allows any business to operate at 100 percent indoor capacity. At the moment, only a small number of state counties currently reside in yellow tier, with all others currently in orange (including Los Angeles). With vaccines available to anyone over the age of 16 in California, it’s only a matter of time until everyone who wants to receive a vaccine can receive one. Experts estimate the state could reach herd immunity at about 70 percent immunity, or about 28 million Californians, either from vaccinations or from past infection.
Still, officials such as county health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer caution that a surge could happen again without vigilance. “While our situation has improved so much since then, we’re not immune from seeing this kind of situation again. We must use every tool we have to prevent this from happening,” Ferrer said during a briefing. As of today, nearly 29 percent of Californians are fully vaccinated, with more than 47 percent receiving at least one shot.