Orange County Moves Up from Purple to Red Tier for COVID-19

September 8, 2020 Updated: September 9, 2020

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS)—Orange County was upgraded from the purple to red tier on Sept. 8 in California’s COVID-19 monitoring system, allowing movie theaters, churches, and restaurants to reopen for indoor operations at reduced capacity.

Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, issued a new health order that spells out the details of how businesses can reopen.

“We knew we had already met those metrics” as of Sept. 4, Bartlett said.

The supervisor said she spent a good deal of time over the holiday weekend helping prepare businesses for reopening.

“I contacted a lot of businesses over Labor Day weekend to get them prepared to rehire staff and getting tables sanitized and [personal protective equipment] in place to pull the trigger when we open today in the red tier,” she said.

Under the red tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the county will be able to reopen movie theaters and restaurants for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, or 100 people, whichever is less, and churches for indoor worship at 25 percent capacity, or 100 people. Restaurants must close by 10 p.m.

Museums, zoos, and aquariums also may reopen indoor activities at 25 percent capacity.

Shopping centers may expand from 25 percent capacity to half-capacity under the red tier. Gyms and fitness centers may reopen at 10 percent capacity.

Personal care service business such as nail salons and tattoo parlors may reopen indoors with modifications.

Bartlett said she saw a good deal of compliance with state guidelines for social distancing and face covering usage over the long weekend.

“We had a lot of people out and about over Labor Day weekend, but I did see a lot of compliance with the state public health guidelines, so that was reassuring,” Bartlett said.

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said he saw much of the same.

“I did drive by the beaches to see how they were doing and while it did look like a lot of beaches were being utilized, I did see people placing their towels and sun coverings 6 feet apart, so I thought residents and beach users were using good behavior,” Kim said.

“I’m not expecting to see a big bump up in terms of [COVID-19] cases.”

Kim said the county’s contact tracers have noticed far greater threats than outdoor gatherings such as at beaches.

“The greater risk from contact tracing we’ve found is really in the family gatherings,” Kim said.

Extended family get-togethers have been driving up cases, he said.

“In the past this has been an area where the disease transmission has been prevalent, so these types of [gatherings] are more of a concern than people out in the park or beach or in an open-air environment,” Kim said.

Kim said he visited South Coast Plaza over the weekend as well, and “it looked like the stores were managing compliance well; they had attestations posted on the front doors, they were limiting the number of individuals allowed into each store, and I thought they were doing a good job.”

Many private and public elementary schools that won waivers from the county and state returned to school for in-person instruction on Sept. 8. They included the Los Alamitos School District’s schools, as well as 27 Diocese of Orange schools. Two of the Roman Catholic schools remained in distance learning.

Officials reported 151 new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 8 and three additional deaths, bringing the county’s cumulative total to 49,996 cases, with 1,056 fatalities.

Hospitalizations in the county inched up from 238 on Sept. 7 to 242 on Sept. 8, while the number of people in intensive care declined from 75 to 70, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA).

The rate of county residents testing positive for COVID-19 was at 4.2 percent on a 7-day average. To get to the next level, the orange tier, the county must be between 2 percent and 4.9 percent for two consecutive weeks.

The daily case count per 100,000 stands at 5.2. To get to the next level, the county must be between 1 and 3.9 new daily cases per 100,000.

The OCHCA reported that 703,855 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 3,363 reported on Sept. 8. There have been 43,898 documented recoveries.

“This significant move to the red tier for Orange County indicates that we are hopefully getting the upper hand on COVID-19,” Bartlett said last week.

“Our numbers are holding steady or declining, we still have excess capacity in our hospital system, and as long as we all continue to follow prescribed health and safety guidelines our trend should keep improving in the county. I look forward to cautiously opening up our local economy so we experience some level of normalcy once again in our day-to-day lives.”

Even with the positive trends, the earliest Orange County’s schools can reopen for personal instruction is Sept. 22.