Indoor Dining and Other Activities Are Now Allowed in L.A. and Neighboring Counties

Experts advise caution, even as Red Tier reopenings take place

UPDATE: MARCH 15, 2021 – As of 12:01 a.m. last night, businesses in Los Angeles County, including the cities of Long Beach and Pasadena, are allowed to resume a list of indoor activities. Orange County and San Bernardino County, which also qualified for Red Tier status, began their own reopenings on Sunday.

“It’s just such a bright spot going forward,” Craig Lyon, owner of Catrina Cafe in Seal Beach told ABC 7 after reopening his restaurant yesterday. “This is the start, you know. Finally we’re going where we need to go, everything is looking great. People are getting healthier, they’re getting their vaccinations… I think businesses are going to feel better, our customers are going to feel better, everybody’s feeling better.”

While many residents may be excited to rush out to the gyms, dining rooms, and movie theaters they’ve missed, COVID-19 remains widespread in the region. At a Saturday briefing in advance of the reopenings, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned that, especially for anyone not yet fully vaccinated, relaxing about virus prevention now could be deadly.

“We have made good progress and have more progress to make,” she said. “Don’t let your guard down. Continue following all safety measures. Stay masked, maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others, and keep in mind outdoor activities are far safer than indoor ones.”

Hilda Solis, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, echoed the sentiment, saying that caution remains important during this delicate period, even as excitement grows about the pandemic appearing to wind down.

“This is welcome news, especially as many of our small businesses have borne the brunt of the financial fallout from this pandemic, and as our students struggle to keep up with distance learning,” Solis said. “Although we are taking steps to reopen some of the hardest hit sectors of our economy, that in no way means we can drop our guard now. We owe it to our neighbors, our local businesses, and our children to remain vigilant so that the reopenings are safe and long-lasting.”

UPDATE: MARCH 12, 2021 – On Friday, officials announced that the state has met the 2 million high-risk vaccine dose target, and Los Angeles County will advance to Red Tier status effective Monday, March 15. Movie theaters, indoor dining, and other allowed activities may begin as soon as 12:01 a.m. on that day.

Orange County, Ventura County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County also expect to enter the Red Tier and begin to phase in additional reopenings next week.

Even though reopening is allowed, and many more residents will be eligible to begin their vaccination regime on the 15th, the risk of transmission of the virus remains high, and residents are encouraged to keep up safety protocols.

“Thanks to the diligence of our residents and business operators, we’re on the cusp of moving to the red tier, but we must remember not to let our guard down and continue adhering to local health guidance,” Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do stated.

UPDATE: MARCH 11, 2021 – Local public health officials have confirmed that, once the state reaches the goal of administering 2 million doses of vaccine in targeted areas, Los Angeles County will largely align with Red Tier reopening guidelines.

Specific provisions established by the county are as follows:

  • Movie theaters can reopen at 25 percent capacity, but only with reserved seating and a distance of six feet in all directions between groups attending together.
  • Restaurants may offer indoor dining at up to 25 percent capacity, provided they follow additional protocols. Tables must be at least eight feet apart, groups capped at six people with one household per table, HVAC systems must be working and updated, indoor areas well-ventilated, and staff wearing upgraded masking such as N95s or double masks. Outdoor dining will now allow for diners to share a table with people from up to three households, still capped at a total of six.
  • Personal care providers can increase indoor capacity to 50 percent.
  • Gyms and fitness centers may operate indoors up to 10 percent, with masks required.
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums can operate indoors up to 25 percent.
  • Indoor malls and retail can open up to 50 percent, food courts up to 25 percent.
  • Schools may offer in-person instruction though grade 12. Higher education can offer any activities other than some residential housing.
  • Private gatherings indoors of up to three households are allowed, though masking and distancing remains required if any participant is less than fully vaccinated.

In a separate announcement on Thursday, state officials amended their guidelines to allow wineries, breweries, and distilleries that do not serve food to begin operating in the Red Tier and even Purple Tier. They can operate by reservation only, with 90-minute time limits for visitors, and a consumption curfew of 8 p.m. Operations in the Red Tier could include indoor service for up to 25 percent capacity or 100 patrons, whichever is fewer.

Los Angeles County officials have not clarified if they will go along with this guidance upon entering the Red Tier. Bars that neither serve food nor produce beer, wine, or spirits on site must remain closed. They may open for outdoor service once a county reaches Orange Tier, and indoors at Yellow Tier.

UPDATE: MARCH 10, 2021 – On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed that Los Angeles County will be eligible to move to the Red Tier by Friday, March 12.

By that date, the state will have administered the required 2 million vaccines in high-risk communities to trigger an adjustment to the eligibility standards. Once adjusted, L.A. will qualify to progress to the less-restrictive status.

After the state has switched the county over to Red Tier, it will be up to county and local authorities to decide how to proceed with additional reopenings. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has indicated officials are still considering the matter, and could temporarily delay activities such as indoor dining.

MARCH 9, 2021 – Los Angeles County–along with neighboring Orange and San Bernardino counties–could be just days away from moving from the restrictive Purple Tier to the next phase of the state’s reopening framework, known as the Red Tier.

As with every change in status that has taken place during the pandemic, the state’s rules establish a maximum level of reopening, but individual counties and municipalities may impose restrictions of their own.


What can reopen once a county enters the Red Tier?

  • Movie theaters can reopen. Capacity is capped at 25 percent or 100 total people, whichever is fewer.
  • Restaurants can offer indoor service at up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Gyms, fitness centers, and climbing walls can reopen for indoor activities; 10 percent capacity limit.
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums can open indoor facilities up to 25 percent capacity.
  • Indoor retail stores can expand to 50 percent capacity (currently 25 percent)
  • Shopping malls can expand to 50 percent capacity (currently 25) and can reopen food courts at limited capacity.
  • Places of worship are no longer “strongly discouraged” from holding indoor services, though the 25 percent capacity cap on indoor services remains the same.
  • Hotels can reopen on-site gyms and fitness centers at 10 percent capacity.
  • Amusement parks can open at up to 15 percent capacity, with time limits on indoor attractions. No indoor dining within the park is allowed. Groups visiting together must be 10 people or fewer, from no more than three households, and groups not arriving together must not mix.
  • Schools can reopen in-person instruction through 12th grade, provided they comply with a multi-faceted “safe reopening plan.”

What about professional sports and live entertainment?

Professional sports and other live events with assigned seats will be allowed begin inviting live audiences on April 1, even if the county remains in Purple on that date.

If a county is still at Purple Tier at that time, there must be 100 people or fewer, only those who live within 120 miles of the venue, and only by advance ticket or reservation.

If the county advances to the Red Tier on or after April 1, that audience capacity can increase to 20 percent of venue capacity. Venues and arenas with suites or boxes can fill those suites to 25 percent capacity, but with people from no more than three households. Some concession sales will be allowed at this stage, if they are delivered in-seat (rather than sold from a concourse stand), and the residency requirement for guests will spread to all of California (but still no guests from out of state). All venue workers must consent to participate in a weekly mandatory testing program. The requirement for advance tickets or reservations for an assigned seat remains in place.

What must stay closed under the Red Tier:

  • Offices where remote work is possible
  • Indoor card rooms and satellite wagering facilities
  • Indoor activities at family entertainment centers
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries (this rule applies to those which don’t serve meals; those that serve meals are treated as restaurants)

Why do experts think L.A. is ready to qualify for the next tier?

Under the state’s reopening blueprint, a county must have an average daily case rate of fewer than seven new cases per 100,000 residents, and maintain that level for at least two weeks. For the last week, L.A. County’s adjusted average case rate has been 7.2.

red tier reopening la county

California Department of Public Health

However, as part of a new plan that prioritizes the distribution of vaccine to the highest-risk, highest-exposure individuals, once least 2 million doses are administered to residents of 400 targeted ZIP codes–a number hat level is expected to be hit this week–a county must only have less than 10 cases per 100,000 residents for two weeks to qualify.

red tier reopening la county

California Department of Public Health

To move from the Red Tier to the Orange Tier, a county must meet the case rate requirement and the state must administer 4 million doses in the target neighborhoods.Once all criteria are met, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a briefing Monday that she expects reopening could switch on within 48 hours of the announcement. She stated that she expects that announcement to be made early next week.

RELATED: California Theme Parks Can Begin Reopening Rides on April 1

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