Los Angeles County beginning today entered the less restrictive yellow tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, allowing increased operating capacity for many businesses while letting some other businesses open indoors for the first time in months, albeit with limits.

“This is really great for businesses, this bigger jump in capacity and that some businesses can open up inside,” said Nancy Hoffman Vanyek the chief executive of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce. “This is just another step in our recovery process.”

The county qualified for the yellow tier yesterday under the color-coded, four-level system which dictates guidelines for businesses reopening during the pandemic. Under the latest update, indoor restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters can operate at 50 percent capacity, up from the current 25 percent. Indoor breweries, wineries and distilleries where no food is served may serve guests indoors at 50 percent capacity, with modifications.

Bars where no food is served and saunas are now permitted to begin indoor operations at 25 percent capacity. Under previous tiers no indoor services were permitted. Conference centers, festivals and nightclubs are to remain closed.

Vanyek said the doubling of capacity to 50 percent is significant. “If you’re at 25 percent, that’s not very many people. And then now at 50 percent, at least that will be half of the amount of your seating. So that’s a significant difference,” she said.

“This whole opening – and opening inside for a lot of us or just expanding capacity – gives people hope that ‘Okay, we’re getting over to the other side,’” she continued.

The state’s yellow tier, which indicates transmission risk of the coronavirus is currently “minimal” within L.A. County, is determined by three metrics: the population-adjusted case positivity rate, the overall positivity rate of all conducted COVID-19 tests and a health-equity measure that ensures the positivity rate in high-risk communities is not greater than the county average. Counties must record two weeks of qualifying data to be eligible for the less-restrictive tiers.

L.A. County’s test positivity rate has been low enough to qualify for the yellow tier for the last month, but the adjusted case rate only fell below the necessary threshold last week. This week, the county reports an adjusted case rate of 1.6 cases per 100,000 residents, an overall 0.7 percent test positivity rate and an 0.8 percent positivity rate in vulnerable areas.

“This has been a long and difficult journey and we are so heartened to arrive at this latest milestone,” read a statement released today by the county Board of Supervisors. “Entering the Yellow Tier means we have reached the next-to-last stage before fully reopening, and this is another welcome sign we are moving toward a safe and healthy new normal, one that is guided by hope rather than fear.”
 
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month he aims to fully reopen California’s economy by June 15.