Laguna Beach businesses set to reopen after state cancels stay-at-home order

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Tables, chairs, and umbrellas were installed on dining decks at the Promenade on Forest Avenue earlier this year. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Outdoor dining and personal services, such as hair salons and barbers, may resume immediately with required modifications, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.

After public health officials reported downward trends in the rate of infections, hospitalizations, and the shortage of intensive care beds, Newsom said the state’s strict regional stay-at-home order has been lifted for all regions. 

State health officials reported they project that in the next four-weeks, ICU capacity in three hard-hit regions was expected to reach above 15%. Southern California is projected to have ICU capacity rate of 33.3% by Feb. 21.

“Each region’s a little bit different, but we are in a position projected four weeks forward with a significant decline in the case rates positivity rates, we are anticipating decline,” Newsom said. “Still more decline hospitalizations and more declines in ICU, and that’s why we’re lifting that stay at home, order effective immediately.”

The state’s positivity rate, 8%, now ranks 26th in the nation, Newsom said.

The order’s cancelation means the state will return to its original system of county-by-county restrictions. State leaders also lifted a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

Although Newsom has consistently said he’ll make decisions based off data and science, there’s a growing recall campaign by opponents who say he mishandled the state’s response to the pandemic.

State officials also announced Monday that the entire state is moving back to the color-coded, tiered reopening system, allowing the reopening of industries that have been closed or heavily restricted for several weeks. Restaurants, for example, previously limited to take-out or to-go meals under the stay-at-home order can now host outdoor diners.

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health secretary said in a statement Monday. “Our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”

The decision was made as public health officials reported downward trends in the rate of infections, hospitalizations and intensive care unit capacity problems. Officials released data projections of improved ICU conditions for February but have yet to disclose the models used to calculate capacity for intensive care units.

The order was lifted for the highly affected Southern California region even though the area’s ICU capacity remains at zero percent. Orange County’s purple tier status will likely keep large sectors of the economy shuttered.

Sandy Morales, CEO of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses were boosted by the governor’s announcement.

“We are encouraged by the lifting of the Regional Stay-at-Home orders today,” she wrote in an email. “Although Orange County is still in the purple tier, this will bring much-needed relief to our small business owners, especially restaurants and salons.”

In a prepared statement late Monday, Mayor Bob Whalen thanked local businesses for their cooperation during the Stay-at-Home Order.

“It is good to see that we have returned to the Purple Tier and that our restaurants can begin with outdoor dining again and our personal service businesses can reopen,” he said. “Hopefully, we have passed the worst of the surge and our businesses can now begin to climb back to profitability.”

State officials’ decision to lift the regional stay-at-home order is a much-needed step in the right for direction for businesses and families hurt by burdensome lockdowns, Sup. Lisa Bartlett said in a statement.

“The fact remains that we can safely keep businesses open while simultaneously taking common sense measures to mitigate the spread of the virus – it does not have to be a choice of one or the other,” Bartlett said. “To ensure we can continue moving towards a fully open economy, state and local governments must stay focused on testing, hospital resources and staffing, and vaccine distribution.”

Daniel Langhorne contributed reporting to this story.

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