California to Resume Outdoor Dining, But Not Everyone Is Convinced It's a Good Idea
Governor Newsom lifted the stay-at-home orders for certain regions of the state on Monday.
On Sunday, the California Restaurant Association sent an email to its members, informing them that Governor Gavin Newsom had confirmed that he would be lifting the stay-at-home order for the three regions of the state where it had been in effect since last month. "A formal announcement is expected tomorrow, and we will send you further information as soon as it is available," the organization wrote. "For now, we thought you'd like to know this good news."
The CRA's email was correct: a day later, the stay-at-home orders were lifted and state officials said that California would return to its Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a color-coded county-by-county tier system. (Most counties are still in the purple tier, the state's strictest.)
"Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives," Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. "Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. Covid-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it's important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner."
The end of the stay-at-home order means that restaurants can reopen for outdoor dining—although individual counties can also set their own requirements for reopening. The responses to Newsom's decision varied.
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said that he felt like the city was "going in the right direction," but that the COVID-positivity rate needed to drop from 18 percent—its current level—to 7 percent in order for indoor dining to resume. "I know I've been on the phone with a number of restaurant owners today who are excited about the fact that they're going to open up outdoor dining, although we certainly don't have conducive weather for that right now," he added.
In Los Angeles County, officials said that a new countywide public health order would go into effect on Friday. According to Eater, county health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer suggested that 50 percent capacity restrictions may still be in place when outdoor dining resumes and that the county would "take a hard look at personal protective equipment that workers are using at restaurants."
San Francisco mayor London Breed said that it will allow certain activities to resume on Thursday at 8 a.m., including outdoor dining. In a statement, Breed did specify that tables must be spaced a minimum of six feet apart, that no more than six people from no more than two households can share the same table.
CNBC reports that state officials made the decision to lift the stay-at-home order based on the available ICU capacity throughout the state. According to their projections, within the next four weeks, the statewide percentage of ICU beds that are in-use will drop below 85 percent. (Last weekend, the statewide ICU availability was at 4.5 percent.)
Joshua Salomon, a professor of medicine with the Center for Health Policy and the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research at Stanford University, is among those who have expressed concern with Newsom's decision. "At this point we really are still in a very dangerous situation and we need to be quite careful not to reopen too broadly and too quickly," he told ABC News.
And the editorial boards of the Mercury News and East Bay Times wrote a combined editorial in which they slammed the governor's "irresponsible" decision, based on the state's still-crowded ICUs, the spread of a potentially more dangerous variant of coronavirus, and California's dismal vaccination numbers. The state has only administered 37.3 percent of its available vaccines, which is the worst rate in the country.
"Newsom reminded Californians during a press conference that COVID-19 'deaths continue to be significant, and this is a sober reminder of how deadly this pandemic remains now more than ever,'" they wrote. "But his action Monday ignores that reality. Newsom should be extending the stay-at-home orders rather than ending them altogether. Instead, he is repeating a strategy that has done next to nothing to bring the COVID crisis to an end."
On January 24, the most recent day for which statewide data is available, California reported 27,007 new cases of coronavirus and 328 deaths. The state has confirmed 3,136,158 cases of coronavirus and 37,118 deaths since the start of the pandemic.