SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County Tuesday moved from the state’s purple to red tier, allowing many businesses and churches to reopen at a reduced capacity.
“As we move into the state’s less stringent ‘red tier’ designation, the restrictions on our business sectors will be significantly relaxed,” Chairwoman Michelle Steel, Second District, said. “With our continued hard work, I am confident that we will continue trending in the right direction and move into the orange tier in the not too distant future.”
Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s chief health officer and director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, issued a new health order spelling out the details of how businesses can reopen.
Under the new guidance, movie theaters, restaurants and places of worship can begin operating indoors with modifications and a capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is less.
“Even though it’s at a limited capacity, it still has that, like, diner feel of people coming and going in,” Joshua Sisco, a diner at Dick Church’s in Costa Mesa, said. “It’s kind of nice.”
Movie theaters raced to reopen Tuesday as well, with many offering showings by the afternoon.
“I saw the sign and it said ‘Now Open,’ and I was in such shock that I came in,” said one moviegoer, who was the first to buy a ticket at her Irvine Regal Cinema. “I have to trust this large organization that has so much invested. They are not going to be foolish.”
Regal staff had implemented heightened safety protocols, including disinfecting each seat, wiping down door handles, and offering contactless ticket and snack buying. While seats are not roped off, the social distancing happens online. When someone secures a block of tickets, the seats on either end of that block become unavailable.
In addition to movie theaters and indoor dining, shopping centers and retail stores can reopen, though capacity must be limited to 50% and common areas in malls must remain closed. Hair salons and personal care services can reopen indoors with modifications, and gyms and fitness facilities can reopen indoors with modifications and capacity limited to 10%.
“We knew we had already met those metrics,” Lisa Bartlett, Orange County supervisor, said ahead of the announcement.
The supervisor added that she spent time over the holiday weekend helping businesses prepare 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.
Bartlett said she saw people complying 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, even at beaches where people flocked in the wake of dangerously high temperatures.
“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 six 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 (coronavirus) cases.”
Orange County reported 151 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and three more deaths, bringing the county’s cumulative totals to 49,996 cases and 1,056 deaths.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)