SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted stay-at-home orders statewide Monday, allowing restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining and salons to resume appointments indoors.
The change will enable those sectors to reopen in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley and Southern California for the first time since early December. Restaurateurs have been particularly vocal about their frustration with the regional dining ban after purchasing heat lamps and other equipment to get through the winter months.
The shift comes as California has seen a steady decrease in new infections over the past week, as well as a reduction in hospitalizations and intensive care unit use. Newsom earlier this month lifted the stay-at-home order in the greater Sacramento region after projecting that it would have at least 15 percent ICU capacity within four weeks.
While the California Department of Public Health gave the green light to restaurants and salons statewide, county health officials could still try to impose their own restrictions.
The governor has allowed local leaders to enact stricter rules than the state, and some counties may attempt to keep prohibitions in place. Some residents questioned on social media why the state would lift orders after POLITICO and other outlets reported the governor’s plans Sunday night.
CDPH said it released the rest of the state from stay-at-home orders based on a determination there will be at least 15 percent ICU capacity within four weeks. The state has not fully explained how it calculates that projection.
While hospitals in California remain stretched thin — particularly in hardest-hit Southern California — state health officials said residents were seeing the fruits of taking precautions.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer, 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.”
That makes California’s color-based Blueprint for a Safer Economy the operative rulebook for determining when and how sectors can reopen.
All but four of California’s 58 counties remain in the state’s most restrictive purple tier status and are expected to remain there for weeks, albeit without the same prohibitions that come with stay-at-home orders. Most non-retail indoor activities will remain banned, including religious services.
The governor has faced litigation over the stay-at-home restrictions on dining. Restaurateurs have argued that outdoor dining doesn’t lead to an increase in coronavirus cases. And state health chief Mark Ghaly indicated in December he ban was intended mostly to deter residents from venturing outside their homes.
“Late this evening, senior officials in the Newsom administration informed us that the governor will announce tomorrow that the stay-at-home order will be lifted in all regions of the state,” the California Restaurant Association told members in an email Sunday night.
The state hasn’t made public the exact formula to determine its ICU projections, and the Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions remain below the 15 percent capacity threshold.
In early December, the California Department of Public Health divided the state into five regions, and only a rural swath at the northern end of the state never had stay-at-home orders in effect.
While the average daily case rate has fallen, it remains high. The 14-day-rolling average is still 31,299 cases a day, more than three times what it was during the summer surge. But the state is also testing more than at any point of the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate has fallen to 8.1 percent, the lowest it has been in weeks.