As of Tuesday, many indoor operations throughout Orange County can reopen with modifications, including fitness centers, zoos, museums, places of worship, among other non-essential businesses.
The county has moved from the state’s purple tier to the red tier, allowing a variety of activities and businesses to open with limited capacity, according to orders released by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The state issued a new blueprint for reducing the spread of COVID-19 at the end of August, which redefined the criteria to either loosen or tighten restrictions in certain counties.
The four colored tiers — purple, red, orange and yellow — represent a county's COVID-19 risk level, with the yellow tier meaning minimal restrictions in place.
“Widespread is purple, substantial is red, moderate transmission is orange and minimal is yellow," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California Health and Human Services Agency, in a press conference. “Every Tuesday we'll be announcing where counties are relative to these tiers.”
Counties must remain in each tier for three weeks before becoming eligible to move, Ghaly said.
With Orange County’s new position, entertainment centers like zoos and movie theaters must have a limited capacity to 25%. Gyms and fitness centers will be limited to 10% capacity and places of worship will be capped at 25% or at 100 individuals, whichever is less.
“We put out recently, new simplified metrics to determine how and when the state is allowed to move forward sectorally and regionally throughout the state of California,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom at a press conference on Tuesday. “The foundational county movement is determined by simple metrics including case rate and test positivity.”
For the county to move into the next tier, the case rate — the seven-day average of cases per 100,000 residents not including prisons — needs to be between 1% and 3.9%, while testing positivity should be down to between 5% and 8%.
Currently, the case rate in Orange County is at 5.2%, whereas the testing positivity is at 4.2% in a seven-day average according to statistics published by the California Department of Public Health.
Before a business can reopen, it must post a document for the public to see details on how the operation has complied with certain criteria such as establishing physical distancing guidelines, as detailed by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Giovanni Santana, a second year criminal justice major at Cal State Fullerton, said he worked at a Planet Fitness gym in Santa Ana that has been closed since March, aside from a short June reopening. The gym will reopen on Wednesday and Santana said he is excited to return.
“The first time we did close, I was receiving checks, but the second time we closed, I didn’t get anything,” Santana said. “I think if people follow our rules and safety guidelines it should run smoothly.”
Santana said that the mandatory safety precautions made for guests and employees let him feel safe returning to work.
When the gym first opened, employees had to wear gloves and masks at all times. There were plastic dividers on the front desk, stations around the gym were consistently cleaned and there was distancing with the equipment, Santana added.
The Student Recreation Center at Cal State Fullerton has not yet announced plans to reopen.
As of Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health reports that there are now 737,911 cumulative cases nationwide. Orange County has nearly 50,000 cumulative cases, according to the county health care agency.