All you need to know about the new COVID-19 restrictions in California
California set a new record on November 29, and this is one record that is not something to be proud of – more than 7,400 new cases of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The surge in numbers is one of the highest for hospitalizations related to COVID-19 registered across any state in the United States. The recent development in the number of hospitalizations across California has put serious concerns regarding the current situation. With no other option left, the state administration led by Governor Gavin Newsom has put an ’emergency brake’ in the reopening process for the state of California. While still unconfirmed, the recent spike in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 is believed to have happened as a result of the holiday season incoming. Halloween and Thanksgiving saw many people travel in and out of the state to be with their loved ones. The state administration and public health department expect to see even more significant numbers in the upcoming days, and the Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has already warned of an incoming surge in the next few weeks. “The big unknown here is what actions were people taking over this long holiday weekend, “she said. So, what exactly does the new surge in fresh, positive coronavirus mean for the people of California?
Current status of California
California, which was following a basic county list monitoring framework, changed its COVID-19 tracking system with a more descriptive color-coded county tier framework back in August. Based on the new system, counties are now ranked into four different color-coded tiers (purple, red, orange, and yellow) based on the number of positive cases per 100k people. Counties which have purple tier are considered to have widespread COVID-19 outbreak whereas yellow tiered counties have the least number of new coronavirus cases for every 100k people. It was purple for just 38 counties two weeks ago. The holiday season and its subsequent developments have resulted in 51 out of the 58 counties moving into the purple tier. As of November 29, California has 1,198,934 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in 19,121 deaths.
How does the new COVID-19 framework in California work?
The new color-coded framework in California, which came into effect in August, follows a color-coded four-tier ranking system. The tiers are classified based on the total number of positive cases reported per 100,000 people. If a county has seven or more new positive cases for every 100k people in a week would mean that the county will be regarded as tier one (purple) with widespread outbreak happening. Counties that have anywhere between 4 to 7 new positive COVID-19 cases for every 100k people in one day would be considered as tier one counties (red) with a substantial spread. Counties with 1-3 new positive cases out of 100k people are deemed to have moderate spread, and counties with less than one new positive case out of 100k residents are considered counties with minimal spread. As of November 29, no counties in California are in the final tier (yellow) as all counties registered more than one positive case for every 100k residents. As of November 29, 51 counties, including main cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo, are all purple.
What are the different restrictions in effect for counties in various tiers?
Tiers are ranked based on the severity of the spread. Counties in purple have the most stringent restrictions, whereas counties ranked in the yellow tier have the least restrictions. Limitations and restrictions for counties based on tier classification are as follows:
Purple: Purple or tier 1 indicates that the county has “widespread” of the virus, which roughly translates to having more than seven new cases per 100,000 residents or more than 8% of COVID-19 test results being positive in seven days. Counties in purple will also have a curfew in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. until December 21. Only essential activities will be allowed during overnight hours. Only hair and nail salons, malls, retail shops, body care shops, tattoos and piercing studios, and electrolysis clinics will be allowed to open with 25% capacity indoors. In contrast, places of worship, museums, zoos, aquariums, movie theatres, restaurants, and gyms are allowed to operate outdoor only. Non-essential offices only have permission for remote work, professional sports events cannot have a live audience, and schools and theme parks must remain closed.
Red: Red or tier 2 indicates that the county has a “substantial” spread of the virus. Counties in the red tier are those that have around 4 – 7 new cases per 100,000 residents, or between 5-8% of COVID-19 test results turned out to be positive in seven days. Restrictions are similar for purple tier counties with slight modifications for malls and retail shops, allowing 50% occupancy. However, there are exceptions for places of worship, museums, zoos, aquariums, movie theatres, and restaurants, allowing 25% of people indoors, and gyms can have 10% of people indoors. Restaurants can either operate at 25% or have 100 people at a time. The non-essential offices can only operate with remote work, and professional sports cannot have live audiences. Theme parks must stay closed, but schools can reopen for in-person instruction after being out of the purple tier for two weeks.
Orange: Orange or tier 3 indicates that the county has a “moderate” spread of the virus, and counties that fall in this category, are those that have 1 – 3.9 new cases per 100,000 residents or between 2-4.0% of COVID-19 test results, positive in seven days. Restrictions are much more relaxed, and most public spaces allow occupancy indoors between 25% – 50%. Gyms are permitted to open at 25% indoor occupancy and even operate indoor pools. Non-essential can open, but it is encouraged to continue working remotely. Schools that have been out of the purple tier for more than 14 days are allowed to reopen, and small amusement parks can operate at 25% or with a limit of 500 people. Outdoor stadiums that host professional sports can have 20% of people in the audience for live events.
Yellow: Yellow or tier 4 indicates that the county has a “minimal” spread of the virus, and counties with less than one positive case for every 100k residents or less than 2% of COVID-19 results coming out in seven days. Most activities are allowed to operate as normal, with a limited occupancy restriction of 50%. All the limits are the same as that in Orange but with 50% in most cases. Outdoor stadiums can host sporting events with a maximum of 25% audience for live events. As of November 29, no county in California is in the yellow tier.
Restrictions on Traveling in California
With the recent surge in the number of COVID-19 cases with the onset of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the holiday season in general, the state of California issued a travel advisory for all citizens arriving in California. People coming to California from other states or countries, including returning California residents, have to go into self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. All such people are advised to limit their interactions to their immediate household. It should be noted that this recommendation does not apply to individuals who cross state or country borders for essential travel. The state administration is also encouraging Californians to avoid traveling and stay home or in their region. Any non-essential travel which can be avoided should be done to reduce the risk of virus transmission and bringing the virus back to California. Consider booking your parking spot before heading out if you have essential travel for shopping or fundamental needs. Websites like Way.com offer plenty of parking in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other neighboring counties. You can still travel by road and air, but it is highly discouraged to take on international travel in such a scenario. However, most counties have orders of 14-day quarantine for any person who travels more than 150 miles away from his/her home.
Instructions for Travelers Arriving at California
Returning at Airport
If you are returning back from an interstate or international trip at any of the many airports in California, you are required to voluntarily go into a self-quarantine at home for a period of 14 days. However, the quarantine may or may not be voluntary depending on your county’s administration. According to Governor Gavin Newsom, the travel advisory is voluntary. However, he also encouraged people to avoid non-essential travel and take necessary precautions before taking on an essential travel trip. People have also been asked to minimize interaction as much as possible with people from outside your household in a bid to slow down the surge in the number of COVID-19 positive cases.
Returning by Road
If you have traveled for more than 150 miles and stayed overnight before arriving back home, you are also directed to go into voluntary self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. If you travel less and do not stay overnight, you don’t have to go into self-quarantine, but it’s always best to stay home for at least 7 days if you interacted with people outside of your household during the visit.
While the California governor has made it clear that these restrictions are not mandatory, the public health department of any county can issue a mandatory quarantine notification if the situation goes out of control.
Update: Santa Clara County has started issued a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people returning from a trip that is beyond the county border or more than 150 miles from Dec 1 onwards.
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