Health and Science

California lifts statewide Covid stay-at-home order, allowing restaurants to reopen

Key Points
  • California will lift its stay-at-home order in every region of the state Monday, paving the way for restaurants and gyms to reopen with modified outdoor services.
  • The stay-at-home order, announced Dec. 3, split the state into five regions and was based on the area's intensive care unit capacity.
  • State health officials now project that available ICU capacity in every region will reach above 15% in four weeks, allowing the order to end across California.
A person wearing a protective mask arranges a table outside a restaurant in San Francisco, California, July 14, 2020.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

California will lift its stay-at-home order across the state on Monday, paving the way for restaurants and personal care services to reopen with modified operations for the first time in weeks, according to a statement from the state's health department.

The stay-at-home order, which Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced on Dec. 3, split the state into five regions and was based on an area's available intensive care unit capacity. Three of those regions — San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California — were still under the order before it was lifted Monday.

Under the order, restaurants were allowed to offer take-out and delivery services only, and personal care businesses like hair salons and barbershops were ordered to close. Retailers were allowed to remain open with limited capacity. The state is expected to move back to its county-by-county tiered system, which will allow businesses to reopen depending on the level of Covid-19 spread in their area.

Nearly every county will start off in the most widespread, restrictive reopening tier, meaning that many businesses, including restaurants and gyms, will be allowed to reopen for outdoor services only, according to the California Department of Public Health. Retailers will be allowed to reopen their businesses at a quarter of their capacity under the most widespread tier.

State health officials now project that ICU capacity, the percentage beds in use, in every region will drop below 85% in four weeks after running at or close to max capacity for weeks. That allows Newsom to lift the stay-at-home order across California. The Sacramento region already exited the order on Jan. 12 and the Northern California region never entered the order, the state's health department said.

"California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we've been hoping for," California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement.

"Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared," Ghaly said.

California is reporting roughly 25,256 new Covid-19 cases a day on average, a more than 35% decline compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

There are now 18,638 people hospitalized with Covid-19, a recent dip across the state but still more than double the number of patients on Dec. 1, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic. 

Just because the state has lifted the order, however, doesn't mean that every county has to allow the businesses to return. Under California's reopening plan, local jurisdictions are allowed to implement tougher restrictions if necessary.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who at times has implemented tougher restrictions on San Francisco County, said on Monday that the area will allow most of the businesses to reopen under the tiered reopening plan beginning Thursday. Restaurants can offer outdoor dining with limits on customers per table, hotels will be allowed to accept reservations from tourists again and personal care services can resume for indoor and outdoor services.

An order that limits non-essential businesses and gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will remain in effect, even though the state order will expire, according to a statement from the mayor's office.

Los Angeles County health officials said they would announce a new order on Friday which would allow outdoor dining with safety modifications after Newsom canceled California's stay at home orders.

Merck ends Covid vaccine program but continues work on treatments
Merck ends Covid vaccine program but continues work on treatments