State’s new regional order closes onsite dining, museums, salons, playgrounds in S.D. County

Outdoor restaurant seating must close under new stay-at-home restrictions for Southern California.

Not long after San Diego County had adjusted to the restrictions required under the purple tier of California’s coronavirus reopening framework, the state is imposing a new regional stay-at-home order, this one mandating closures of all onsite restaurant dining, museums, aquariums, playgrounds and salons and limiting indoor retail capacity to 20 percent because Southern California’s intensive care capacity has dropped below 15 percent.

The new restrictions go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, and must stay in place for at least three weeks, regardless of ICU capacity.

While the latest order is similar to the sweeping stay-at-home order put in place in March, there are some notable differences.

First, the latest order doesn’t go into effect all at once across the state. Rather, regions made up of several counties go into lockdown when their collective intensive care capacity falls below 15 percent. As of Dec. 5, the Southern California region’s ICU capacity was 12.5 percent.

That region includes San Diego, Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Inyo and Mono counties.

State officials said they would update each region’s ICU capacity daily on the website.

Counties can move back to their place in the colored tier system when the state’s internal projections find the situation is not likely to worsen in the next month.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new order Dec. 3, characterizing it as a necessary sacrifice to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has infiltrated counties quickly and widely during the holiday season. Without immediate action, he said, local hospital systems may not be able to cope with an anticipated surge in cases and hospitalizations following the Thanksgiving holiday.

San Diego County reported 2,039 new coronavirus cases Dec. 4, surpassing the previous single-day record of 1,859 reported the day after Thanksgiving.

The statewide average rate at which coronavirus tests are coming back positive has reached its highest level since May as the rate of hospitalizations and deaths increase.

“This is the most challenging moment since the beginning of this pandemic,” Newsom said. “Lives are in the balance. Lives will be lost unless we do more than we’ve ever done.”

Newsom said he would withhold funding set aside to address the pandemic from counties that refuse to adopt or enforce the new measures.

The order has drawn criticism from all sides, with some saying it’s too restrictive and will kill small businesses, while others question whether the rules are tough enough.

Here’s what you need to know about the new order:

The following operations must close:

  • Indoor and outdoor restaurant dining
  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair and nail salons and barbershops
  • Museums, zoos, aquariums and movie theaters
  • Wineries, bars, breweries and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Live-audience sports
  • Amusement parks

The following can remain open with modifications including mask wearing and physical distancing:

  • Restaurants are allowed to be open only for takeout, pickup or delivery.
  • Schools that have already reopened for in-person instruction can remain open. Schools can bring students back for in-person education under the state’s elementary school waiver process. Child care and pre-kindergarten programs also can remain open.
  • Retail spaces and shopping centers are allowed to operate at 20 percent indoor capacity (down from 25 percent under the purple tier’s restrictions) with entrance metering. No eating or drinking is allowed in stores, and businesses are urged to set up special hours for high-risk populations like senior citizens.
  • Places of worship and political expression can have outdoor services and gatherings.
  • Outdoor recreational facilities can remain open, including beaches, parks and outdoor gym operations. However, none may sell food or drink for onsite consumption. Overnight stays at campgrounds are off the table as well.
  • Hotels and other lodging locations can remain open, but only to support critical infrastructure sectors. Hotel use is prohibited for leisure and other nonessential reasons.
  • Office locations are urged to arrange for employees to work remotely, except for critical infrastructure sectors in which working remotely is impossible.
  • Professional sports and entertainment productions are allowed to operate without live audiences and are urged to have strict testing protocols.
What will change under regional stay-at-home orders
This chart shows differences between Tier 1, or purple tier, restrictions and those under the state’s new stay-at-home order.

Is travel allowed under the new order?

Californians are being told to cancel all nonessential travel plans.

Why did the state choose a regional approach?

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, said the regional strategy is designed to ensure that there is somewhere to transfer overflow patients in counties where ICU beds fill up or staffing levels are not adequate to meet demand.

“When capacity can’t be met within a specific county, we lean on neighboring counties and their hospital delivery systems,” Ghaly said.

‘We will get through this’

Experts and officials continued to urge residents to take steps to keep themselves and others from being infected — including wearing masks in public, regularly washing their hands and staying home as much as possible, as well as keeping physical distance from, and avoiding gatherings with, people they don’t live with.

Newsom has expressed hope that this new shutdown will be the final time such measures are necessary, particularly with the state expecting to receive its initial shipment of coronavirus vaccines in a matter of weeks.

“We will get through this. This is the final surge,” Newsom said. “We have a light at the end of the tunnel with these vaccines, but we need to take seriously this moment.”

— The Los Angeles Times and PB Monthly staff contributed to this report.