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California Rolls Back Stay-At-Home Order, Allowing Some Businesses To Reopen

The California Department of Public Health lifted the stay-at-home order statewide, according to a Jan. 25 press release. The change mainly impacts the Bay Area, Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, which had still been on lockdown from a coronavirus case surge over the holiday season that left many counties with critical intensive care unit bed shortages. As ICU capacity projections for these regions are now above the 15% threshold, most of the state will be back to Purple Tier restrictions this week, allowing for some in-person commercial activities to resume.


Purple Tier restrictions are expected to go into effect across California on Jan. 26. The reopening of businesses will look different in different counties.

In San Francisco, starting on Jan. 28, outdoor dining, outdoor entertainment, one-on-one fitness training, and outdoor sports and recreation will be permitted to resume. Personal services businesses such as barbershops can also open as long as occupants wear masks, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a press conference Monday. She also said that grocery store occupancy levels will increase and that indoor gatherings of up to 12 people will be allowed.

“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 the release. “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.”

Breed said San Francisco’s ICU bed capacity is at 26% and called the reopening “good news.”

“I’m excited today because of the vaccine rollout,” Breed said at the conference. “I’m excited today because many of our small businesses will begin to open. I’m excited because I know that people in San Francisco — although this is a great day — they realize the importance of still following safety guidelines around COVID and understanding that the virus is still out there and that we still have more work to do.”

The restaurant industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. As many as 1 million restaurant workers in the state were laid off or furloughed in March 2020, according to the California Restaurant Association. Fifteen S.F. restaurants permanently closed in October 2020 alone, SFGATE reports. 

Other Bay Area counties such as Contra Costa and Alameda counties also issued press releases about degrees of reopening. Although all California counties must follow the state’s public health rules, individual counties are permitted to enact stricter requirements.

“We may be past the winter surge, but COVID-19 is still with us,” Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said in a press release. “We are only in the early stages of our vaccination campaign, and the virus has shown us it is capable of returning again and again. That means that, even as we cautiously reopen, we must continue to do the things we know work to keep each other safe.”