Several California Counties Continue to Move Into More Lenient Statewide COVID-19 Restriction Tiers


Three weeks into California’s new four-tiered, color-coded COVID-19 restriction framework, more counties continue to move into less restrictive tiers, allowing additional businesses to reopen with restrictions.

The current restriction framework—called the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy”—categorizes each county into a different risk classification tier.  For more information regarding this framework in general, please refer to our previous alert here.  At the time of the new framework’s implementation, only two highly populated counties were not classified at the most restrictive “Widespread” tier: San Diego and San Francisco Counties.  Instead, those two counties were classified at the more lenient “Substantial” tier, which allowed for an easing of some restrictions.

Now, several other highly-populated California counties have joined San Diego and San Francisco in the less restrictive tiers.  On September 8, 2020, the counties of Orange, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz also moved from the most restrictive “Widespread” (purple) tier to the slightly more lenient “Substantial” (red) tier.  There are now seventeen (17) counties in the “Substantial” (red) tier, including the addition of Marin, Inyo, and Tehama Counties on September 15, 2020. 

The “Substantial” tier eases restrictions and allows reopening for many indoor operations.  For example, movie theaters “can open indoors with modifications” and with maximum “25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.”  Gyms and fitness centers “can open indoors with modifications” and with “max 10% capacity.”  Yoga studios “can open indoors with modifications” and with “max 10% capacity.”  Massage therapy studios “can open indoors with modifications.”  Nail Salons “can open indoors with modifications.”  Aquariums “can open indoors with modifications” and with “max 25% capacity.”  Places of worship “can open indoors with modifications” and with a maximum of “25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.”  However, just as with the “Widespread” tier, offices of non-essential business cannot open under the “Substantial” tier, and those office workers of non-essential businesses are still limited to working remotely.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) assesses county COVID-19 indicators weekly on Mondays and releases any updated tier assignments the next day.  To move to a less restrictive tier, a county must meet the adjusted case rate and test positivity criteria for the next less restrictive tier for two consecutive weeks.  But even if a county meets the COVID-19 metrics for assignment to a less restrictive tier, a county must remain in its assigned tier for a minimum of three weeks before it is eligible to advance to a less restrictive tier and may only move forward one tier at a time, even if the county’s metrics qualify for an even more lenient tier.  Thus, this coming Tuesday, September 22, 2020, will be the first time counties originally assigned to any of the less restrictive tiers will be eligible to progress further into the more lenient “Moderate” (orange) or “Minimal” (yellow) tiers.  If, however, CDPH determines in its weekly assessment that a county’s adjusted case rate and/or test positivity has increased to a range within the criteria for a more restrictive tier for two consecutive weekly periods, CDPH will reassign the county to the more restrictive tier. 

There are currently nine counties in the “Moderate” (orange) tier and only two counties in the “Minimal” (yellow) tier.  Meanwhile, thirty (30) counties remain in the most restrictive “Widespread” (purple) tier, including the State’s most populous county, Los Angeles County.

To see the CDPH-tracked metrics for your county and whether your county is on track to progress (or regress) to a different tier, visit the CDPH County Monitoring Overview webpage.  You can also download and view in Excel format the CDPH’s detailed “Update of California Blueprint Data Chart” (last updated September 15, 2020), which displays for each county its tier status, date of tier assignment, number of consecutive weeks meeting the next tier’s criteria, case rates, adjusted case rate for tier assignment, testing positivity, and test rates.

Below is a map provided by the State’s COVID-19 Website that shows the current tier status of every county in the State:

Please note that the State’s guidance may be limited by county or other locality restrictions.  Before taking any step for re-opening or modifying operations to accommodate the State’s reclassification, businesses must use extreme care and caution to ensure that they are also complying with any local regulation that might also apply to them.

AALRR will continue to monitor California’s handling of COVID-19 restrictions.  If you have any questions about what restrictions apply to you, or what you need to do to stay in compliance with COVID-19 laws, orders and regulations, please contact the authors or the other attorneys at AALRR who can provide advice and counsel specific to your particular circumstances.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.
© 2020 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo



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