Orange County moved from the most restrictive COVID-19 Purple Tier to the Red Tier as part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
According to Ed Mertz, a representative for the Orange County Health Care Agency, the decision to loosen restrictions in the county was made at the state level on Sept. 8.
The move meant that many local businesses would be allowed to reopen for the first time in several months.
According to a press release from the OCHCA, the Red Tier poses significantly less restrictions.
Restaurants may reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity or less than 100 people and must close by 10 pm.
Places of worship and movie theaters may also reopen to 25% capacity or less than 100 people.
Indoor shopping centers may now open to 50% capacity whereas indoor malls like South Coast Plaza had previously only been operating at 25% capacity.
Gyms and fitness centers may also reopen with restrictions and at 10% capacity while museums, zoos, and aquariums may also reopen indoors but are limited to 25% capacity.
According to the same press release from the OCHCA, hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and massage services may reopen with restrictions in services.
For Ali Lee, an 18 year-old Orange Coast College student, the move comes as a welcome relief.
“I’m glad to see the change going back into normal. Of course, I like it because I didn’t like it when we were closed down and locked down and couldn’t go out of our house – quarantine sucked. It still sucks. So, I’m ready for us to get back into normal life,” Lee said.
Lee is excited for gyms, indoor dining and movie theaters to open back up even though she primarily enjoyed outdoor activities even before the pandemic.
For Rex Ramirez, a 33 year-old photography major, the optimism is tempered with caution.
Ramirez experienced several months of furloughs in his job as a bartender but residing with his parents who are both over 80 has left him concerned with the precautions that others are taking.
“So, they keep coming into my restaurant without masks. They’re coming in without washing their hands,” Ramirez said. “We have sanitation all over the restaurant but they’re not even using it. They’re just going in there doing this and they’re walking past it. So that does bother me.”
He explained that his work as a photographer means that he risks virus exposure despite taking precautions.
“Unfortunately, I do go out and photograph but once a week, I go to Dodger Stadium to get myself tested. So, I continuously check if I have it or not. But that doesn’t mean everyone else is doing it,” Ramirez said. “So, people have at work, but I just told my manager, please keep an eye out for our safety and everyone’s safety,”
Lee, however, was feeling less cautious and believed that the move from purple to red is part of a larger progression back to normal.
“Honestly, I think that we’re going to go forward with life. It's just going to resolve itself out. I think if we just open up, people are more aware now and there are a lot of people taking precautions. Maybe there are a few that aren’t, but for the majority, for the main part, I feel like there are people who are going to follow guidelines as much as they can,” Lee said.