California governor Gavin Newsom has published new guidelines on how and when businesses can reopen in a move that affects cinemas across the region including the key markets of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
At time of writing, the new four-tier system means indoor cinemas in Los Angeles Country currently remain closed although outdoor (drive-in) sites are operational. Cinemas in San Francisco and San Diego that choose to open can operate at a maximum 25% capacity or a 100-person cap, whichever is less.
The move to boost the local economy comes after Newsom came under fire for his spring guidelines, which critics say allowed business to reopen too quickly and led to the surge in Covid-19 cases throughout the summer.
Under the new Blueprint For A Safer Economy guidelines, county risk levels are divided into colour-coded categories and businesses will only be allowed to reopen gradually based on data showing the spread of infections.
The categories are defined below:
Widespread: Many non-essential indoor business operations are closed, and there are more than seven new daily cases per 100,000 residents and more than 8% of tests are positive.
Substantial: Some non-essential indoor business operations are closed, and there are 4-7 new daily cases per 100,000 residents and 5-8% of tests are positive.
Moderate: Some indoor business operations are open with modifications, and there are 1-3.9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents and more than 2-4.9% of tests are positive.
Minimal: Most indoor business operations are open with modifications, and there is less than one new daily case per 100,000 residents and lee than 2% of tests are positive.
It is understood most of California’s 58 counties including Los Angeles County currently occupy the most severe ‘Widespread’ category. San Francisco and San Diego are categorised as ‘Substantial’.
As of August 31, counties in the ‘Widespread’ tier may open some businesses and activities with modifications, including all retail, shopping centres at maximum 25% capacity, and hair salons and barbershops indoors.
Activities and businesses that carry a lower risk of spreading Covid-19 can open sooner. Higher-risk activities or businesses are not allowed to do so until they enter less severe tiers.
An activity or business’s tier depends on whether it can:
- accommodate mask-wearing at all time;
- allow physical distancing between people from different households;
- limit the number of people per square foot;
- limit time that a person is at the business or activity;
- limit time of exposure; limit mixing people from different households;
- limit amount of physical interactions of visitors/patrons; increase airflow; and
- limit activities that are known to increase virus spread such as singing, shouting and heavy breathing.
Counties must wait at least three weeks before they move to the more lenient tier, and a county must meet the criteria of the next category for two consecutive weeks.
If a county’s metrics deteriorate for two consecutive weeks, it will fall into the more severe tier.
According to Newsom’s office, statewide data for the period August 12-18 has revealed 10.9 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents, and a 6% positivity rate.