California’s New Reopening Plan

Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP

Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLPCalifornia’s New Reopening PlanOn August 31, 2020, California introduced a statewide blueprint for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic designed to provide clear guidance and timelines for which industries may safely open.

The new system is color-coded and has four tiers, with Tier 1 being the highest risk of community disease transmission and Tier 4 the lowest risk. The four tiers are based on two factors: (1) the county’s positivity rate; and (2) the daily new cases for each 100,000 residents.

The tiers are outlined below:

  • Tier 1 (purple/widespread): higher than 8% testing positivity rate; more than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 county residents
  • Tier 2 (red/substantial): 5-8% testing positivity rate; 4 to 7 daily new cases per 100,000 county residents
  • Tier 3 (orange/moderate): 2-4.9% positivity rate; 1 to 3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 county residents
  • Tier 4 (yellow/minimal): less than 2% positivity; fewer than 1 daily new case per 100,000 county residents


Notably, even Tier 1 contains restrictions for industries, with most businesses limited to opening at a 50% capacity. Governor Gavin Newsom has stated that there is not yet a chance of going back to the way things were before the pandemic, and at least some safety precautions will be necessary for every stage of reopening.

The state has released a Blueprint for a Safer Economy search tool, which allows users to search for the status of activities in their county. This website is being updated on a weekly basis based on statistics from each county’s public health department.

The majority of California counties, including Los Angeles County, Orange County and Ventura County, are currently at a Tier 1 risk level. Under the Tier 1 restrictions, restaurants are open for outdoor dining only, retail is open indoors at a maximum 25% capacity, and hair salons may open with limited 25% capacity.

Under the Blueprint, restaurants in the lowest risk Tier 3 and 4 counties may open for indoor dining at 50% capacity. Restaurants in Tier 2 counties may open for indoor dining at 25% capacity.

All business owners are responsible for following public health guidance, which includes performing a detailed risk assessment and worksite-specific protection plan, training employees, and establishing universal face covering guidelines.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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