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.