On Monday, January 25, the California government opted to cancel regionalized stay at home orders throughout the state, returning all counties to the tier system according to Covid-19 statistics.
The stay-at-home order, in place since early December, had been largely ineffective in restricting the movement of people throughout the state and a number of jurisdictions chose to lightly (or not at all) enforce restrictions on hotels and dining.
Governor Gavin Newsom said that he made his decision based on hospital ICU capacity projections over the course of the next four weeks. The state chose to factor surge capacity into the ICU availability metrics, which pushed the numbers above the necessary 15% needed for a given region to reopen in the purple tier.
Two regions were not subject to the stay-at-home order at the time of its lifting: Greater Sacramento had the order lifted on January 12 while Northern California was never subject to it.
Both Mono and Inyo counties were placed in the purple tier, the most restrictive, upon the state’s rescinding of the order. Mono’s 7-day positivity rate has decreased over the past two weeks to the 10-12% range, down from a peak of 26% but still above the state’s 8% threshold to be reclassified into the red tier (which would permit in-person dining). The county’s per capita positivity rate sits at 487 per 100,000 residents, down from a peak of 1,300 per 100,000 little more than a week ago.
Inyo County listed 59 active cases as of Thursday, January 28, a case rate of 88.3 per 100,000 residents and a 15% positivity rate.
A refresher on what the purple tier means: lodging can open with restrictions on gym and pool facilities, restaurants can open for outdoor seating, most retail is open at 25% capacity, and some personal services (i.e haircuts, tattoo shops) can reopen.
In addition to rescinding the stay-at-home order, Newsom also altered the prioritization list for Covid-19 vaccinations, basing it on age as opposed to occupation or risk factors.
Locally, Mono County issued a press release highlighting the changes from the stay-at-home order to the purple tier. The county opted to restrict local lodging to 60% capacity for operators with more than 10 properties and 18 nights/month for operators with less than 10 properties, with a mandatory 24 hour gap between stays for cleaning.
The Town of Mammoth Lakes issued a press release Wednesday veering from Mono County’s edict, stating it would allow 70% capacity.
Emergency Operations Command Public Information Officer Stu Brown talked through the new information from the state, citing the change in metrics as the reason for the state’s actions. Forecasting out, the expanded ICU capacity in Southern California is projected to be at 33.3% in four weeks.
The state also issued new school guidance: grades K-6 may be in-person with 25 cases per 100k residents for five consecutive days while grades 7-12 would have to wait until a county reaches the red tier.
Town Finance Director Rob Patterson, who also leads the Town’s Covid-19 enforcement efforts, said that officials would continue to ease local restrictions as the county moves upward through the tier system.
The frustration at the lowered metrics was palpable. Sierra Nevada’s Resorts Brent Truax said that he had had to lay off 138 people since the beginning of the pandemic, some of whom had been working for him for more than a decade.
“It’s not just about today, it’s about taking care of what we’ve had the last several months where we didn’t have money,” he said.