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California starts reopening restaurant dining rooms

But the go-ahead, which starts on Monday, is limited to 19 of the state’s 58 counties.
California reopening
Photograph: Shutterstock

California has adopted a new business reopening plan that allows restaurants in 19 counties to resume limited dining-room service as of Monday. 

Los Angeles and many of the state's other major restaurant markets are not among the jurisdictions getting the go-ahead to provide indoor table service again. San Diego and the Napa Valley are within green-lighted regions.  San Francisco is also located within one of the cleared zones, but city officials have yet to indicate if they'll agree to a limited reopening of dining rooms. 

The areas cleared to serve customers indoors for the first time since July 13 tend to be among the state’s more lightly populated counties.  Restaurants in other areas will not be allowed to fully open again until their county’s rate of new infections and positivity rates—the percentage of persons who test positive for coronavirus—are brought below newly set thresholds. The regions have to keep the gauges below those trigger levels for at least three consecutive week before they can advance to a tier where interior dining is permitted.  

The new reopening “blueprint” assigns one of four COVID infection risk rates to all 58 of California’s counties.  Restaurants in jurisdictions with the lowest danger of infection—so-called minimal zones, designated on maps in yellow—can resume using up to 50% of their indoor seating, with no numerical cap on the number of guests who can be accommodated at any given time. Bars can use up to 50% of their indoor capacities. 

Places one tier up, in the “moderate” or orange classification, are limited to 50% of their interior dining rooms or 200 customers, whichever gauge is lower. Bars can reopen for outdoor service, but cannot serve customers indoors.  

Restaurants in a “substantial” or “red” county cannot exceed a capacity cap of either 25% or 100 people, whichever is lower.  Bars must remain closed. 

Establishments in a “purple” county are still limited to outdoor dining, takeout and delivery. Bars remain closed. 

Each county will be reassessed on a weekly basis and have its status adjusted if necessary.  In announcing the new plan at a press conference Friday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom described the new approach as a more flexible and responsive way to manage the pandemic. 

The governor closed down bars and shut all restaurant dining rooms statewide on July 13 because of a spike in new coronavirus cases and a steep rise in the positivity rate.  

He indicated during the press conference that his office is likely to detail on Monday a new moratorium on evictions.   

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that San Francisco is not located within one of the counties that have been cleared to re-allow indoor dining. San Francisco County is rated red, which allows restaurants to reopen at 25% of dining rooms or serve no more than 100 indoor guests at one time. That raised the count of counties permitting dine-in service to 19.

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