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California on Monday lifted its regional coronavirus stay-at-home order because of slightly improving ICU conditions, health officials announced.

As a result, the state will return to the county-based restrictions established last summer. Most counties will be returning to the strictest tier.

The change will allow non-retail services and businesses, such as outdoor dining and hair salons, to reopen immediately, subject to any additional restrictions required by local jurisdictions.

The state is also lifting a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

“Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner,” said Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health and state public health officer. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in December imposed the restrictions in regions where the ICU capacity dropped below 15 percent.

The Sacramento Region exited the order on Jan. 12, and the Northern California region never entered it. The order had been in effect for the San Joaquin Valley, the Bay Area and the Southern California region. The areas comprise the majority of the state’s population.

Officials said the decision to lift the order was based on the four-week projections showing ICU capacity was above 15 percent. 

“Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly. 

According to state data, Southern California currently has 0 percent ICU capacity. 

But the San Francisco Bay Area ICU capacity is now at 23 percent, and the San Joaquin Valley is up to 1.3 percent capacity — an increase from 0 percent.

Statewide, ICU capacity is 4.5 percent. California has had more than 3.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 36,790 deaths.

At the end of August, Newsom unveiled a system that put every county into one of four color-coded tiers based on how prevalent COVID-19 is in each county and the extent of community spread.

Each tier includes specifics on business openings, and counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks before moving forward.

If a county moves into a new tier but fails to meet the criteria, it will be bumped back down. Counties can also decide to keep restrictions even if the state allows them to move to a lower tier.

Tags California Coronavirus coronavirus restrictions COVID-19 Gavin Newsom
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