California Lifts State Stay-at-Home Order as Virus Spread Slows

California lifted the statewide stay-at-home orders on Monday, allowing counties to retake control of COVID-19 restrictions, and potentially allowing for the return of outdoor dining in parts of the state.

The California Department of Public Health cited “positive signs” that the virus is spreading more slowly across the state. But it also warned that the pandemic is far from over, and advised Californians to continue to wear masks and avoid gatherings.

The state has struggled to distribute its vaccine supply, ranking behind all other states in the percentage of vaccine distributed.

Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the regional stay-at-home order on Dec. 3, citing dwindling capacity in hospital intensive care units in much of the state. Three regions were still under the state restrictions — Southern California, the Bay Area, and the San Joaquin Valley — when the order was lifted. According to the state, each of those regions is on track to exceed 15% ICU capacity in four weeks.

The order barred restaurants from offering outdoor dining, and ordered the closure of gyms, barbershops and personal care services. Most California counties remain in the “widespread,” or purple tier, which imposes similar restrictions on many activities.

“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Dr. Tomas Aragon, the state public health director. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains.”

In Los Angeles County, COVID hospitalizations and deaths shot up in the month of December, but reached a peak in early January and began to decline — though the levels remain high.

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