California LIFTS 7week lockdown

California has lifted its regional stay-at-home orders across the state on Monday, moving counties back into the tier-based reopening framework.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The announcement marked the most tangible sign yet that California, which emerged in recent months as a leading U.S. hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic, has moved beyond the worst days of a crisis that pushed much of its healthcare system to the breaking point.

Counties will move back to the tiered system, with most regions across the state expected to move into the purple tier, meaning personal care services like hair salons can re-open with modifications and restaurants can open for outdoor service.

California, the United States’ most populous state, emerged as a leading U.S. epicenter of the pandemic despite re-imposing some of the most stringent restrictions on social gatherings and business activity.

Last week, health officials in the state were investigating whether a homegrown coronavirus strain could be partly to blame for the recent surge in infections after the death toll in California nearly doubled in less than three months.

The improved outlook in California, the most populous U.S. state with 40 million residents, came as the country as a whole surpassed the alarming milestone of 25 million known infections, with nearly 419,000 lives lost during the pandemic, even as states accelerate their vaccine distribution. 

California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, but the number of new infections appear to be slowing after a surge following the Holiday season.

The state’ top health official said earlier this month that the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients statewide had steadily declined, showing signs of the virus leveling off.

California’s stay-at-home restrictions, among the most stringent constraints on business and social life imposed anywhere in the country, were triggered in early December when available space in hospital intensive care units reached maximum capacity.

Governor Gavin Newsom said infection rates and hospital admissions have since declined dramatically. Projections show available ICU capacity climbing well above minimum thresholds over the next month.