Local businesses start reopening as governor lifts regional COVID-19 stay-at-home order

Seven restaurants along Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores have had outdoor seating on the street since July.

Newsom says dropping infection rates influenced his canceling of the weeks-long order, which allows hair and nail salons to reopen and restaurants to resume outdoor dining.


After nearly two months of operating under a strict stay-at-home order, many San Diego County businesses are cheering the news that they can at least partially reopen following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement Jan. 25 that he was lifting regional restrictions across California and returning to the state’s tiered, color-coded system for stemming the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

With Newsom’s latest action, which was effective immediately, San Diego County returns to the purple tier in the state’s reopening framework, meaning restaurants can resume outdoor dining; nail and hair salons can reopen; museums, zoos and aquariums can reopen outdoors; and retail stores are allowed to slightly increase their indoor capacity to 25 percent, up from 20 percent.

In La Jolla, that means a likely return of outdoor dining at various spots around town, including in La Jolla Shores, which since July has set up tables on the street for seven restaurants in the block of Avenida de la Playa between El Paseo Grande and Calle de la Plata.

The restaurants “will do what the government allows us to do,” said Phil Wise, who has been the lead organizer of The Shores program. “But our main concern is safety. Get your shots, wear a mask. Let’s do everything we can so everybody survives this pandemic.”

The Puesto restaurant group, which just over a week ago announced that it was temporarily shutting down all its California locations and would furlough hundreds of workers, was rushing to reopen its La Jolla location on Wall Street by this weekend, with its newer Mission Valley location to follow shortly afterward, said co-owner Eric Adler.

Puesto is reopening its La Jolla location on Wall Street, according to co-owner Eric Adler.

“We plan to open everything as soon as possible and bring people back on furlough, but first we have to reorder all the food, prepare everything, so at minimum it takes a week,” Adler said. “It is exciting to be open legally, but restaurants do need to be open for more than just outdoor. We lost so much money the past 10 months ... it’s just been a nosedive.”

One10 Salon on Girard Avenue, which has been closed since the regional order went into effect in early December, posted on Instagram that it “can finally reopen” and asked clients to contact their stylists for appointments.

The Boulevard, a salon on La Jolla Boulevard, also posted on Instagram that it was open for business. “We will continue to provide a safe environment for you to enjoy your experience,” the post read.

The La Valencia Hotel on Prospect Street said on social media that it was welcoming guests back for leisure stays effective immediately and opening The Med restaurant for outdoor dining.

Newsom, while acknowledging that “we’re not out of the woods yet,” said, “We can lay claim to seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

The governor said his decision to cancel the stay-at-home order comes from mathematical modeling that indicates, based on current trends in infection rates, that hospitalization and intensive care rates will continue to drop.

Projecting forward four weeks, Newsom said further decreases in the number of people becoming infected will inevitably cause drops in hospitalizations and intensive care burden.

“We are anticipating still more declines in hospitalizations and more declines in ICUs, and that’s why we’re lifting the stay-at-home order,” Newsom said.

State modeling, he explained, projects that Southern California’s collective intensive care capacity will reach 33 percent by Feb. 21. Under the regional stay-at-home order, the threshold for shutting everything down was 15 percent.

San Diego County’s COVID-19 report released Jan. 24 showed that 702 of 788 available ICU beds were occupied, leaving 11 percent available, four percentage points below the 15 percent threshold.

And though there were said to be 86 ICU beds available, the county’s report indicated that, as of Jan. 23, only 48 of them were deemed “staffed and immediately available” to receive patients.

Stay-at-home and Tier 1 rules

Under the regional order, which was announced Dec. 3 amid soaring infection rates that led to a corresponding surge in hospitalization and ICU rates, restaurants in the Southern California region — whipsawed by on-again, off-again closures dating to the start of pandemic restrictions in March — had been limited to takeout and delivery, although some chose to defy the order and remain open for outdoor dining.

Newsom underscored that while the lifting of the stay-at-home order will ease restrictions, it is by no means a return to pre-pandemic conditions.

“It’s not a light switch going to back to the way things were a year-plus ago,” he said. “ We are still in these tiers, tiers we believe have served us well as it relates to modifying activity and behavior. There are certain conditions that need to be met.”

Substantial progress will be necessary to climb out of the state’s purple tier. Doing so would require a seven-day positivity
rate on coronavirus tests no higher than 8 percent and no more than seven cases per 100,000 residents.

The tier numbers published by San Diego County on Jan. 24 listed the seven-day rate at 12.5 percent with a case rate of 60.6 per 100,000.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, whose District 4 includes La Jolla, said Newsom’s announcement represented a positive step forward.

“Obviously we need to see continued progress; we want to see our [coronavirus] case numbers continue to decline,”
Fletcher said. “And again, our focus has to remain on administering vaccines and continuing the efforts to slow the spread to try to guide our way out of this.”

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement that “the state’s lifting of the regional stay-at-home order brings positive news of improving public health conditions, but we must stay vigilant so that we can protect our health care system and defeat COVID-19. This is how our economy will fully reopen for good.”

— City News Service contributed to this report.