L.A. County is on the cusp of orange tier reopening, but public health officials say it’s too early to declare victory over COVID-19

Los Angeles County continued to edge closer this week to the orange tier in their reopening strategy for new COVID-19 infections, allowing more social distancing restrictions to be lifted or eased on a range of businesses, including restaurants, movie theaters, museums and shopping centers. But public health experts give a stark warning on easing restrictions amid highly contagious variants spreading fast around the U.S, even as the vaccine rollout picks up steam.

Video Transcript


- LA County moves from the purple to red tier.

KIM TOBIN: This is going to be such a big day for businesses and restaurants here in LA County.

- Exactly one year after they were forced to close down, movie theaters in LA County are now reopening.

- And the same goes for restaurants, gyms, and many other businesses.

- Indoor dining, movie theaters, gyms, they're now OK with limitations.

KOCO MCABOY: And LA County moving into the red tier also means that places like indoor shopping malls, museums, zoos, and some schools can also start to reopen with modifications.

BARBARA FERRER: That were here today is not a miracle. Our recovery represents the deep commitment by hundreds of thousands of individuals and many thousands of businesses to adhering to safety measures and to making sacrifices that keep each other safe. And because of this hard work, for the first time since the state created the blueprint last summer, LA County has moved from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY: The continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation. Increasingly, states are seeing a growing proportion of their COVID-19 cases attributed to variants. The newly identified variant B.1427, B.1429 is estimated to account for 52% of cases in California. We are a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road where we as a country must decide which path we are going to take. We must act now, and I am worried that if we don't take the right actions now we will have another avoidable surge.


ANTHONY FAUCI: My concern that we will declare victory prematurely. If you look at the dynamics of the outbreak, it's a very, very high peak that we had following the holiday season. That was expected, to have a peak, but not that high. It really went up to 300,000 to 400,000 new cases a day at one point. It's coming down sharply now, but we seem to be plateauing at a level that's unacceptably high-- around 50,000 or so cases a day. This is what's happened in previous surges, where you come to a plateau at a high level, and then you start to surge. If we pull back prematurely, we may trigger another surge, and that would really set us back in all the things that we're trying to do.


GAVIN NEWSOM: This is not mission accomplished. We're not spiking the football. This is not time to take down your guard or, literally, as is the case, take off your mask. The most potent and powerful thing you can continue to do is wear a face covering and let us work through the next number of weeks until we get to that place of abundance, moving away from the scarcity mindset, where we can meaningfully begin to reopen the economy without the kinds of modifications that we're currently experiencing.

- We are committed, along with everyone, to move forward. And we are excited about this opportunity to stay on a recovery journey and we know this means a lot to everyone. But we have to do it in a way that doesn't jeopardize safety. And we have to do it in a way that pays attention to what our numbers are doing and what we're seeing around the other states and other countries. Again, I think it's, be sensible as you move forward.