(CNS) -- Citing improving conditions in hospitals, state health officials Monday lifted all regional stay-at-home orders, including in the 11-county Southern California region, but counties will still be subject to the tight regulations of the restrictive "purple" tier of economic reopening guidelines.
The regional stay-at-home order was imposed in Southern California late last year when intensive-care unit capacity dropped below 15%. The regional capacity subsequently dropped to an adjusted 0%.
But state officials said Monday that with hospitalization numbers trending downward, four-week projections now indicate ICU capacity will rise above the 15% threshold.
"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, CDPH director and state public health officer. "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."
Although the state order has been lifted, individual counties are still able to impose stricter restrictions than the state.
But in general, lifting the state order could mean a resumption of outdoor dining, as well as at least some services at gyms, barber shops and nail salons, among other businesses.
A possible resumption of outdoor dining could be the biggest economic boon of the announcement. On Sunday, the California Restaurant Association sent its members a letter announcing the pending state decision, saying, "we thought you'd like to know this good news."
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria released a statement on the state's announcement Monday morning.
"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 healthcare system and defeat COVID-19," he said.
"This is how our economy will fully reopen for good. I want to thank every San Diegan -- residents and small business owners alike -- who made this possible by avoiding gatherings, wearing masks and staying home when possible. With vaccination efforts expanding, we're making real progress, but it's not time to let our guard down. San Diego will continue to enforce state and county public-health guidelines. Let's continue to keep ourselves and each other safe," Gloria said.
Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has formed an exploratory committee to run for governor and has attacked Newsom in recent weeks, described the move as "absurd."
"A new day, a new erratic COVID rule," Faulconer said. "Californians want to follow the science. Instead we are forced to follow a governor who decides on a whim the fate of millions of Californians while refusing to release the data behind his contradictory and arbitrary decisions.
"The most valuable resource in a crisis is trust, but that's in even shorter supply than vaccines under Gavin Newsom," he added. "How many lives have been ruined, jobs lost, students disenfranchised and businesses shuttered by his random and confusing decrees?"
A letter from the California Restaurant Association to its members, dated Jan. 24, said the Newsom administration confirmed the course of action.
"Late this evening, senior officials in the Newsom administration informed us that the Governor will announce tomorrow that the stay-at-home order will be lifted in all regions of the state.
The regions of the state currently under the stay-at-home order are: Bay Area, Southern California, and San Joaquin Valley. Two other regions -- Northern California and Sacramento region -- are currently not under the stay-at-home order.
Again, a formal announcement is expected tomorrow and we will send you further information as soon as it’s available. For now, we thought you’d like to know this good news."
ABC 10new reached out to the California Department of Public Health, and they provided the following statement on Sunday evening:
"We see promising signs that California is slowly emerging from the most intense stage of this pandemic. We continue to look at what that means for the Regional Stay at Home order and will provide an update tomorrow."