Clock to move into California’s next reopening tier resets as case rates climb in Orange County

A shopper pushes a stroller past a store in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa on Monday.
A shopper pushes a stroller past a store in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa on Monday. If the county moved into the state’s next reopening tier, shopping centers like South Coast would have been able to open at full capacity, but would have had to close common areas and limit capacity at food courts.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County won’t be moving into the next California reopening tier for at least another two weeks as the average new daily COVID-19 case rate climbed.

Dr. Clayton Chau, the Orange County Health Care Agency director, said during an Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday that the county was within the parameters to meet the next tier last week, but that data now shows that the county will remain within the red, “substantial transmission” tier, which is the second-worst tier in the state’s reopening guidelines.

The healthcare agency reported Tuesday that the county’s new adjusted case rate was 4.4 cases per every 100,000 residents, though its average testing positivity rate remained at 3.1%.


To move into the next tier of “moderate transmission,” the county would have needed to keep its case rate between one and 3.9 cases and its testing positivity rate between 2% and 4.9% for two consecutive weeks.

The county was first placed in the “substantial transmission” tier on Sept. 8.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District will reopen its two elementary schools — El Morro and Top of the World — after the board approved the reopening by a split vote of 4-1 in a special meeting on Friday.

Sept. 29, 2020

Counties are required to stay within their tier for a minimum of three weeks before moving into the next.

“We did have a few days of uptick in numbers. Small, but significant to affect our tier system and those numbers, we believe, is the effect of the Labor Day weekend,” Chau said. “We did have a couple days of high numbers for the week of Sept. 13 to 19 and that’s what kept our numbers to be in the red tier this week.”

Shoppers exit South Coast Plaza on Monday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Moving into the next tier would have meant that shopping centers like South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and Fashion Island in Newport Beach could reopen at full capacity, though it would have had to close all common areas and reduce capacity at food courts. Places of worship, movie theaters and restaurants could have been open for indoor operations at 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever number was fewer.

Museums, zoos and aquariums could have been open for indoor at 50% capacity and gyms and fitness centers, including those at hotels, would be able to open at 25% capacity.

It would have also meant that wineries would be able to reopen indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever number was fewer, and bars, breweries and distilleries where food is not served would be able to reopen outdoors. They are currently unable to operate.

Just a day after reporting no deaths, the county agency also reported a new high of 33 deaths on Tuesday, reaching a total of 1,249 COVID-19 deaths in Orange County. Another 109 cases were also reported. The total number of cases are 53,557.

This does not include positive antigen cases, which is 1,465.

The county agency also reported that 162 cases are currently hospitalized and 46 are in intensive care units.

It estimates about 48,146 cases have recovered.

Here are the latest cumulative coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths for select cities in Orange County:

  • Santa Ana: 10,329 cases; 277 deaths
  • Anaheim: 9,172 cases; 269 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 2,401 cases; 71 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 1,808 cases; 31 deaths
  • Irvine: 1,683 cases; 13 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 1,127 cases; 25 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 509 cases; 17 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 225 cases; fewer than five deaths

Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:

  • 0 to 17: 3,800 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 8,070 cases; four deaths
  • 25 to 34: 11,543 cases; 18 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 8,555 cases; 36 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 8,638 cases; 107 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 6,420 cases; 176 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 3,215 cases; 255 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 1,820 cases; 264 deaths
  • 85 and older: 1,446 cases; 388 deaths

Updated figures are posted daily at For information on getting tested, visit

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