Lifting of stay-at-home order a reprieve for O.C. businesses struggling during the pandemic

James Coelho styles a client at Makin Waves Salon in Huntington Beach on Tuesday, May 26.
Stylist James Coelho at Makin Waves Salon in Huntington Beach on Tuesday, May 26. The family-run business reopened Monday after a state-issued stay-at-home order was lifted.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Noting California is “turning a critical corner” in its battle against the coronavirus as regional ICU capacities recover from recent critical levels, state health officials on Monday lifted a stay-at-home order for Southern California, including Orange County.

In effect since Dec. 7, the order restricted business operations, limiting customer capacity and forcing partial or full closures in some sectors, including restaurants and personal care services.

Orange County restaurants are now allowed to return to offering outdoor dining, while hair and nail salons can reopen after a 50-day closure.

Susie Smith, owner of Huntington Beach hair salon Makin Waves, wasted no time bringing the business back online. Hearing late Sunday night personal care services could reopen, she had the shop up and running by noon Monday.

“There’s a huge sense of relief,” said Smith, describing the past 10 months of the pandemic as an anxiety-provoking rollercoaster ride.

“It’s disheartening to think everything you’ve put your whole life into, to build a successful and comfortable life, could just be taken away overnight, with no solutions, no answers and no timeline,” she continued. “It’s wreaking havoc on us, because we feel like we don’t know what’s next.”

“I’m freakin’ excited to get back to it. We’ve missed our customers.”

James Coelho, Makin Waves Salon

Makin Waves, a downtown fixture since 1997, has been relatively lucky. A devoted clientele and some money in savings have made all the difference. By Tuesday, a stream of regulars and walk-ins were booking appointments for socially distanced cuts and colors.

“The amount of support we’ve been getting from our clientele has been amazing,” said Smith’s son, James Coelho, who works at the shop. “Now we can open our doors again — it’s huge. I’m freakin’ excited to get back to it. We’ve missed our customers.”

A statewide curfew that asked residents to limit their movements between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. to further halt the spread of the virus was also lifted Monday. Gov. Gavin Newsom credited a statewide decline in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations for the change.

The outdoor dining area at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach serves customers on Monday.
A waiter serves a couple at the outdoor dining area at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach as Orange County returned to the “purple” reopening tier on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Monday’s announcement is a small ray of hope for Michael Byrne, co-owner of the Laguna Beach bar the Saloon and owner of Roux Creole Cuisine. After a series of closures and reopenings, the restaurant has been subsisting on carryout orders and deliveries that can be handled in house.

Now, Byrne is making plans to set up some tables and chairs in an adjacent bank parking lot as soon as the weather improves. Already having cut staff from nine people to three, Roux is doing what it can to hang on.

“We’re a little place, and we were down to nothing,” said Byrne, who has weathered the storm with the help of assistance programs offered by the city of Laguna Beach. “We’re not in a place to go out and buy a lot of tables and things. But we’ll do it.”

This week’s easing of restrictions marks a statewide shift away from peak hospitalizations and new infections seen since the Thanksgiving holiday.

California’s 14-day average testing positivity rate fell from 13.6% two weeks earlier to 9.4% on Sunday. COVID-19 hospitalization rates also fell by 19.8% since Jan. 11, while health officials saw a 9.5% decrease in the rate of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care, according to reports.

In Southern California, a region comprising Orange County and 10 other jurisdictions, the four-week projected aggregated ICU capacity jumped to 33.3% — above the 15% capacity required for stay-at-home orders to be lifted.

Meanwhile, Orange County health officials on Tuesday reported 1,365 new cases of coronavirus and 64 deaths, bringing the countywide case count to 225,983 and pushing the fatality rate to 2,768.

Area hospitals reported treating 1,677 residents for COVID-19, 26% of whom — or 437 individuals — were being cared for in intensive care units, the agency reported.

The county’s seven-day average of new cases dropped from 67.1 per 100,000 residents recorded on Monday to 46.6, according to Tuesday’s figures.

Another 13,849 tests were reported on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative number to 2,587,867 and accounting for a seven-day average testing positivity rate of 12.9%, down from 16.7% reported Monday.

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

  • Santa Ana: 41,007 cases; 499 deaths
  • Anaheim: 37,874 cases; 531 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 9,216 cases; 132 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 7,884 cases; 77 deaths
  • Irvine: 8,943 cases; 42 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 3,208 cases; 46 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 3,025 cases; 43 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 706 cases; fewer than five deaths

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

  • 0 to 17: 22,859 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 31,440 cases; five deaths
  • 25 to 34: 45,609 cases; 32 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 35,485 cases; 57 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 36,350 cases; 186 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 28,261 cases; 366 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 14,035 cases; 527 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 7,031 cases; 635 deaths
  • 85 and older: 4,766 cases; 959 deaths

Updated figures are posted daily at Information on the COVID-19 vaccine in Orange County can be found at

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