California lifts regional stay-at-home order 

Inyo and Mono County return to the most restrictive purple tier. Short-term nightly lodging for tourism reopens. 

California Department of Public Health lifted regional stay-at-home orders statewide on Monday morning, a loosening of restrictions that will most notably allow short-term lodging for recreation and leisure travel in Mono County with modifications.

Most of the state was placed on regional stay-at-home orders in early December in an effort to slow transmission rates of the coronavirus and reduce pressure on the hospital system. Mobility data in December and January showed the lowest rate of travel since May, indicating the orders were mostly working. And now hospitalization rates have slowed.

Over the past two weeks, statewide hospitalizations decreased 19.8% and ICU admissions are down 9.5%. The significant drop in ICU admissions is expected to continue. 

“Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “But Californians heard the urgent message to stay home and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom today said models project ICU capacity in the Southern California region will reach 33.3% by February 21. Projected four-week ICU capacity in the San Joaquin Valley is 22.3%, the Bay Area 25%, Greater Sacramento 27.3 % and Northern California 18.9%.

“We have battled our way through the most challenging surge and now we’re seeing truly the light at the end of that surge,” Gov. Newsom said. “But we are not out of the woods yet.” 

Responding to criticism regarding data transparency, Newsom emphasized the decisions are "data-driven, scientifically-based, not arbitrary." 

California’s counties will now return to the tier system under the state’s blueprint for reopening. Inyo and Mono counties are currently classified under the most restrictive purple tier for widespread disease based on local data. The state will reissue tier assignments weekly on Tuesdays moving forward. 

The biggest impact of loosening restrictions on Mono County is reopening short-term lodging for tourism. Earlier in January the Town of Mammoth Lakes offered lodging operators a “handshake” or legal sidestep to state orders by allowing 30% capacity if the guest self-attested as an essential traveler. 

The county will reissue its local lodging order tomorrow, limiting short-term lodging to 60% capacity, which is more restrictive than previously under the purple tier before the regional stay-at-home order was issued. According to Town Manager Dan Holler, current cases and the positivity rate are still high and the county is trying to manage the tourism in the best interest of public health finding and business operations for the long term.

“While the ICU capacity in the Southern California Region has improved, the COVID-19 test positivity rate and cases per 100,000 for Mono County remain alarmingly high,” Mono County Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Boo said in a statement. “We are also very worried about the effects of the mutant virus strains that are expected to become predominant here.”

“As a local jurisdiction we feel it is incumbent upon us to strive to limit the number of visitors to Mono County and Mammoth Lakes during this precarious time by imposing tier-based lodging restrictions and some limits on visitation to our local ski resorts.”

Under the purple tier restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and places of worship are prohibited from indoor operations, but may operate outside. Grocery stores are limited to 50% and retail is restricted to 25% occupancy. Offices remain closed and social gatherings are restricted to outdoors only. Salons and personal services can reopen indoors with modifications.

Case rates need to fall below 25 per week for Mammoth Unified schools to reopen under the purple tier. Then grades K-6 can open with limitations, but grades 7-12 can only open in the red tier. Schools that have already reopened in Eastern Sierra Unified can stay open. 

Link:Understand which businesses are open and closed under the four tiers

While the outdoor dining ban under stay-at-home orders has been controversial in other parts of the state, winter weather in Mono County makes it impossible for most restaurants to operate outside. 

To move to the less restrictive red tier and further open schools and businesses indoors, the county must have 7 or less new cases and a positivity rate lower than 8% for two consecutive weeks. 

“While there are positive signs that the virus is spreading at a slower rate across the state, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over,” Dr. Ghaly said. 

Deaths continue to be significant in California and even though the state is loosening restrictions, the health department warned that gatherings are still dangerous and emphasized the importance of mask wearing, distancing and not mixing households. 

In California there are 90 confirmed cases of the B117 variant, which was first identified in the UK and is considered 50-70% more contagious. Dr. Ghaly expressed concern about the new variants, as “it creates another unknown.” He impressed how important it is to remain vigilant with nonpharmaceutical interventions and the state’s focus on the vaccination effort.

Over the last 7-day period Mono County has confirmed 31 cases of the coronavirus with a 12.8% positivity rate, a significant decrease from weeks prior. There are no new deaths in Mono County and currently no COVID-patients at Mammoth Hospital, which remains in the green. 

There are currently six COVID-positive patients hospitalized at Northern Inyo Hospital, according to CDPH. Last week there were two new deaths in Inyo County bringing the total to 29 deaths.

As of January 25, Northern Nevada staffed hospitals beds are 71% occupied, a slight decrease from the week prior. 

Mono County’s vaccination effort is well under way

Last week Mono County received nearly 3,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the county has moved into Phase 1b including residents 65 and older as well as grocery and restaurant workers among other essential workers. 

The county has received 4,728 doses to date, administered 2,314 first doses and 346 second doses.

Residents can complete a pre-registration form online in English or Spanish and will then be contacted by the health department when it is time to register for their vaccination appointment for both doses. 

Mammoth Lakes Tourism Director John Urdi is coordinating a volunteer program to help run the vaccination clinics and said the response has been great so far, but he needs more help at clinics in Bridgeport, Walker, and Lee Vining. Sign up to volunteer online.

California has tripled the pace of vaccinations from 43,459 per day on January 4 to 131,620 on January 15. The state will issue revised vaccination prioritization on Tuesday. 

Moving forward, there will be a single statewide standard and movement through the vaccination tiers. The state will continue through 65+, health care workers, and prioritize emergency services, food and agriculture workers, teachers and school staff. From there, the state will transition to age-based eligibility, allowing California to scale up and down quickly, while ensuring vaccine goes to disproportionately impacted communities.

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