Responding to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to lift the Safe-At-Home order, Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell said local restaurants can open as soon as possible.
“Earlier today, Gov. Newsom announced he was lifting the Safe-At-Home order,” Mermell said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “That places Pasadena and the rest of Southern California in the purple tier and allows us to go back to the same business operations that existed in late November and early December. Outdoor dining will be able to resume and other businesses will be able to resume as well.”
When Councilmember Tyron Hampton asked when the restaurants could reopen, Mermell said they could reopen that day.
The announcement clears the way for outdoor dining to reopen.
Citing improving conditions in hospitals, state health officials today lifted all regional stay-at-home orders, including in the 11-county Southern California region, but counties will still be subject to tight regulations of the restrictive “purple” tier of economic reopening guidelines.
“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, California Department of Public Health 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,” Aragon said.
Pasadena city officials are still studying the governor’s decision and will determine a course of action shortly. The city can implement its own health order that could keep businesses closed.
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.
Although the state has lifted the order with little warning, the city of Pasadena still has the option to keep the order in place.
The city’s business community lauded the decision on Monday.
“This is great. We’ve been waiting for this for two months. Restaurants shouldn’t have closed in the first place,” said Gregg Smith, who owns a number of local restaurants.
“If you follow science and data, there isn’t a shred of evidence outdoor dining has infected one person,” Smith said.
Smith said he does not think things will go back to normal.
“We have to be vigilant, but businesses need to reopen,” he said.
Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Little said restaurants and small businesses still need help.
“The longer this drags on the more desperate it’s going to be, especially for small local retailers and the restaurants,” Little said.
“It’s potentially going to be devastating over the next couple of months, even post-pandemic, because they’re just not going to be saving themselves if they don’t get some infusion of cash to pay back rent or some measure of forgiveness and landlords,” Little said.
Little called Monday’s decision “a baby step in the right direction.”
Little said suspending the order does not address the bigger issues surrounding the order.
“There’s no link between infection rates and retail, outdoor dining, fitness studios, hair salons. They feel like they’re being arbitrarily shut down, and when the governor clearly does not believe it’s dangerous to go to a restaurant himself, why is it dangerous for the rest of us?” Little said, referring to an incident in which Newsom was caught violating his own order by attending a dinner with a donor and others.
“Partly, I think, he is to blame for some of the spikes in cases, just by his own behavior,” Little said of Newsom. “You lead by example, and he did not do that.”
Local Attorney Mark Geragos has filed a federal lawsuit against the state, and an effort to recall Newsom has been picking up supporters,
According to the Huntington Hospital COVID information dashboard, 29 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit are battling the virus and 167 patients in the hospital are infected with the virus.
So far, Pasadena has reported 9,776 cases of the virus and 226 fatalities.
“I support following the governor’s recommended guidelines for Southern California, and reopening outdoor dining, personal care services and other industries that were previously closed by these orders,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “A data-driven and pragmatic policy approach is essential to protecting public health, while balancing the devastating social, emotional and economic impacts of this virus.”
Although the order has been lifted, Newsom could reinstate another health order at any time.
City News Service contributed to this report.