Orange County announces transition to loosened COVID-19 regulations

The county will be able to adjust business protocols for restaurants, gyms and movie theaters under Governor Newsom’s tiered reopening plan.

New guidelines announced this week by Governor Gavin Newsom allow Orange County businesses greater operational freedom, but USC students from the county remain divided about how safe it is to return to more routine daily activities.

Orange County announced its revised reopening plans on Tuesday after months of widespread restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The county moved from the purple tier to the red tier, as categorized in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s color-coded reopening plan, allowing it to reopen certain businesses and other operations.

The red tier, categorized by the state as infections being a “substantial risk,” allows restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship to open at a capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is less. Additionally, shopping centers and retail stores will begin to function at 50% capacity while gyms and fitness centers function at 10% capacity. In order for Orange County to reach the orange tier, it must report one to four COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents daily and a positivity rate of 4-5%.

Students from the county expressed varying viewpoints on the county’s progression and what it means for their student experience for the remainder of the fall semester. Rose Esfandiari, a sophomore Political Science and Journalism major has been attending online classes from her home in Irvine.

“It felt like I was still going to community college online. I’m bummed out I don’t really get to experience what it’s like to go to USC. I have not gained any sense of normalcy,” Esfandiari said.

She is excited about the reopening of Orange County but remains hesitant about varying activities. “I don’t see myself going to the gym,” she said, “but I do feel comfortable eating indoors or going to a movie theatre. Overall I feel comfortable.”

Jessica Sun, a sophomore International Relations Global Business major from Newport Beach, aimed to find a sense of normalcy by living near USC’s campus in the fall and immersing herself in an environment that somewhat replicated what was expected as a sophomore transfer student.

“I got it [her USC acceptance letter] on June 2nd, the day it was announced we were starting on August 17 and we were going to be in person. I was so excited. And just a few weeks later they [the University] reversed their plan,” said Sun. “I was planning on moving up here anyways.”

Now that restrictions are being loosened, she anticipates returning home more frequently.

Laura Locken, a junior psychology major from Tustin, is less enthusiastic about the county’s reopening.

“I definitely don’t think it is safe,” she said. “Why are we opening when we went into quarantine when there were very few cases and now we have thousands of cases and opening back up. It just doesn’t make sense.”