COVID-19 Update: LA County Entering Orange Tier

Malibu’s new cases of novel coronavirus infection have dropped off following the high in January, when more than 30 new cases were recorded in just one week. In the week from March 23-29, five Malibuites tested positive for the virus.

After spending more than four months locked down in California’s most restrictive “purple tier” after COVID-19 cases began spiking in November, LA County has been moving rapidly over the past three weeks to begin reopening: everything from indoor dining to aquariums. Even Dodger Stadium will have fans in its seats in time for the Dodgers’ home opener on April 9.

On Tuesday, March 30, LA County Department of Public Health officials announced the county—which includes Malibu—had qualified for the “orange tier,” indicating the rate of virus spread had slowed enough to permit even more movement, gathering and activities. The county is expected to officially enter the tier on Monday, April 5. 

Locally, the rate of new cases is a fraction of what it was during the winter peak. Over the past week, five Malibuites have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total local number of recorded cases up to 386 as of Monday, March 29. Seven people have been killed by the disease over the past year.  

So, what does the orange tier mean for Malibu?

Below is a breakdown of what you can expect going forward. However, health experts nationwide are cautioning that another spike in cases—a so-called “fourth wave”—is beginning in some states due to the rapid lifting of restrictions. According to Bloomberg, cases are rising in 25 states, most notably rapid spikes in Michigan and South Dakota. Last week also marked the first time the national case rate rose since early January. 

Multiple media outlets have quoted CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who said she had a “recurring feeling” of “impending doom” about the rising cases.

There is reason to believe that Californians should have less to worry about than residents of neighboring states, according to a doctor interviewed by ABC/7 News. Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist from University of California-San Francisco, noted California’s high vaccination rate (about 40 percent of those over the age of 16 have received at least one shot), coupled with the slow lifting of restrictions across the state, have kept virus spread down. As of last count, 3,358 people in Malibu have received a vaccine shot (reporting is delayed, with last count available taken March 22). That means more than one of every three residents is at least partially vaccinated.

Vaccinations will open to all Californians ages 50 and up beginning on April 1. On April 15, that will expand to all Californians ages 16 and up.

Now, on to what’s open. Here is a rough outline of what activities are currently operational in the red tier:

•Schools for students in grades TK•12 (Malibu public schools will reopen after spring break)

•Indoor dining at restaurants (up to 25% capacity)

•Movie theaters (up to 25% capacity, with seat reservations required)

•Gyms and fitness centers (indoors at 10% capacity)

•Museums, zoos and aquariums (indoors at 25% capacity)

•Many retail shops and malls can increase capacity


Assuming case numbers to not rise sharply before April 5, the following changes are coming:

•Bars that do not provide meals may reopen outdoors, with no counter seating (tables only). They may operate until 10 p.m.

•Breweries, wineries and distilleries that do not serve meals may operate at 25% capacity indoors.

•Restaurants may expand operations to 50% capacity indoors.

•Places of worship may expand services to 50% capacity indoors.

•Gyms and fitness centers may reopen indoors at 25% capacity; indoor pools may reopen.

•Movie theaters may expand operations to 50% capacity indoors.

•Hair salons, barbershops and other “personal care services” may increase operations to 75% capacity indoors. 

•Museums, zoos and aquariums may be open indoors at 50% capacity.

•Recreational sports (youth and adult) may apply for approval for events, tournaments and competitions involving more than two teams.

•Increased capacity for indoor shopping