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New COVID Restrictions: What Employers Need to Know About California’s Regional Stay-at-Home Order

December 7, 2020Alerts

On December 3, California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a Regional Stay at Home Order, aimed at keeping hospitals and their intensive care capacity from becoming overburdened amid recent spikes in new cases of COVID-19. Unlike the previous orders, the new order divides the state into the five large geographic regions. If a certain region’s available Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity falls below the 15% threshold, counties in that region must comply with the new order. Under the new order, residents will be required to stay home except for essential activities and outdoor exercise. Certain businesses in affected areas will be closed, including bars, in-person dining (including outdoor dining), salons and live sports events. Here are summaries of the new order.

What Are the Five Geographic Regions?

The order divides counties into five geographic regions based on the regional hospital network. Here's a rundown of the five regions and counties that fall into each:

  • Northern California: Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity
  • Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma
  • Greater Sacramento: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba
  • San Joaquin Valley: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne
  • Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura

What Triggers the New Order, and When Will It End?

The new order takes effect if ICU capacity in a certain region drops below 15%.  Once a region’s ICU bed capacity falls below 15%, businesses in that region must comply with the new order’s restrictions within 24 hours. Once triggered, the new order will remain in effect for at least three weeks.  After that period, it will be lifted when a region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%, which will be assessed on a weekly basis after the initial three-week period.  The percentage of regional ICU beds currently available in each region can be found here

Which Areas Are Affected by the New Order?

As of December 6, the following two regions have hit the 15% mark: San Joaquin Valley (6.6%) and Southern California (10.3%), and businesses in the counties of these two regions are subject to the new restrictions. The Regional Stay Home Order in these two regions went into effect Sunday, December 6 at 11:59 PM.

The other three regions have not met the threshold yet, but all are expected to hit that mark soon.  Of note, Bay Area health officers issued a joint statement on December 4, noting that five Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco) and the City of Berkeley have decided not to wait for the state’s planned 15% threshold and to implement the new order despite having more than 15% capacity in their respective ICUs.  Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties implemented the state’s new order on Sunday, December 6 at 10 pm.  Alameda County implemented the order on Monday, December 7 at 12:01 am.  Marin County will soon implement the order beginning on Tuesday, December 8 at 12:00 pm. 

What Are the Restrictions?

Once the new order goes into effect, the following businesses/activities will close and/or be prohibited:

  • Restaurants: Both indoor and outdoor operations prohibited (indoor dining has already been suspended for counties in the purple tier).  Takeout, pickup or delivery options are still available.
  • Bars and Wineries: Both indoor and outdoor operations prohibited.
  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other personal care services
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Movie theaters
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks
  • Private and public gatherings of any size are prohibited. Non-essential travel, including traveling for family gatherings over the holidays, will be prohibited.

The following industries may stay open with certain modifications:

  • Restaurants: Takeout, pickup or delivery only.
  • Retail/Shopping Mall: Indoor 20% capacity. All access to retail must be strictly metered to ensure compliance with the limit on capacity. No eating or drinking in the stores. Special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Hotels and lodging: For critical infrastructure support only.
  • Offices: Remote only except critical infrastructure sectors when remote not possible.
  • Outdoor recreational facilities: Outdoor operation only. No food, drink or alcohol sales on site.  Overnight stays at campgrounds are not permitted.
  • Places of worship and political expression: Outdoor services only.
  • Entertainment production including professional sports: Operation without live audiences.
  • Schools that have already reopened for in-person classes can remain open.

What Are Additional Considerations?

Some cities and counties in the state have already imposed new restrictions before the Regional Stay at Home Order was announced. For example, the County of Los Angeles issued a temporary Safer at Home order that restricts most public and private gatherings and identifies new capacity limits for both essential and non-essential businesses. Under the order, the following restrictions went into effect, beginning Monday, November 30 through Sunday, December 20, 2020:

  • All public and private gatherings with individuals outside a household except for faith based services and protests are restricted
  • Limiting maximum capacity to 35% at essential retail businesses
  • Limiting maximum capacity to 20% at non-essential retail businesses, personal care services and libraries
  • Limiting maximum capacity to 50% at outdoor fitness centers, zoos, aquariums, museums, galleries, outdoor botanical gardens, mini-golf, batting cages and outdoor go-kart centers
  • Non-essential businesses and activities such as playgrounds (with the exception of playgrounds at childcare and schools) and cardrooms are closed
  • Golf courses, tennis courts, pickleball, archery ranges, skate parks, bike parks, and community gardens can remain open for individuals or members of a single household

Similarly, some municipalities within the County of Los Angeles, such as Pasadena and the City of Los Angeles, followed up with their own stay at home orders. Local regulations and orders for the Bay Area counties can be found here. Because any additional restrictions set forth in the local orders may impact businesses located in the affected areas, employers should carefully consult these local orders to comply with the same. 


Fox Rothschild will continue to provide updates regarding recent legislation and events surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on businesses. For additional information on matters related to California, visit our Coronavirus Resources Page and subscribe for automated updates, or contact any of the labor and employment attorneys in our San Francisco or Los Angeles offices.