TUSTIN (CBSLA) — As Orange County's COVID-19 metrics continued to move closer to the less-restrictive red tier Wednesday, restaurant workers began to prepare for the possibility of indoor dining returning.
Orange County restaurant owners hope that lower COVID case numbers are a sign that the county will be moving from the most-restrictive purple to the red tier in the coming weeks.
At Christakis Greek Cuisine restaurant in Tustin, staff and customers were counting down the days until the dining room can reopen for business.
The tables in the dining room have been sitting empty since November, but that's expected to change soon.
"We're excited that there's some movement hopefully," said one customer.
Under the red tier, restaurants would be permitted to reopen indoors at 25 percent capacity.
"I'm looking forward to that," said customer Angel Carrzaco. "So hopefully, knock on wood, we're almost there."
Meanwhile, all retail would be allowed to double the current capacity, increasing to 50 percent. People would be able to work out at gyms with at 10 percent capacity and museums, zoos and aquariums could reopen at 25 percent capacity.
"Everything has been very difficult," said Esmeralda Aguilar, a hostess and server working at Christakis, where business has been down 35 percent since indoor dining closed.
She said on windy days it can be a challenge to only have outdoor seating.
"It will be amazing to have everyone back inside and it would be like a dream," Aguilar said.
The county's test positivity rate improved from 7.8% last week to 5.4% Tuesday, and the adjusted case rate per 100,000 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag improved from 20.7 to 11.9. The Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which reflects the rates in lower-income and minority neighborhood hot spots, improved from 10.7% to 7%.
On Wednesday, the positivity rate dropped to 5.1%, the Health Equity rate dropped to 6.6%, and the case rate per 100,000 dipped to 10.4, according to Orange County CEO Frank Kim.
"If it keeps dropping a point every day," then the county might reach the red tier metrics by Sunday, Kim said.
To get to the red tier, the county has to have a case rate per 100,000 population of 4 to 7, positivity rate of 5 to 8% and a Health Equity Quartile rate of 5.3 to 8%.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Orange County reported 325 new COVID-19 infections as positivity and case rates continue declining, along with hospitalizations.
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