As the state continues to see an increase in vaccinations and decrease in coronavirus cases, Long Beach has progressed into the orange tier under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy starting March 31. This transition comes soon after Los Angeles County moved into the red tier mid-March.
According to the blueprint, in order for a county to reopen, the city has to consider daily new COVID-19 cases, positivity rate, health equity metric and the number of vaccines administered. As of April 5, Long Beach has a total of 82 residents hospitalized and 17 new cases, and has administered over 137,000 vaccines.
For businesses that have been closed for the majority of the year, the transition into orange tier allows for a stronger recovery. Under the orange tier, retail stores and personal care stores can fully open with modifications, and private gatherings are now permitted with individuals from no more than three separate households, for two hours or less, and with modifications.
Professional sports and outdoor live performances may operate with modifications at an increased capacity, from 30% to 33%. Amusement parks are also eligible to reopen, operating at a 25% capacity limit and with modifications.
Places of worship, weddings and funerals may operate indoors with an increased capacity from 25% to 50% with modifications. Also, movie theaters, museums, botanical gardens, restaurants and aquariums can increase their capacities from 25% to 50%, or up to 200 persons, with modifications.
The Aquarium of the Pacific reopened on March 16, now on a timed-reservation basis, according to CEO and President Peter Kareiva in a press release.
“We have survived, and our animals have thrived the last year only because of the support of our donors.” Kareiva said. “With our reopening, we can continue to give back to our communities through our educational programs and provide an experience for visitors that embodies spring and recovery.”
The aquarium’s three main galleries, which have been closed since the summer of 2020, will be fully open with safety precautions. The Honda Pacific Visions Theater, the newest addition to the aquarium, will be open at limited capacity and for reservation only.
Other businesses reopening are likely to increase hours for their workers, most notably with restaurants as they begin to seat patrons indoors. After struggling with approval of street parklets, cold weather and takeout modifications, restaurants are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Celine Pallera, a server for Ramen Hub & Poke on Atlantic Avenue, has been with the restaurant since before the pandemic and has seen establishments struggle with the decision to let workers go or close up shop.
“I’m glad I was able to be a part of a restaurant that was able to still provide for people, where it might be the highlight of their day to go out and get food if they’re stuck at home,” Pallera said.
Since starting at the restaurant, Pallera has been able to “do it all,” from bagging food and taking orders when only takeout was permitted to serving and training when the parklet opened in the parking lot.
“There were times where it looked so empty in here, we had storage and take-out stuff out, it was sad,” Pallera said. “I didn’t see anybody for the most part, it was all phone orders and putting orders through Postmastes and GrubHub. The only interaction I had was with the cook and one other coworker.”
Pallera maintained that “as long as everyone’s safe, I’m glad to have people back in the restaurant.”
Other restaurants, like Domenico’s Italian Restaurant on Second Street, have also able to keep all of their employees.
“Our community really helped us out by keeping all of our employees,” Michael Torrenueva, assistant general manager, said. “We were even able to hire more servers with the recent openings to be able to accommodate an anticipated busy first weekend.”
Torrenueva said Domenico’s has already been able to set up the majority of its available reservations.
“With the increased capacity indoors, it really opens us up to new opportunities of growth,” Torrenueva said.
Other businesses, however, have not been as lucky and have had to temporarily close their shops, like art studio and gallery Studio Pick.
Through his studio, artist Gregory Navarro Pickens offers group sessions to teach art or provide a space for expression. He originally opened his shop in August 2019 and saw success until he closed in March 2020.
“I was booking a lot of parties and the business was starting to pay for itself, so I just got a taste of that success, and then we had to close,” Pickens said. “Initially, I remodeled this place when I closed thinking that we’d be reopening in a month or two, stocking up on materials and re-engineered processes, and then we never re-opened.”
After over a year of being shut down, Pickens was finally able to reopen on April 2.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work myself in here as an artist, it’s been actually incredible to have this space, I think, a studio during this time,” he said. “So, as an artist I have gotten a lot of mileage out of this place but certainly not the business I had intended.”