LA, San Francisco lead California business reopening pace

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Dressed in a Star Wars theme to celebrate Star Wars Day, bartender Karissa Marston jokingly strikes a pose while making a cocktail for a customer at Scum and Villainy Cantina, a geek bar located on Hollywood Blvd, in Los Angeles, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. California has the lowest infection rate in the country. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state's nearly 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of the state's 60,000 deaths, didn't record a single COVID-19 death Sunday or Monday, which was likely due to incomplete weekend reporting but still noteworthy. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LOS ANGELES – San Francisco has largely beaten the coronavirus pandemic by avoiding it, while Los Angeles was nearly beaten by it during a deadly winter surge.

But both emerged simultaneously Tuesday as the first urban areas in California to reach the least-restrictive tier for businesses to reopen.

California's signature cities met infection and vaccine thresholds to allow indoor bars to welcome people again, larger crowds to cheer on Major League Baseball’s Dodgers and Giants, and expanded capacity at restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, gyms and other establishments.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for LA considering it was ground zero for infections and deaths when California was the nation’s epicenter of the virus outbreak just a few months ago.

“It was horrible," John Pryor said Sunday after one of his few outings at the recently reopened Angeleno Wine Co. near downtown LA. “It’s crazy that we were in the worst place in the country and now all of a sudden we’re the best.”

California has the lowest infection rate in the country. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of the state’s 60,000 deaths, didn’t record a single COVID-19 death Sunday or Monday, which was likely due to incomplete weekend reporting but still noteworthy.

A total of seven of the state’s 58 counties are now in the so-called yellow tier, which is the final stage of a phased reopening plan before a projected return to business as usual June 15. The five other counties are all remote areas of Northern California.

On a map showing the status of each county, LA and San Francisco are yellow islands in a sea of orange, the second-least restrictive tier. There are 39 counties in the orange tier, home to 60% of residents. A dozen counties, mostly in the agricultural Central Valley, are in the second-strictest tier and none remain in the strictest category.