Thanks to a continued decline in its COVID-19 case rate, Orange County will lilely enter the least restrictive Yellow Tier next week. This will allow Orange County businesses their widest operating latitude to date.

Theme parks such as the Disneyland Resort will be able to increase their capacity to 35% from 25%. Guests must still be either Californians or fully vaccinated if from out of state.

Bars that don’t serve food will now be able to legally re-open for indoor service, to a maximum capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer. If all customers have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, that limit increases to 37.5%

Gyms can expand indoor capacity to 50% from 25%.

The 200 customer cap for restaurants will go away, although indoor capacity will remain at 50%.

Movie theaters can expand their capacity to 50% (the current limit is 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer).

Bowling alleys also can increase their capacity to 50%.

Click here for a complete breakdown of Yellow Tier rules.

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Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it is boosting its average hourly wage from $13 to $15 by the end of June – resulting in hourly wages ranging from $11 to $18 an hour. The chain will also begin paying a $200 employee referral bonus and a $750 referral bonus for managers.

Why to wage increases? Because Chipotle is desperate for workers. The chain plans to hire 20,000 new employees this year, and is willing to pay to get them. We’re in a tight labor market – exacerbated by overly-generous unemployment benefits, and state and federal stimulus payments, that discourage people from returning to work.

In one of many examples, Raging Waters in San Dimas has raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, and is offering signing bonuses.

So employers like Chipotle are willing to pay higher wages, signing bonuses, imporved benefits, etc.

Both of these developments undermine arguments for the premium pay proposal being touted by Councilman Jose F. Moreno, which the Anaheim City Council will consider this evening.  Moreno and his union allies want to exploit the pandemic to hit grocers, retailers and drug stores with premium pay – another $3-5 dollars an hour tacked on to covered businesses existing wages. They claim is workers in these sectors have continued working through the pandemic – and that by going to work were at greater danger of contracting COVID-19 than the general population.

The reality is these businesses, like others struggling to find workers, are already willing to pay premiums and other benefits in order to staff up. They have also invested heavily in safety protocols in order to ensure a safe working environment for both staff and customers.

Furthermore, a recent study from the National Bureau for Economic Research has found that people who went to work instead of shltering at home were significantly less likely to contract COVID-19:

The available data from schools, hospitals, nursing homes, food processing plants, hair stylists, and airlines show employers adopting mitigation protocols in the spring of 2020. Coincident with the adoption, infection rates in workplaces typically dropped from well
above household rates to well below.

In one example citied in the study, “an hour worked in the Duke Health system went from being more dangerous than an hour outside work to being more than three times safer.”  Thanks to COVID prevention protocols ptu in place by employers early in the pandemic, the study states, workers have been 4 to 5 times safer inside their workplace than outside of them.

As was pointed out in yesterday’s article, there is no compelling rationale for the Anaheim City Council to impose premium pay on grocers, retailers and drug stores – unless their goal is higher food prices and store closures.

UPDATE: On April 20, the Tustin City Council rejected a $4 an hour premium pay ordinance on a 3-2 vote.