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San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara enter orange tier

More of the Bay Area will reopen for business and leisure this week as San Francisco, Marin County, and Santa Clara counties transition from the red to the state’s orange tier, indicating that COVID-19 infection rates are down from have fallen considerably to moderate values.

“The rise to the orange level reflects the patience and perseverance of the entire Santa Clara County community,” said Dr. Santa Clara County’s Health Officer Sara Cody on Tuesday Case rates are slowing and problematic virus variants are emerging.

“We’re starting to see signs that we’re stalling and getting pretty flat,” said Cody.

The changes will take effect on Wednesday and will allow you to:

  • Indoor dining with a maximum of 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is lower; Retail stores to welcome customers with changes in the home.
  • Indoor gyms, pools and fitness centers with a maximum capacity of 25%; Cinemas with a maximum capacity of 50% or 200 people, whichever is lower.
  • Indoor family entertainment centers with a maximum capacity of 25% with changes for areas of increased risk of proximity.
  • Zoos, museums and aquariums with a maximum indoor capacity of 50%.

Randy Musterer, owner of confidential sushi restaurants in downtown San Jose and Campbell, said the less restrictive tier will be a lifeline, especially for restaurants with limited patio space for al fresco dining.

“Many other restaurant owners need it to survive, grow their operations, and get more cash flow,” said Musterer. “Overall, it’s great and we’re excited that things are going on as they are.”

Even establishments like Sushi Confidential with plenty of outdoor space benefit from having more indoor dining options for the occasional chilly day. Musterer said he did not open at the 25% capacity allowed in the red area indoors as it would not have improved business significantly enough to justify the additional cost. However, at 50% it becomes a viable cold weather option.

“It would of course help in the rain,” said Musterer. “I can now open up inside for a few days to keep my staff going and let our customers in.”

Santa Clara County has made further progress despite severe vaccine shortages that dragged on for a few weeks and resulted in thousands of appointments being canceled for the first doses.

The only county in the Bay Area that was already at the orange level by Tuesday morning was San Mateo, which had shifted last week. Yolo, Trinity, Lassen, Plumas, and Mariposa counties are also in the orange category. Sierra County joined Alpine as the only two in the least restrictive yellow series for minimal infections on Tuesday.

The earliest Alameda County can advance from the red to the less restrictive level by March 31st. Contra Costa County cannot advance until April 4, district health officials said. Santa Cruz County will also have to wait until at least March 31st. Sonoma, Solano, and Napa counties also stay in the red row.

Nationwide, eight of California’s 58 counties, mostly in the Central Valley, are still in the state’s most restrictive purple layer, indicating widespread outbreaks. The remaining 39 boroughs are in the red row, which allows for minimal capacity in restaurants, gyms, cinemas, hair salons, and places of worship, with most activities being limited to outside areas.

The orange level gives the counties a lot more leeway.

San Francisco officials tentatively said the move to the orange row will allow bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries to open for outdoor table service with up to 6 people per table, even without food orders.

“Our approach continues to focus on expanding outdoor activities as much as possible to create a safer environment than indoors,” city officials said in a statement.

In addition to indoor restaurants, San Francisco movies, movies, museums and gyms, retail stores, malls, retail services, laundromats, dry cleaners, banks, auto repairs, personal services, and equipment rentals can be expanded to 50% capacity. Hotels can also open restaurants and fitness facilities.

Offices can be reopened for personal work schedules with up to 25% capacity and 25% capacity in conference and meeting rooms, although the city continues to encourage teleworking where possible. Employers with fewer than 20 employees do not need a capacity limit, but they must reduce the capacity required to maintain a 6-foot separation between workers.

Art, music, and theater performances and festivals organized and supervised outdoors can be open to up to 50 people to maintain social distance between viewers from different households, while food and concessions are for groups of up to 6 people who are at least 6 feet are great, can be allowed apart from others.

Current state guidelines allow spectator sports and live outdoor entertainment to reopen with 20% capacity for spectators up to 120 miles away. Starting April 1, the state’s guidelines will be expanded to allow spectator sports and live outdoor entertainment to reopen to a state audience with a capacity of up to 33%.

San Francisco officials said they are “actively working to develop local guidelines that take into account state guidance on the matter”.

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