Santa Clara County is eligible to move to the lower-risk orange tier for COVID-19-related reopenings but before that happens, it needs to maintain its case rates for at least two weeks.
That means all businesses like restaurants or worship services could resume indoors with some restrictions by Oct. 14.
“That is of course contingent on continued stability and continued progress on the state’s criteria here in Santa Clara County. The trends in the last two weeks have been good,” County Counsel James Williams said.
The orange tier will decrease restrictions — allowing indoor gatherings of up to 100 people or at 25 percent capacity, whichever is fewer. Outdoor gatherings can now be up to 200 people.
Social distancing protocols and face coverings will still be required. Businesses will also need to submit revised social-distancing protocols to reflect the new guidelines.
“When the new health order goes into effect it will be a very significant easing of restrictions so now, as always, we all need to take precautions to keep our case rate low and have them continue to decrease,” said Dr. Sara Cody, the county health officer.
However, the county’s revised health order for the new tier will not be as relaxed as the state’s orders. In the orange tier, the state allows indoor gatherings to be at 50 percent capacity, but Santa Clara County will allow up to 25 percent capacity.
“[Indoor dining and indoor gatherings] are the two areas that have the most significant potential for superspreading events,” Cody said. “We are keeping these additional restrictions in place to reduce the chance that much more significant restrictions would have to be imposed at the state or local level.”
Currently, Santa Clara County has an adjusted case rate of 3.5 daily new cases per 100,000 people, which qualifies it to be at the orange tier if maintained for two weeks.
Despite a decrease in cases, county leadership advised residents to continue taking precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“It is imperative that we all continue to practice the precautions that have made our COVID-19 numbers move in the right direction,” Cody said. “The fact that you are able to do something doesn’t mean that you should.”
Cody said it takes a long time to lower case rates but a very short time to increase them. The impacts of moving to the more restrictive red and purple tiers could harm vulnerable community members as well as businesses.
“As we open up, we create more risk and where there is risk it really requires us to be responsive, careful and frankly do it in a way that builds our community and doesn’t tear it apart,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. “These announcements really require that as a community we take all the precautions that Dr. Cody and the department of public health have asked us to.”
If the county maintains its positivity and adjusted case rates, the businesses can resume indoors on Oct. 14. If rates increase, it will remain in the red tier and restrictions will not ease.
To stay updated on state tiers for all counties in California, people can visit https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.