Restaurants are among the businesses that can resume indoor operations with modifications in Santa Clara County. (Photo via Louis Handel/Unsplash)

Santa Clara County is officially in the state’s lower-risk orange tier, allowing indoor dining and gatherings to resume and increasing capacity limits for museums, retail operations and other businesses starting Wednesday.

“Today is really great news for everyone who lives and works in this county and all of the collective work that everyone has done to move us into the orange tier,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said.

The orange tier is a moderate-risk tier outlined by the state that allows indoor operations to resume at 50 percent capacity, but because of an Oct. 5 health order by Cody, the guidelines are a bit stricter.

Under the new county COVID-19 order, dining, movie theaters, gyms/fitness centers, places of worship and family entertainment centers can resume indoors at 25 percent capacity or 100 people, which ever is fewer.

The move to the orange tier also allows bars, breweries and distilleries to resume outdoor activity and allow for up to 200 people in an outdoor gathering.

Businesses under the new health order will need to submit revised social-distancing protocols to reflect the new guidelines.

“As a community, we have made tremendous progress, but it has been slow and hard-fought progress, so we want to make sure … to be very vigilant and thorough in adhering to these baseline safety standards,” County Counsel James Williams said.

County leaders echoed that while those services are open, they are not necessarily safe. Social distancing, face coverings and other safety protocols are still required.

The county was able to move to the lower tier because of two metrics: the adjusted case count, which needs to be under four per 100,000, and the positivity rate of COVID-19, which must be under 5 percent.

Santa Clara County has an average daily case count of 3.7 cases per 100,000 population and a positivity rate of 1.7 percent.

“We meet that case count because it is adjusted for testing. We do a lot of testing here in Santa Clara county,” Cody said.

The state also introduced another category on Tuesday called the Health Equity Metric, which requires the most disadvantaged quarter of the population to also meet the test positivity metric.

“That means our most disadvantaged quartile needs to have a positivity rate below 5 percent and in our county, our most disadvantaged quartile test positivity is 3.8, so we meet that health equity metric … so really good news,” Cody said.

Santa Clara County is one of three counties in the Bay Area move into the orange tier and the largest county in the state to reach that designation.

“What that says is that we have been extraordinarily hard in our county for a long time. We were a bit stricter for a bit longer than other jurisdictions,” Cody said. “And now that is paying off.”

Still, concert venues, festivals, live theaters, nightclubs, theme parks, saunas and steam rooms are not allowed to resume operations at all.

Currently, the county’s positivity test rate allows it to be at yellow, the minimal risk tier but will need to reduce its adjusted case rate to under 1.