Santa Cruz County's move into the orange tier of the state's pandemic reopening plan will allow theme parks like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to reopen at limited capacity. (Photo via Steve Marchi/Flickr)

Santa Cruz County has moved to the less-restrictive orange COVID-19 tier on Tuesday, reopening and increasing capacity sizes for many indoor and outdoor activities.

“We are feeling very good about where we are as a county in terms of our COVID response,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel said. “We continue to do very well with a decrease in case count.”

Previously opened sectors like restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and museums can increase indoor capacity to 50 percent. Retail establishments can open to full capacity as well.

Gyms and fitness centers can increase indoor capacity from 10 to 25 percent and wineries can resume indoor operations at 25 percent or 100 people — whichever is fewer. Bars, breweries and distilleries can also resume outdoor operations.

Newel also said that most county school districts are potentially reopening with a hybrid model in January, but the decision is in the hands of the county’s office of education and districts.

“The community gets the credit for the county’s excellent results,” Newel said. “Please keep doing what you are doing so well.”

Santa Cruz County has a 2.1 percent positivity test rate and 3.5 adjusted case rate of new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 people.

There are currently 207 active cases in the county and 25 total deaths. The most common spread occurs between close contacts — meaning standing closer than 6 feet with an active case for longer than 15 minutes.

The county also has a health equity quartile positivity rate of 4.1 percent, which means the most disenfranchised neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

“The Latinx community represents one-third of our population but two-thirds of our cases, and most of those cases are in the Watsonville area, so big disparity there,” Newel said.

The county also saw an outbreak that started in mid-September at one of their seven skilled nursing facilities at Watsonville Post Acute Center. Of the 74 patients, 50 tested positive as well as 21 staff members.

“There have been 15 confirmed deaths which includes county residents with some additional deaths among non-Santa Cruz County residents,” Newel said. “The outbreak is now stabilized and there have not been any recent infections.”

Newel cautioned residents that moving to the orange tier does not make the reopened activities safe and COVID-19 safety precautions should still be followed.

She encouraged residents to wear a face covering, maintain social distancing, avoid crowds and gatherings and turn to the county’s website for safe Halloween ideas.

To see what Halloween activities are safe, moderate and high-risk, people can visit

For local information on COVID-19, they can visit, call 211 or text “COVID19” to 211211.

Residents can also call (831) 454-4242 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.