Santa Clara County could move to red tier, allowing indoor dining to resume
Dr. Sara Cody, public health director for Santa Clara County, is featured in this file photo. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

If COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County keep trending downward, the region could move to the state’s less-restrictive red tier by Wednesday.

The county has been within the state’s most-restrictive purple tier since Nov. 16 —103 days as of Friday. But if cases continue their downward trend, Santa Clara County could be reclassified in the red tier by as early as March 3, county spokesman Roger Ross confirmed.

In anticipation for the move to the red tier next week, county health leaders enacted some immediate changes Friday.

They relaxed restrictions on youth and adult recreational sports to allow outdoor games, but require everyone to wear masks and maintain social distance. The county also eased rules for outdoor gatherings, including religious services, and schools can follow state guidance for reopening in-person instruction.

The state recommends schools that open test staff once every two months, or 25% of staff every two weeks.

All indoor gatherings are still prohibited.

Under the red tier, indoor dining and religious services would reopen at 25% capacity, and retail and grocery stores could accommodate 50% capacity.

Right now, under the purple tier, retailers and personal care services, such as hair and nail salons, are open at 20% capacity indoors. Restaurants are open only for outdoor dining, takeout or delivery.

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody gave an outlook on COVID-19 trends at the county’s Board of Supervisors meeting this week.

“We’re just below that threshold in the red tier, at least for this week,” Cody said. Forty seven counties across the state remained in the purple tier as of Thursday.

The state released new data this week that showed the county’s adjusted COVID-19 case rate is 6.7 per 100,000 residents, while its positivity rate is 2.4%. The case rate puts the county in the red tier, while the latter is within the parameters state’s much less restrictive orange tier. The county needs to keep this trend up for two weeks in a row to move down a tier.

Santa Clara County could move to the state’s less-restrictive red tier as early as next week.

New tier assignments may occur any day of the week or more than once a week. On Tuesday, Marin and San Mateo counties were two of five counties in the state moved to the red tier.

Tier assignments depend on several factors, including new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, and the county’s overall positivity rate. The California Department of Public Health also calculates a health equity metric based on positive cases in disadvantaged communities, and uses that as the third factor to determine whether a county can move tiers.

The health equity metric shows “how well we’re doing in the places in our county where we’ve had the most challenges,” Cody said. “We still remain in the red tier for that figure.”

Cody said the steepest declines in COVID-19 cases have been in East San Jose and Gilroy, where previously case rates have been the highest. She also noted continued progress with vaccinations.

 

“With vaccinations now reaching more broadly into the community, including over half of those age 65 and older, we are making significant progress in protecting our most vulnerable community members,” she said.

County resident Mike Rogers applauded the “fantastic” progress made, but wondered when the state and county would fully reopen, especially as more people get vaccinated.

“At what point does the overall seriousness of COVID-19, in terms of (severity) become low enough, even before herd immunity, that we might see a general reorganization or framework… for shutdowns and other rules?” Rogers asked. “We’re never going to get to zero on COVID-19, but we’re going to be in a different realm before really long.”

As of Thursday, Santa Clara County had 1,747 deaths due to COVID-19 and more than 109,000 cumulative cases.

According to the county’s vaccine dashboard, more than 312,000 residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 125,000 residents have received both doses.

Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

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