Santa Clara County moving into orange tier, expanding indoor dining and retail
Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody urged people to stay vigilant. File photo.

Santa Clara County on Wednesday will move into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state’s reopening plan, removing capacity limits for retailers and doubling capacity for indoor dining and other businesses.

The county is currently in the red tier since March 2.

Local health officials say COVID-19 cases are steadily falling, which means restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, churches and gyms can expand their capacity  — with limitations.

Under the new orange tier, indoor dining can resume at a 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer, doubling capacity from the 25% cap previously allowed. Retail and malls can open to full capacity while maintaining social distancing rules.

Gyms and fitness centers can expand to 25% capacity with pools reopening, up from 10% in the red tier. Churches can hold service at 50% capacity indoors, which is double what was allowed in the previous tier.

Movie theaters can open at a max of 50% capacity or 200 people, also doubling in capacity.

Family entertainment centers, such as bowling alleys, can open indoors at 25% capacity with modifications for areas of increased risk of proximity. Zoos, museums and aquariums can also operate at a max of 50% indoor capacity, double what was allowed in the red tier.

All schools are able to open for in-person instruction in the red, orange or yellow tiers.

Both hair salons and nail salons can operate indoors with modifications in all tiers. There are no capacity limits.

County health officials warn these activities are still risky. Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s director of public health, urges residents to stay outdoors, remain six feet apart, wear a mask, work from home and get a COVID-19 vaccine when possible.

“Advancement to the Orange Tier reflects the patience and persistence of the whole community in Santa Clara County,” Cody said. “We are close to a significant increase in vaccine supplies, but until those doses are in arms, we must protect each other against another surge.”

Vaccine eligibility recently expanded across the state for individuals 16 and older with chronic health conditions. Other qualifying individuals include cancer patients, those with stage 4 or above chronic kidney disease, people with down syndrome, people who are pregnant, individuals with sickle cell disease, those with chronic pulmonary disease that are oxygen dependent, organ-transplant recipients and others.

Even as vaccines make their way into the arms of residents, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s vaccine officer, said the region is still short on supply and residents should remain cautious, given new-found variants of COVID-19.

“We face many challenges because of vaccine scarcity, but we will soon have much greater supply of vaccines coming our way,” Fenstersheib said. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that our community has access to the vaccines as quickly and conveniently as possible, and we continue to invest in expansive outreach efforts in our hardest-hit communities.”

Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

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