UPDATE, TUESDAY, 12:10 P.M. — Santa Clara County will move into the Yellow Tier of the state’s pandemic reopening system at midnight tonight, allowing restaurants and gyms to expand their customer capacity.
Bars will be allowed to reopen indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer, without a requirement to serve meals with alcohol.
Mask rules remain in place despite guidance from the CDC that they are no longer necessary in most situations.
New case rates have declined to some of their lowest levels at any point in the pandemic, and test positivity rates have hit an all-time low, the county said in a statement.
The county’s vaccination rates are also among the very highest in the nation, as more than 75% of county residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine.
“Because so many members of our community are now fully vaccinated, COVID-19 case rates are at some of the lowest levels we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “We are now confident that vaccination not only prevents people from getting sick, it also prevents people from spreading COVID-19.”
Full information on the capacities at which businesses can operate in each tier can be found at https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.
Below is an earlier story published on Monday
BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily Post Correspondent
Santa Clara County officials said that they expect the county to move this week into the yellow tier of Covid-19 restrictions, which is the least-restrictive tier in the state’s four-color system.
“All the metrics look very positive here in Santa Clara County,” County Counsel James Williams said. “We won’t know for sure until Tuesday, but it certainly looks like we’re on track to enter the yellow tier from the state’s blueprint.”
Williams’ comments came during a telephone town hall meeting on Covid-19 hosted by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian on Sunday (May 16). Simitian’s guest speakers for the town hall were Williams and Yvonne Maldonado, professor of global health and infectious diseases at Stanford.
As of yesterday, Santa Clara County was in the orange tier. Moving into the yellow tier would allow bars in the county that don’t serve food to reopen indoors at up to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. The yellow tier would allow more people indoors at certain businesses, such as gyms and family entertainment centers.
The state places counties in a particular tier based on their recent rate of Covid-19 cases.
One town-hall listener wanted to know why Santa Clara County was lagging behind San Francisco and Los Angeles, which are already in the yellow tier.
While it’s difficult to know for sure, Williams said, there may be different explanations for the big cities’ move into the yellow tier.
Los Angeles County was hit hard by the winter Covid surge, with large numbers of people getting infected, Williams said.
“One consequence of that very high community infection rate is that there is also probably a very high percentage of the population in LA County that has natural immunity now because they’ve already gotten Covid,” Williams said.
That’s in addition to people who have immunity from vaccination, he added.
In San Francisco, the most likely explanation for the move into the yellow tier is the strict rules that have been in place, which are more restrictive than those in Santa Clara County, Williams said.
Among the counties that are already in the yellow tier, San Mateo County entered the yellow tier last week.
Vaccinations for customers
A woman who owns a Mountain View yoga center said during the town hall meeting that her business has been barely hanging on by holding classes on Zoom. She asked whether she can require customers to be vaccinated before they return to the yoga studio in person.
Williams said the answer is “yes.”
“There is information out in the employment context from the federal government, from the EEOC, from the state level, that you can ask the vaccine status, you can require people to be vaccinated if you so choose,” Williams said. “And that’s even more the case with respect to patrons and customers.” The EEOC is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Williams noted that Santa Clara County is following the state’s rules for wearing masks. As of Thursday, the state required unvaccinated people to wear masks outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained; fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks outdoors unless they’re at a crowded event such as a concert or fair.
Under the state requirements, vaccinated and unvaccinated people must wear masks at indoor locations other than their homes, with some exceptions.
In an informal survey during the town hall meeting, 90% of listeners said they had completed their Covid-19 vaccination. Another 6% had received the first shot in a two-shot series.
One listener wanted to know whether Covid-19 testing was still needed after someone has been fully vaccinated.
Maldonado, the Stanford professor, said some businesses and organizations may still require testing. But in general, testing is generally not needed after vaccination, unless someone is experiencing Covid symptoms, she said.
Vaccinations easy to get
During a town hall meeting last month, Simitian and his guests discussed the challenges of meeting the demand for Covid vaccines.
In contrast, Williams said yesterday that there were plenty of vaccine appointments available. In addition, vaccination is available without an appointment at several drop-in sites. More information is available at sccfreevax.org.
“If you know people who have been waiting, there is not going to be a better time,” Williams said. “We still have all of our mass vaccination infrastructure in place.”