News

State moves Santa Clara County to red tier, allowing more businesses to reopen

K-12 schools can resume on-campus operations if county stays at same level for 14 days

On Sept. 8, Santa Clara County announced more businesses can reopen indoors, including gyms and fitness centers at 10% capacity. Photo taken April 2 by Magali Gauthier.

After nearly two weeks of being in the purple, Santa Clara County has moved to the less restrictive red tier in California's color-coded classification system that determines how counties can move forward with reopening businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a lower rate of COVID-19 cases and positive tests that meets the threshold of the state's new reopening criteria, the county will now allow indoor operations of nail salons, gyms and museums; expanding capacity in shopping malls; and reopening K-12 schools if the county can maintain those lower numbers for the next two weeks, starting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The businesses are required to follow guidelines set by the county's risk reduction order, which outlines directives pertaining to each industry set by the county and state, the release states.

Despite satisfying the state's conditions for reopening indoor operations of restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters, the county will continue prohibiting those sectors until case rates are lower. (California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said on multiple occasions that county health officers can override state guidelines as long as they don't reopen faster than the state.)

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, County Counsel James Williams did not say why those businesses won't be allowed to resume indoor operations or provide a timeline for when they might be able to welcome customers back inside. Williams said the county wants to see a lower case rate, but he was not aware if the county aimed to meet a certain threshold.

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In explaining the county's decision, Williams only said that it follows a few fundamental "principles" which the county's own health order, which provides industry-specific reopening guidelines, was built upon: "Outdoor is safer than indoors" and masks, as well as physical distancing, are key to reducing the spread of the coronavirus, he said.

Effective immediately, the following businesses can operate indoors, provided they submit and satisfy the county's "Social Distancing Protocol," which outlines all the safety modifications a business must make:

• Personal care services such as nail salons and massage parlors.

• Gyms and fitness centers at 10% capacity.

• Shopping malls at 50% capacity.

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• Museums, zoos and aquariums at 25% capacity.

The looser restrictions, which were announced at the county news conference, follows the state's recently updated reopening framework — a color-coded, four-tiered system that determines which businesses and activities are allowed in counties, and at what capacity, based on their case and positivity rates.

When the state's new framework was first announced Aug. 28, the county was placed in the purple tier — the most restrictive level out of the four tiers for regions that report a testing positivity rate of more than 8% or a seven-day average of more than seven cases a day per 100,000 county residents. The county at that time reported a 3.5% positivity rate, but 8.6 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

In this tier, most businesses and gatherings such as nail salons or places of worship are prohibited from indoor operations.

Under the red tier (the second-most restrictive level that signifies "substantial" spread), schools can resume in-person classes if their county stays at the level for 14 days, during which time they continue reporting a seven-day average daily case rate of four to seven cases and a positive testing rate of 5% to 8%.

If they choose to, counties in the red tier could allow restaurants, churches and movie theaters to operate indoors at 25% capacity or no more than 100 people — whichever is fewer — based on the state's guidelines.

On Tuesday, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Amador, Orange and Placer counties were moved into the red tier, according to Newsom during a noon press conference. Out of the five counties, Santa Clara County will be the only one following its own tighter restrictions.

As of Sept. 8, the Santa Clara County reported a positivity rate and adjusted case rate that satisfies the state's requirements to move into a less-restrictive tier. Screenshot obtained via covid19.ca.gov.

Other counties have also followed their own reopening timelines. For example, San Francisco has yet to allow indoor operation of hair salons even though it's currently in the red tier.

With the formula, the county's average daily case rate of 8.4 is adjusted and lowered to 6.9, which meets the requirement of the red tier. A news release from the county Public Health Department also said that the state gives "counties credit toward their case rate if they test more people than the state average."

"We're testing 7,000 to 8,000 people a day," Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing officer, said at the news conference. "And the state has given us credit now for all of that testing."

As of Tuesday, the county still reports a positivity rate of 3.5%, which satisfies a requirement in the orange tier, the second-lowest restrictive level, of the state's guidelines. But what changed since late August was how the state assessed a county's seven-day daily average of cases. Now, the case rate will be adjusted by multiplying that number with the county's daily testing rate per 100,000 residents, according to the state public health department's website.

To move into the second-lowest tier (orange), counties must remain in the red tier for 21 days and report a seven-day average of 1 to 3.9 daily COVID-19 cases as well as a positivity rate of 2% to 4.9%. At this level, counties can increase the capacity at which many businesses can operate indoors, allow bars to reopen outdoors and reopen indoor family entertainment centers such as bowling alleys. Counties are not allowed to jump tiers, regardless of their progress with mitigating the disease.

"If these metrics continue to improve, the county would be eligible to move forward in the framework to a less restrictive tier after three weeks," the county news release stated. "If these metrics worsen, the county would revert into a more restrictive tier as soon as two weeks from now."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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State moves Santa Clara County to red tier, allowing more businesses to reopen

K-12 schools can resume on-campus operations if county stays at same level for 14 days

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 8, 2020, 2:47 pm
Updated: Tue, Sep 8, 2020, 6:00 pm

After nearly two weeks of being in the purple, Santa Clara County has moved to the less restrictive red tier in California's color-coded classification system that determines how counties can move forward with reopening businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a lower rate of COVID-19 cases and positive tests that meets the threshold of the state's new reopening criteria, the county will now allow indoor operations of nail salons, gyms and museums; expanding capacity in shopping malls; and reopening K-12 schools if the county can maintain those lower numbers for the next two weeks, starting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The businesses are required to follow guidelines set by the county's risk reduction order, which outlines directives pertaining to each industry set by the county and state, the release states.

Despite satisfying the state's conditions for reopening indoor operations of restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters, the county will continue prohibiting those sectors until case rates are lower. (California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said on multiple occasions that county health officers can override state guidelines as long as they don't reopen faster than the state.)

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, County Counsel James Williams did not say why those businesses won't be allowed to resume indoor operations or provide a timeline for when they might be able to welcome customers back inside. Williams said the county wants to see a lower case rate, but he was not aware if the county aimed to meet a certain threshold.

In explaining the county's decision, Williams only said that it follows a few fundamental "principles" which the county's own health order, which provides industry-specific reopening guidelines, was built upon: "Outdoor is safer than indoors" and masks, as well as physical distancing, are key to reducing the spread of the coronavirus, he said.

Effective immediately, the following businesses can operate indoors, provided they submit and satisfy the county's "Social Distancing Protocol," which outlines all the safety modifications a business must make:

• Personal care services such as nail salons and massage parlors.

• Gyms and fitness centers at 10% capacity.

• Shopping malls at 50% capacity.

• Museums, zoos and aquariums at 25% capacity.

The looser restrictions, which were announced at the county news conference, follows the state's recently updated reopening framework — a color-coded, four-tiered system that determines which businesses and activities are allowed in counties, and at what capacity, based on their case and positivity rates.

When the state's new framework was first announced Aug. 28, the county was placed in the purple tier — the most restrictive level out of the four tiers for regions that report a testing positivity rate of more than 8% or a seven-day average of more than seven cases a day per 100,000 county residents. The county at that time reported a 3.5% positivity rate, but 8.6 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

In this tier, most businesses and gatherings such as nail salons or places of worship are prohibited from indoor operations.

Under the red tier (the second-most restrictive level that signifies "substantial" spread), schools can resume in-person classes if their county stays at the level for 14 days, during which time they continue reporting a seven-day average daily case rate of four to seven cases and a positive testing rate of 5% to 8%.

If they choose to, counties in the red tier could allow restaurants, churches and movie theaters to operate indoors at 25% capacity or no more than 100 people — whichever is fewer — based on the state's guidelines.

On Tuesday, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Amador, Orange and Placer counties were moved into the red tier, according to Newsom during a noon press conference. Out of the five counties, Santa Clara County will be the only one following its own tighter restrictions.

Other counties have also followed their own reopening timelines. For example, San Francisco has yet to allow indoor operation of hair salons even though it's currently in the red tier.

With the formula, the county's average daily case rate of 8.4 is adjusted and lowered to 6.9, which meets the requirement of the red tier. A news release from the county Public Health Department also said that the state gives "counties credit toward their case rate if they test more people than the state average."

"We're testing 7,000 to 8,000 people a day," Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing officer, said at the news conference. "And the state has given us credit now for all of that testing."

As of Tuesday, the county still reports a positivity rate of 3.5%, which satisfies a requirement in the orange tier, the second-lowest restrictive level, of the state's guidelines. But what changed since late August was how the state assessed a county's seven-day daily average of cases. Now, the case rate will be adjusted by multiplying that number with the county's daily testing rate per 100,000 residents, according to the state public health department's website.

To move into the second-lowest tier (orange), counties must remain in the red tier for 21 days and report a seven-day average of 1 to 3.9 daily COVID-19 cases as well as a positivity rate of 2% to 4.9%. At this level, counties can increase the capacity at which many businesses can operate indoors, allow bars to reopen outdoors and reopen indoor family entertainment centers such as bowling alleys. Counties are not allowed to jump tiers, regardless of their progress with mitigating the disease.

"If these metrics continue to improve, the county would be eligible to move forward in the framework to a less restrictive tier after three weeks," the county news release stated. "If these metrics worsen, the county would revert into a more restrictive tier as soon as two weeks from now."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Mistake in Body of Article
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 8, 2020 at 4:42 pm
Mistake in Body of Article, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 4:42 pm
24 people like this

@Reporter: Subtitle under photo is correct saying that gyms can open at 10% capacity. But it's wrong in the body of the article where it's written "gyms and fitness centers at 25% capacity". It should say 10% capacity.

Anyway, given that the City Govt of SF has had their indoor gyms open at 100% capacity for the entire time of the shutdown (!), we already know indoor gyms are safe and this 10% capacity is a farce:

Web Link

Complete double standard between the lawmakers/policy makers and residents. "Rules for thee but not for me". Ironically, in keeping the city gyms open (including SF Hall of Justice!), the city unwittingly proved it's safe to have all gyms open. Yet they are still are placing ridiculous restrictions on small business owners (10% limit may not warrant costs of being open). There are have been credible studies showing that people are no more likely to contract the virus at a gym than anywhere else (like the groceries that never closed). But our policy makers are not making science/data informed decisions. This is just one example of the indiscriminate business shutdowns. When public health policies lack evidence, we are stoking fear and anxiety. There is zero evidence gyms are a virus hot spot, and plenty of evidence to the contrary:

Web Link

We need to hold our elected and appointed officials to new standards of honesty, transparency (not double standards), and scientific integrity.


jvpadojino
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2020 at 6:04 pm
jvpadojino, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 6:04 pm
5 people like this

Hi @Mistake in Body of Article. My name is Jamey Padojino, digital editor at Palo Alto Online. Thank you for raising this point with us. The story has been updated with the correct information.


Diana
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 8, 2020 at 7:58 pm
Diana, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 7:58 pm
26 people like this

So glad to see this progress, the remote schooling is just not working, hope K-12 open for hybrid model in October, fingers crossed!


Jonathan Brown
Registered user
Ventura
on Sep 9, 2020 at 10:17 am
Jonathan Brown, Ventura
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 10:17 am
15 people like this

Please explain the basis for your arbitrary decisions! Your lack of transparency and logic are causing people to ignore all aspects of your edicts, even the sensible ones. And when will things like using playgrounds and playing an outdoor softball game be allowed? The way these rules read, that's never going to be allowed again even in Tier 4. Plus there's zero enforcement of any of these rules allowing the rule-breakers to benefit at everyone else's expense. "Frustrating" doesn't even come close to adequately describing the current feelings of County residents. A path towards something more permanent is desperately needed, with much more targeted restrictions and sensible precautions.
"Despite satisfying the state's conditions for reopening indoor operations of restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters, the county will continue prohibiting those sectors until case rates are lower.... County Counsel James Williams did not say why those businesses won't be allowed to resume indoor operations or provide a timeline for when they might be able to welcome customers back inside. Williams said the county wants to see a lower case rate, but he was not aware if the county aimed to meet a certain threshold."


chris
Registered user
University South
on Sep 9, 2020 at 2:07 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 2:07 pm
2 people like this

Jonathan,

Don't you think that if people were more fastidious about following the rules the number of infections would be dropping faster? How is people breaking the rules an advantage to them? They are risking getting themselves, their friends and family sick. If you see a business violating the rules, report them to the county. We all want to reduce restrictions, but the ability to do that correlates with the amount of personal responsibility everyone takes.


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 9, 2020 at 9:21 pm
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 9:21 pm
2 people like this

I think the reason for not opening restaurants, churches, and movie theaters is because it is hard to wear masks! In churches you are singing, in restaurants, you are talking and eating and in movie theaters, you are eating, and because it is dark, probably not wearing your mask. It's a public health issue.


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Sep 11, 2020 at 12:36 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Sep 11, 2020 at 12:36 am
19 people like this

People have this fantasy that somehow the virus can be stopped from spreading. Well, it can't. It's like a car pointing downhill. No matter how long you put the brakes on, it's going to start rolling again and will eventually get to the bottom.

People have this other fantasy that risk can be eliminated. Well that is also false.

All we're doing with these restrictions now is adding damage and prolonging it. People who are vulnerable should take care... as always. Everyone else needs to have the choice to live their lives.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2020 at 9:45 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 11, 2020 at 9:45 am
4 people like this

Moving to red is better than nothing.

Still, we have no visibility into what the COVID-19 testing setup is. Most machines across the country have been set to be too sensitive, inflating infection numbers. (Cycle Threshold should be set to no more than 33, but many machines have been set to 40).

Until we know what the real testing results are for California we have to suspect that the COVID-19 infection numbers are overstated.

Web Link


Henry22
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2020 at 12:20 pm
Henry22, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 12:20 pm
7 people like this

What about the public libaries?? The fact they have been closed this long is a travesty. Our idiotic governor, smh.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Sep 15, 2020 at 7:50 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 7:50 pm
Like this comment

Jane,

The virus is propimarily spread person to person. Reducing contacts reduces dpread. You comment is not very thoughtful.

Henry,

You can take BookShout of the library and there are many online library services. Indoor spaces are difficult to maintain social distancing and a library has many surfaces that woul be difficult to keep sanitized.


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