Santa Clara and San Mateo counties returned to the state's most restrictive COVID-19 level, the "purple" tier, after California health officials lifted statewide regional stay-at-home orders on Monday.
The return to the purple tier under California's Blueprint for a Safer Economy was expected. It is the same level that will be maintained in all counties statewide except for four in the northernmost part of the state.
Under the purple tier, outdoor dining, personal care services and professional, collegiate, adult and youth sports may resume with modifications. Mandatory travel restrictions, which require a 10-day quarantine for most persons who return to Santa Clara County after traveling farther than 150 miles, will stay in effect, Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
Businesses and individuals must follow both the state and county orders, and where there is a conflict between the two, the stricter rules must be followed.
"Santa Clara County continues to experience very high rates of COVID-19 transmission. Our collective actions to date have saved lives and helped protect our health care system from collapse. I encourage all residents to remain vigilant, wear a mask anytime you leave your home, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from anyone outside your household, and get vaccinated when it is your turn," county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a press release issued prior to Williams' appearance.
The county is keeping the travel restriction order in place due to the high infection rate in other parts of the state, particularly in southern California, where three variants of the coronavirus that are spreading throughout the state have been found. The travel restrictions also appear to have reduced the amount of travel, which is one of the main ways the virus has spread, Williams said.
"We are still nowhere yet out of the woods," Williams said, noting the county still has high hospital rates.
Williams said that the most significant impacts of returning to the purple tier will be on restaurants, which can now resume outdoor dining. Personal care services, such as nail and hair salons, can have indoor and outdoor clients. Outdoor family entertainment centers and outdoor card rooms also can reopen, and gatherings of up to three households can resume outdoors only. Places of worship also can resume outdoor services.
The county's local directives, which predate the state's regional stay-at-home order, are still in effect. Noncontact youth sports can resume if they are outdoors, but contact sports are still prohibited. The San Jose Sharks can resume play at SAP Center provided they adhere to regulations, Williams said.
San Mateo County health officials said in a press release on Monday afternoon that effective immediately, outdoor dining and personal services may resume with required modifications. The county is not imposing additional local restrictions and remains in alignment with the state.
"This is encouraging news, but we must caution the public that COVID-19 is still very much widespread across the nation as nearly 420,000 Americans have died from the virus in less than a year," San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President David Canepa said.
"That being said, I’m ready to enjoy a meal outdoors again and am certainly in need of a visit to the barber. This is a huge sigh of relief for our struggling small businesses, but we've got a ways to go still before life returns to normal. Science and data tell us that wearing our masks stops the spread. So I will repeat once again, wear your damn masks," he said in the statement.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.