San Diego County moving to COVID Orange Tier Wednesday as vaccinations increase
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego County moves into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state’s coronavirus reopening system Wednesday, owing to the state reaching the milestone of 4 million vaccinations administered in the low- income communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
Meeting that goal triggers an adjustment of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy that will allow San Diego County to quickly advance into the orange tier, allowing for increased attendance limits at most businesses and a reopening of bars outdoors.
The region can move into the orange tier because its case rate has been fewer than 6 cases per every 100,000 residents for the last two weeks, after moving to the red tier on March 17.
“San Diego is officially moving into the orange tier, yet another significant step in our recovery from COVID-19,” Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said.
“The vaccine has given us a path to save lives, restore our economy, send our kids back to school and get our way of life back. The combination of a low case rate plus the state hitting vaccine milestones allows us to continue moving forward.”
Also Wednesday, the county will lift the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and wineries that has been in place since July, Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.
The orange tier includes restaurants being able to operate at 50% of capacity — or 200 customers, whichever is fewer — while bars without food service may begin outdoors operations. Museums, zoos, aquariums, movie theaters and places of worship may have 50% of capacity indoors.
Amusement parks may increase attendance to 25% of capacity for in- state visitors. Gyms, bowling alleys and family entertainment centers can allow 25% capacity indoors and indoor pools can reopen.
Sporting events, concerts and other live events can increase attendance to 33% of capacity for in-state fans. There will be no capacity limits for indoor retail shopping.
On a broader scale, California health officials said Tuesday that all state COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, gatherings and recreational activities will be lifted June 15, although a mask mandate will remain in place.
Assuming continued availability of vaccines and no major spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations between now and then, the state will do away with its Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the four-tier, color-coded system that has guided economic reopening through a series of restrictions and attendance limits.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the June 15 date was chosen for being two months after COVID-19 vaccines are made available to all Californians aged 16 and over.
The decision to lift all the blueprint requirements comes in response to rising vaccination numbers and continued decreases in all key pandemic- tracking metrics, such as case numbers, positivity rates and hospitalizations.
Ghaly stressed that the statewide mask mandate will remain in place “to prevent illness and promote health.”
The June 15 date could be adjusted if the state begins over the next two months to experience rises in hospitalization numbers or a sudden lack of vaccine supply, Ghaly said. He urged all residents to ensure the move occurs on time by continuing to practice infection-control measures.
Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed that sentiment, saying residents cannot get careless in the coming weeks about taking precautions — particularly in the face of increasing COVID variants that can be more infectious and could potentially be more resistant to vaccines.
Newsom said when the blueprint is scrapped, he expects schools, community colleges and universities across the state to return to in-person instruction — although he stopped short of saying they would be required to do so.
San Diego County public health officials reported 212 new COVID-19 infections and two deaths Tuesday, raising the cumulative totals to 271,866 cases and 3,587 deaths.
Of the 6,995 tests reported Tuesday, 3% returned positive. The 14-day running average as tallied by the county is 2.2%.
More than 2.06 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to San Diego County, according to the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency, and 1,047,512 county residents — or 39% — have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines.
A total of 615,718 people in San Diego County — or 22.9% — are fully vaccinated.
These numbers include both county residents and those who work in San Diego County. The state’s goal is to vaccinate 75% of people 16 and older to achieve herd immunity — around 2.02 million San Diego County residents.