COVID-19: San Mateo County moves to less-restrictive tier

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San Mateo County indoor restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and places of worship may now open, with modifications, due to the County’s progress on COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

Under the state’s four-tiered, color-coded reopening system, San Mateo County has moved from purple, called the “widespread” level, to red, known as the “substantial” level.

Moving to the red tier allows 25 percent maximum capacity at restaurants, museums, zoos, and aquariums; 50 percent maximum capacity inside retail outlets, including shopping centers; 10 percent maximum capacity inside gyms and fitness centers; and 25 percent max capacity, or 100 people, whichever is fewer, inside movie theaters and places of worship. In addition, personal care services including hair and nail salons and barbershops can open with modifications.

Under the tier system, bars, breweries and distilleries where no meals are served must remain closed.

“The Red Tier 2 also gets schools one step closer to supporting in-person learning, but it will continue to be a gradual process,” the County states. “First, San Mateo County must stay in the Red Tier 2 for two consecutive weeks. Then, for a return to campus, a school must be able to implement the Four Pillars of the San Mateo County Office of Education’s Pandemic Recovery Framework, including health and hygiene protocols, physical distancing, face coverings, and limiting gatherings.  A COVID-19 testing plan for staff must also be in place.”

Despite easing of restrictions, the COVID19 risk remains high and the County could fall back into the purple tier if case rates increase, officials said.

For the week ending Sept. 12, the county’s case positivity rate, as calculated by the state, was 4.5 percent and the adjusted case rate was 6.6 percent. For the County to advance to the lower-risk “orange” tier, or moderate level, the County will have to report between 1 to 3.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents per day and a positivity rate between 2-4.9 percent for at least two consecutive weeks.

Since early March, the county has recorded a total of 9,625 COVID-19 cases and 143 deaths.

“This remains far from over,” said Dr. Scott Morrow, San Mateo County’s Health Officer. “To get out of this situation depends on all of us. Our collective best course of action: No gatherings outside of immediate households, use facial coverings extensively, and social distancing.”