S.D. County enters orange tier as COVID-19 restrictions ease further

Coronavirus illustration

San Diego County will officially move Wednesday, April 7, from red into the second-least-restrictive orange tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening framework, allowing for increased attendance limits at most businesses and a reopening of bars outdoors amid declining coronavirus case rates and continuing vaccinations.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher called it “yet another significant step in our recovery from COVID-19. 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.”

The state has reached the milestone of 4 million vaccinations administered in communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The orange tier includes restaurants, museums, zoos, aquariums, movie theaters and places of worship being able to operate at up to 50 percent of indoor capacity — doubling the red-tier limit — while bars without food service may begin outdoor operations. Amusement parks may increase attendance to 25 percent of capacity for in-state visitors.

On a broader scale, California health officials said April 6 that they plan to lift the tier system of COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, gatherings and recreational activities by June 15, although a mask mandate will remain.

The news came days after California announced it will allow indoor live events and performances to resume, with limitations, starting Thursday, April 15.

Under new state guidance unveiled April 2, those types of activities could take place in the red, orange and yellow tiers, subject to capacity limits and other safety modifications. They would not be allowed in the purple tier, the most restrictive rung.

For venues with a capacity of up to 1,500 people, the new rules will be as follows:

• In the orange tier, capacity will be limited to 15 percent or 200 people and increase to 35 percent if all guests show proof of a negative coronavirus test or full vaccination against COVID-19.

• In the red tier, the capacity cap would be 10 percent or 100 people — though that could increase to 25 percent if all guests are tested or fully vaccinated.

• In the least-restrictive yellow tier, maximum capacity would rise to 25 percent or 300 people and could grow to 50 percent if everyone is tested or completely vaccinated.

For larger venues:

• In the orange tier, the base limit will be 10 percent or 2,000 people, though it could increase to 35 percent if all guests are tested or fully vaccinated.

• In the red tier, testing or proof of vaccination would be required, with capacity restricted to 20 percent.

• In the yellow tier, the cap also is set at 10 percent or 2,000 people, though it could increase to 50 percent if all guests are tested or fully vaccinated.

State officials also unveiled new guidance for gatherings, private events and meetings.

Beginning April 15, outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed in the orange tier, 25 people in the red tier and 100 in the yellow tier. In the purple tier, outdoor gatherings are limited to three households.

Private events — such as receptions or conferences — are limited to 100 people outdoors in the orange tier. But capacity increases to 300, and indoor activities of up to 150 people are allowed, with full testing and vaccination.

— The San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.