3 Bay Area counties advance from red to orange tier

Three Bay Area counties — Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo — advanced from the red to the less restrictive orange tier Tuesday in California's reopening plan. They join Alameda, Napa and Santa Clara in the orange, while Sonoma remains stuck in purple and Solano stays red. San Francisco is the only Bay Area county in the least restrictive yellow category.

Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo's new status paves the ways for reopening some businesses for the first time and expanding operating capacities at those that are already open.

The primary changes allowed under in the orange tier include increased capacity of 50% at restaurants, museums, places of worship and movie theaters; increased capacity of 25% at gyms, family entertainment centers and card rooms. Bars and breweries can reopen outdoors with modifications, and nonessential offices can reopen.

Outside the Bay Area, four other counties made leaps to less severe tiers due to reduced infection spread in their communities.

Glenn and Mendocino jumped from purple to red, Santa Cruz from red to orange and Calaveras from orange to the lowest yellow, allowing new businesses and activities to reopen.  No jurisdictions moved back to a more restrictive tier due to increased virus spread.

California's reopening plan is dictated by four color-coded tiers. Each county is assigned to a tier based on its test positivity and adjusted case rate.

California's reopening plan is dictated by four color-coded tiers. Each county is assigned to a tier based on its test positivity and adjusted case rate.

State of California

Gov. Gavin Newsom's system sorts counties into four tiers — "purple" (widespread), "red" (substantial), "orange" (moderate) or "yellow" (minimal) — that measure the spread of COVID-19 and dictate what types of businesses and activities are allowed to open. The structure allows counties to be more restrictive and move more slowly than the state in its reopening if they wish.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's Health and Human Services secretary, pointed out in his regular Tuesday briefing that when the state launched the new reopening structure more than two months ago, 38 of the state's 52 counties were in the purple tier. On Tuesday, only nine counties were purple.

The county tier status is based on the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the adjusted positivity rate. Earlier this month, the state announced it's now also taking into account an equity metric to address the fact that low-income, Latino, Black and Pacific Islander communities have been disproportionately impacted.

For a county to move into the red tier, it must report fewer than seven daily cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity under 8% for 14 consecutive days. The orange tier requires fewer than 3.9 cases per 100,000 and a test positivity under 4.9% and the yellow less than 1 case per 100,000 and lower than 2% positivity.

Each county is assigned its tier every Tuesday, and a county must remain in a tier for 21 consecutive days before moving to the next one. To move forward, a county must meet the next tier's criteria for 14 consecutive days.

On each day of assessment, the case counts are calculated by taking a seven-day average of daily cases per capita lagged an additional seven days to account for reporting delays.

A county can move backward by failing to meet the criteria for two consecutive weeks, or if state officials see a rapid rise in hospitalizations.

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