Yolo County moves to red tier, vying for orange tier

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Restaurants, gyms, churches and more can reopen in Yolo County as early as Wednesday now that the state has moved the county into the Red Tier 2, the county’s interim health officer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.

Capacity limits will be in effect for most indoor activities and social distancing and face coverings will be required. Sectors that previously reopened—including all retail and shopping centers—will be allowed greater capacity.

Capacity directives for the red tier include:

  • Restaurants: open indoors with 25 percent maximum capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • All retail, including shopping centers and malls: open indoors with 50 percent maximum capacity.
  • Personal care services (including skin care and cosmetology as well as tattoo and piercing): open indoors.
  • Places of worship: open indoors with 25 percent maximum capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Movie theaters: open indoors with 25 percent maximum capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Gyms and fitness centers (including at hotels): open indoors with 10 percent maximum capacity.

Additionally, K-12 schools in Yolo County can reopen after two weeks in the red tier, provided local school districts, in consultation with county health officials, make the decision to do so.

Seven private elementary schools in the county already reopened under waivers granted by the county and state and two more Yolo County schools have filed waiver requests, interim Public Health Officer Dr. Larissa May told county supervisors on Tuesday.

Yolo County’s move from the purple tier to the red tier followed two consecutive weeks of meeting the threshold required for the less restrictive tier. On Tuesday, the county’s adjusted daily case rate was 3.1 and its test positivity rate was 2.5 percent.

Both numbers actually meet the criteria for the even less restrictive Orange Tier 3; however, Yolo County must remain in Tier 2 for three weeks before being allowed to move again.

The county will also need to meet the orange tier criteria for two consecutive weeks before moving. Doing so will require an adjusted new daily case rate between 1 and 3.9 and a test positivity rate between 2 and 4.9 percent.

Activities allowed in the orange tier include indoor wineries with capacity limits; outdoor bars and breweries; and family entertainment centers like mini golf and batting cages.

“If we continue to decrease our cases…. the earliest we could move into the orange tier would be Oct. 20,” May told county supervisors.

On the other hand, if the county’s metrics increase to the extent that both the daily case rate and test positivity rate meet the purple tier’s metrics for two weeks, the county could head back to the more restrictive tier.

“I believe businesses would have three days (notice to close down),” May said of a return to purple for Yolo County. “It is a risk. It may happen over the winter. We just don’t know.”

But May also said there isn’t much evidence to indicate that individual business sectors like those cleared to reopen this week are contributing to the spread of COVID-19 elsewhere in the country where they have been open for a while.

“It’s more people gathering and not adhering to our basic public health recommendations,” she said.

Social gatherings remain the biggest challenge.

“It’s been six months and humans are social beings and there’s lots of mental health considerations… so we have to be pragmatic and really help people figure out how can we do all this safely,” she said.

As interim health officer, May has the authority to revise local health guidelines to match those of the state for the red tier, but she sought county supervisors’ input on Tuesday nonetheless.

Supervisor Don Saylor of Davis noted that the return of thousands of UC Davis students combined with reopening local businesses “could well lead to outbreaks in the city of Davis,” and asked

May whether an individual community such as Davis could be separated from the rest of the county as far as allowing sectors to reopen.

“Could the city of Davis have… less opening if they choose to do so?” Saylor asked.

May replied that per the state’s rules, decisions are made on a countywide basis, but that individual cities could be more restrictive if they choose to be, essentially putting in the hands of the Davis City Council any decision on whether to restrict business reopenings there.

The impact of the return of all those students remains unclear. The university tested all students moving into on-campus housing the last two weeks, but May said Tuesday that some of those students appear to have listed their home address — rather than their new campus address — on testing forms, which may mean results were allocated to their home counties rather than Yolo County.

However, the university keeps a separate tally of positive cases among students and employees affiliated with the Davis campus and the latest update on Monday showed no significant increase in cases.

Meanwhile, the county will be moving forward, allowing all of the business reopenings permitted in the red tier, May said. Local health guidance must be amended to do so and for some businesses that will be as soon as today, she said.

Other counties that moved from purple to red on Tuesday were Sacramento, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, San Joaquin and Santa Barbara, while three counties — Amador, Calaveras and San Francisco — moved to orange.

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