Sacramento and San Joaquin counties are finally moving to the orange tier of California's color-coded reopening system, which will allow some businesses to loosen restrictions only weeks before the state fully opens.
Sacramento had been in the red tier since March 16 and San Joaquin since April 6, two of just eight counties still in the red tier before Tuesday. Nevada and Solano counties are also moving from red to orange. No counties are in the most-restrictive purple tier.
In the orange tier, restaurants and movie theaters can increase indoor capacity to 50%, while gyms rise to 25%. Bars can also reopen outdoors with modifications in the orange tier, and capacity restrictions loosen for indoor and outdoor events if all attendees are vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Those changes take effect immediately in Sacramento County, according to an updated public health order.
The tier change comes just two weeks before the state is scheduled to do away with the tier system as part of its reopening, which will remove most COVID-19 restrictions.
While moving tiers will speed that reopening up and is a signal that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, Sacramento's new case rate is more than twice that of the state as a whole. The county averaged 4.5 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week, with counties needing to get below 6 cases per 100,000 for two weeks to move into the orange tier.
“It is still important for Sacramento County to reach this lower tier before June 15, which signifies there is lower risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community and will increase capacity that much earlier for businesses,” Sacramento County Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in a statement.
In recent weeks Kasirye has said that the county's low vaccination totals have kept Sacramento from bringing cases down faster. County health officials are changing strategies, moving from large mass vaccination sites to a more targeted approach.
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