3 Bay Area counties expected to move in less-restrictive orange tier this week

Three more Bay Area counties; San Francisco, Santa Clara and Marin, this week, are expected to move into the orange tier. That's the second least restrictive tier in the state COVID-19 Blueprint for a Safer Economy and is great news for businesses and residents alike.

The three counties, population just over 3 million, are about to enjoy more personal freedom and business opportunities. But, the virus is still out there, and so are the mutated variants, that remain highly transmissible.

Avatars, three very hip Marin Indian restaurants, featuring eclectic fun foods, including Punjabi Burritos, lost 90% of their business to the pandemic.

"We understand the law, understand the science, so we want to go with what is required. If orange tier is good, we will be happy to do that," said Avatars' owner Ashok Kumar.

Diners are thrilled. "We get to get out of the house, that's a plus. I don't know, it's just nice to come here," said Avatars customer Barbara Geisler. "We have great small businesses we support and it wouldn't be a community without people like Ashok," said customer Stephanie Leonard. Fearing another shutdown, taking baby steps to re-open is OK with Kumar. "If we open say 100% and tomorrow the problem comes, we don't want that," said Mr. Kumar.

Marin County's Health Officer said, after multiple shutdowns, they have an edge this time around. "Now that, you know, that more than half of our population have been vaccinated, at least with one dose, we have an added layer of protection, I think that adds confidence that we can do this," said Marin County Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis.

In orange tier counties, retailers, shopping centers, malls, hotels and personal care services may reopen indoors with restrictions. Bars that don't serve food may be opened, but only outdoors. Increased occupancy to 50% in restaurants, theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums and places of worship is allowed.

Offices may reopen for up to 25% of workers as well as gyms. Wineries: up to 25% capacity,  Stadiums: 20% of capacity, 33% on April 1. Theme parks: 15% of capacity when they open April 1.

But. Dr. Willis is very concerned if folks break the rules. "It's not too late to drop the ball here and so, we really need to maintain our vigilance," said Willis.

Dr. Willis also says cabin fever sending residents out of the county and bringing many visitors into the county raises the threat of viral variants and mutations.

"Increased travel could increase the pace at which our variants of concern could spread in our own communities," said Willis.

Most of normalcy, as we knew it, is not far off. "75% plus of our population will be vaccinated before too long.  Let's give it the time that needs. It's just a few more weeks," said Willis. That means this summer or sooner if vaccinations keep increasing.

To the doctor, Fourth of July is a shoo-in for barbecues.