Contra Costa County sees 'marked increase' in coronavirus cases, issues new health orders

Contra Costa County health officials on Tuesday said they are fearful that data from the past week showed a "marked increase" in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, prompting them to warn the public that things might get more strict again. 

The county entered the orange tier just before Halloween, triggering an expansion of community reopening activities in the county.

However, since then, health officials noted that the average daily number of new cases in the county has grown substantially higher.  The most recent data show an adjusted rate of 4.9 daily cases per 100,000 people in Contra Costa County – above the orange-tier benchmark of fewer than 4 per 100,000 people.

If those numbers hold for another week or increase, Contra Costa County will move back into the more restrictive red tier. In addition, there were 40 people hospitalized on Nov. 2 due to COVID in local hospitals, compared to a low point of 17 in mid-October, the county said. 

"If the trend continues, the county is at risk of moving backward into the more-restrictive red tier of the state’s reopening plan as soon as next week," the county said in a statement.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Tuesday noted that there has been an uptick throughout the state, as well. 

In the meantime, Contra Costa has changed some of its health orders to scale back on some of the riskier indoor activities permitted under the orange tier in hopes of preventing outbreaks and keeping the county out of the red.

As of Friday, Contra Costa County’s health officer, Dr. Chris Farnitano, is limiting the number of spectators allowed at professional and collegiate sporting events to 25 people from no more than three different households. 

Farnitano also issued another order restoring stricter limitations on high-risk activities: 

  • Outdoor bars prohibited (except where allowed under restaurant guidance with drinks as part of a meal) 
  • Indoor dining allowed at a maximum of 25% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is fewer (down from 50% occupancy and 200 people)
  • Indoor movie theaters can operate at a maximum 25% of occupancy or 100 people, whichever is fewer (down from 50% occupancy or 200 people)
  • Religious services indoors allowed at a maximum 25% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is fewer (down from 50% occupancy or 200 people)
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering sites can’t operate indoors (they previously could operate indoors at 25% capacity)

San Francisco pulled back on their timeline for openings last week. Alameda and Santa Clara counties have all taken a slower pace than the state tier system allows. All three of these counties are essentially operating at red tier level restrictions even though they are in orange or yellow tiers.

For now, other activities not cited in the new order will still be allowed under orange-tier criteria, including indoor swimming pools and indoor family entertainment centers can continue “naturally distanced” activities, such as bowling alleys, escape rooms and climbing-wall gyms, at 25% occupancy. For more information, visit