COVID-19 restrictions: Bay Area counties advance to ‘red tier’

Three more Bay Area counties move from the purple tier to the red tier on the state’s color coded chart. The move allows many more business to reopen with limited capacity.

The Bay Area’s COVID data has been improving. Seven of the nine counties are now out of the highest tier. With fewer coronavirus cases, more businesses can move indoors. However, different counties are going at a different pace even though they're in the same tier.

On Tuesday, San Mateo, Solano and Alameda counties graduated from the purple tier to the red tier. They join Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties in the red tier. Only Sonoma and Contra Costa counties remain in the most restrictive purple tier.

“I’m really disappointed and frustrated because I believe nail salons are safe and I think we have the right to open,” said Michelle Saunders James, owner of Saunders & James Nail Care.

Saunders James owns a nail salon in Oakland, shuttered for six months. She can’t operate outdoors because there’s no space on a busy street.

Alameda County just moved up the state’s coronavirus risk chart yet county health officials are delaying any new plans for reopening.

“For them to wait two more weeks to see how it goes, it’s hurting us so terribly to be waiting and to be unopened,” said Saunders James.

San Mateo and Solano counties also moved from purple to the less restrictive red tier.

Unlike Alameda County, those counties will reopen restaurants, shopping centers, museums, places of worship, and movie theatres at 25 percent capacity indoors. Gyms and fitness centers as well as personal care services can also reopen indoors with modifications.

“Now the counties have created, some of them, their own dimmer and therein lies the confusion,” said San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa.

Canepa supports following state guidance. For example, in San Mateo County, indoor dining can now resume. In neighboring San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, it can’t even though all three counties are the same tier.

“We’re saying to people in these other counties respectfully, you’ve met this criteria from the state but we know better,” said Canepa.

Canepa points to fundamental differences among the counties on how coronavirus is spread. He said health officials in San Mateo County believe people are most at risk during social gatherings not dining indoors.

Sapore Restaurant in Burlingame will offer indoor dining Wednesday with partitions. The owner knows other restaurant owners considering relocating to the peninsula.

“If they don’t reopen fast,” said Sapore Restaurant Owner Elio Durzo. “A lot of restaurants are going to disappear.”

Now in the red tier, Alameda, San Mateo and Solano County K thru 12 schools can return to in-person learning in two weeks. It’s up to the school districts. The majority of the school districts are planning to continue distance learning.