COVID-19: Santa Clara County could reach orange tier by October 13

Santa Clara County officials announced on Monday that dining, worship services and movie theatres could all resume indoors next week. The county is expected to advance into the orange tier of the state’s coronavirus risk system.

County officials said transmission rates are low and they want to align more closely with the state's framework. Santa Clara County could become the second Bay Area county, in addition to San Francisco, in the orange tier.

“A lot of us are just hanging on by a thread right now, some of us have closed already,” Donna Rovi, owner of The Pasteria & Market.

After six months of waiting, sacrificing and abiding in good faith, Santa Clara County restaurant owners are receiving some relief. Soon, customers will be allowed indoors.

“I think we have all been well-behaved and waiting for that moment and it feels like for me, today all our hard work is starting to pay off,” said Rovi.

At the Pastaria & Market in Los Gatos, business is down 40 percent. New precautions are in place including plexiglass dividers and hand sanitizers at every table.

“Businesses are struggling I think especially since we are getting into colder weather,” said Customer James Ashe.

“The soonest that state may allow us to move into the orange tier is October 13, meaning this new order will take effect earlier than Wednesday, October 14,” said James Williams, Santa Clara County Counsel.

On Monday, Santa Clara County officials announced case count, positivity rate, and hospitalizations are slowly decreasing after a swift spike when restrictions were eased back in mid-July. Santa Clara County’s health officer is urging vigilance.

As of Monday, Santa Clara County has 21,926 COVID cases. 345 people have died from the disease. 

“When this new risk reduction goes into effect it will be a very significant easing of restrictions so now as always we all need to take precautions to keep our case rate low,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health Officer.

Santa Clara County is allowing everything in the orange tier to re-open with two exceptions, indoor dining and indoor gatherings, considered super spreaders of Covid-19 limited to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

Movie theaters, family entertainment centers and places of worship are also restricted to 25 percent.

“We are excited for businesses and churches that this will directly impact, however it won't impact us at this level,” said Calvary Church Los Gatos Lead Pastor Mark Riggins.

The 1,200-seat auditorium at Calvary Church in Los Gatos will remain closed despite the county’s allowance of 100 people. The reasons include safety and the quality of the worship experience is better online.

“We wouldn't be able to sing, we wouldn't be able to have children's ministry, we wouldn't be able to have student ministries,” said Riggins. “All the things we could do online would go away if we could gather under the current protocols.”

The changes are contingent upon the case count and positivity rate remaining stable. County leaders are urging people to wear face coverings and social distance to slow the spread so the county does not move backward.