SAN MATEO, Calif. (KTVU) - A new day dawned along the Peninsula after health officials loosened restrictions, creating more opportunities for businesses. This, as San Mateo County, along with Contra Costa, Marin, and Santa Cruz counties, moved into the state’s orange tier.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s a credit to the area,” said Craig Rosenberg. Added San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, “It’s a day to celebrate. That being said, it’s not a day to be complacent.”
Canepa remembers the four counties once had a substantial risk of COVID-19 infections. Data showed each had between four and seven new cases each day per 100,000. But officials say social distancing, the wearing of masks and gloves, and limiting indoor gatherings have reduced the risk to moderate.
The upgrade in tier ranking means retail businesses can operate at full capacity, instead of 50%. Dine-in restaurants can have either 50% occupancy or 200 people, whichever is less.
“Being able to open up a little more for these small businesses is gonna provide relief,” said Canepa.
At Hula Hoops Tiki Bar and Restaurant in South San Francisco, workers were getting ready for a sight they haven't seen in more than seven months; customers allowed to eat indoors.
Restaurant owner Sherry Chua says the change is coming at a good time.
"It's going to be cold outside. We know we are going to lose some business on the outdoor seating. But we know being in the outdoor tier is going to help our business a lot," she said.
Even so, some residents say they’re uneasy resuming life as normal.
“I don’t feel safe about going indoors to a restaurant. What’s changed? It’s still in our droplets. And if I’m eating indoors with somebody else and their mask is down, I still think the danger is there,” said resident Mary Rose LaBarron.
San Mateo County is allowing gyms to reopen at 25% capacity, and places of worship at 50%.
"More people will be able to come in and we will be able to build up their hopes and encouragement," said Rev. Chris Vinculado, pastor of the Good News Fellowship Church in Daly City.
The pastor said the church will follow strict safety protocols.
"The worship team, they are six feet, eight feet apart. The singers are 20 feet from the first row of the congregation," he said.
Slight relief for some counties is juxtaposed with the possibility of more pain for another. Tuesday, the Solano County health officer warned his county could sink to the purple tier as soon as next week.
“I think, unfortunately, given what we’ve been experiencing, if the case rate is reported today [Tuesday] as too high it’ll be too high next week as well,” wrote Doctor Bela Matyas.
Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez said in an email, “It’s becoming troublesome out there. There are businesses that, if we go back in the purple [tier], will not remain open.”
For several weeks, Solano county reported upwards of 28 new daily cases, but that number jumped to 40, potentially putting it back in the Purple Tier. A lack of some residents taking COVID restrictions seriously, is, in part, blamed for a spike in cases.