Santa Clara County hopes to move into red tier of state's reopening plan next week

Officials in Santa Clara County expect to move to the next tier of the state’s color-coded system, which means more sectors of the economy could reopen if the county chooses.

A formal announcement is expected on Monday. County Executive Jeff Smith said the county has been in constant communication with state health officials. As to what can and can’t open, it all comes down to risk and the county plans to go at its own pace.

In Santa Clara County, salons, barbershops, and malls are allowing customers inside. Next week, the county may get the green light from the state to resume more indoor operations.

“We are in the purple tier at this point and calculations are being done at the state and we expect to be in the red tier by next Tuesday,” said Smith.

Santa Clara County is in the lowest tier in purple with widespread risk in the governor’s new system for reopening. Santa Clara County could soon join San Francisco and Napa counties in the red meaning less risk. The move is based on adjustments to Santa Clara County’s coronavirus case rate.

The red tier means museums, places of worship, movie theaters, and indoor dining could reopen at 25 percent capacity. Smith said that’s unlikely.

“The local health order is stricter in some areas so there will not be indoor theaters or restaurants,” said Smith.

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The activities are deemed too risky given contact with people and length of time indoors.

“When the weather does turn and gets colder, it's going to be much more difficult to want to be outside and to dine,” said SP2 Communal Bar & Restaurant Owner Eric Neilsen.

Neilsen is planning to buy tents, tarps, and heaters for the fall months. He’s not anticipating to re-open indoors until after flu season.

The Hammer Theater in San Jose is investing in high-definition cameras creating a TV studio live-streaming and recording performances. People can then pay for a link to view online.

“They can begin to do music, dance, and theater to their own audiences,” said SJSU Hammer Theater Executive Director Chris Burrill. “We think that’s really important to try and keep the arts alive.”

Some places are defying orders.

North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara was fined thousands of dollars for holding indoor services and will likely continue to be fined for their resistance.

“At this point that's the only option we have so yes,” said Smith.

Other counties in the state, including San Francisco, are not reopening as fast as the state is allowing them too. The county executive said Santa Clara County is reviewing if personal care services, hotels, and gyms could reopen indoors with distancing protocols when the state gives the go-ahead.