Solano County stuck in red tier: COVID metrics just aren’t good enough

Solano County health officials say they are no longer concerned about moving down into the most restrictive purple tier. But they say their COVID metrics just aren't good enough to move out of red yet.

Remaining in the red tier means Lucca's Bar and Grill on First Street in Benicia can only allow 25% of capacity inside. In the orange tier, that number would double to 50%.

"Twenty-five percent isn't cost-effective," says owner Jan Lucca. 50% gets you to where it is probably worth it to open up with the employees you have to put on."

So the owner limits service to outdoor-only for now.

"You have to re-invent your business every time the rules change. We've gone from indoor to nothing to take out to pick up," he says.

A few blocks away at The Collektive, a women's clothing store, the owner says she notices the trickle-down effect.

Fewer people in bars and restaurants means fewer people coming around to shop.

And she says it doesn't help that other nearby counties are more opened up.

"There is a huge competitive disadvantage. If we don't have the bars and restaurants operating at capacity people are going to go neighboring towns and not come here where you can do multiple things," says owner Jennifer Negrete.

So why is Solano treading in red waters and not moving forward? Some of it is geography. Besides the Bay Area, Solano also borders the Sacramento Region which is still in red, but there are also the COVID metrics.

"We are doing well with our positivity rate and our equity rate. Both of those are solidly in the orange tier. But our numbers of cases reported each day is in the red," says Solano County health officer Dr. Bela Matyas.

Those new COVID infection numbers, he says, mostly involve 20 and 30 year-olds.

"I suspect a lot of this is March Madness get-togethers. Get-togethers for sporting events on weekends. And it is predominantly younger people. The good news is it is not older," says Matyas.

Lucca' says he is seeing COVID fatigue first hand.

"In the beginning people were understanding. That's starting to go away. They're starting to be not so understanding about what we need to do to maintain the rules," he says.

County health officials do, however, expect Solano County to reach the orange tier by the end of April.