Uptick in COVID-19 cases force tighter restrictions around Bay Area

Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Marin counties announced tighter rules on bars and gyms as COVID-19 cases again surged around the Bay Area.

The average number of new cases per day in Santa Clara County has more than doubled since early October, health officials said. In Marin County, case rates have nearly doubled in the past 10 days. Health leaders in Contra Costa County are concerned over the high rate of hospitalizations, not seen in several weeks. On Nov. 11, 50 people with the virus were hospitalized in the county, the highest since September, county health officials said. 

Contra Costa recently moved from the state’s orange tier to the more restrictive red tier because of an increasing number of cases in the county. Meanwhile, hospitalizations in Contra Costa have returned to levels not seen in several weeks. On Nov. 11, 50 people with COVID were hospitalized in the county – the highest number since September.

With cases and hospitalizations on the rise, health officers in the Bay Area are tightening rules for indoor activities. 

RELATED: Bay Area guide to COVID-19 rules: What each county allows

Santa Clara County top health official Dr. Sara Cody said it's evident the county will be demoted to the red tier on Tuesday and could then move into the most-restrictive purple tier in the coming weeks. Contra Costa County has already moved back into the red-tier. And while Marin County remains in the orange tier that may soon change based on the county's current rate of infections and hospitalizations.

Health officials in those three counties said it's necessary to eliminate indoor dining beginning on Tuesday to help contain the spread of COVID-19. 

"We know that eating indoors without masks is a very high-risk activity, and as we close indoor dining we also strongly urge people not to eat or gather indoors with anyone outside their own household,” Cody said. “We must come together as a community and act now to get the virus under control.”

Restaurant owners say this will be tough. They're not sure they can get enough patio customers in winter to survive.

San Jose's Mezcal Restaurant had been hanging on, hoping they'd have enough business to make it through the winter.  

"We were trying to find a balance between closing the outside because its too cold and bringing people in, but now we're not going to be able to do that," said Adolfo Gomez of Mezcal.

As the weather gets worse, they're hoping diners will still consider outdoor seating, with heaters, an option.

"What we need is people coming into the restaurant and dining. And if we don't have that, we will not have that revenue. So it is hard. It is hard," said Gomez.

Local officials in Contra Costa and Marin counties are taking it a step further and also shutting down indoor fitness centers and concession stands inside movie theaters.  

Marin is joining other Bay Area counties in rolling back on reopenings, a move that was first made by San Francisco when health officials announced a ban on indoor dining. 

Marin County has yet to backtrack on the state's reopening blueprint, but fears it's coming. 

“We’re choosing to move into the red tier before the state moves us to get in front of this surge,” said the county health officer Dr. Matt Willis. “We’re seeing more people getting sick with COVID-19 and needing hospitalization. With flu season and potential impacts from holiday gatherings and travel, it’s time to act to prevent a much larger surge.”