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Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Counties to Enter Least-Restrictive COVID Tier

Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties will move into the least restrictive tier of the state’s pandemic reopening system, officials said Tuesday.

The tier change – which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday – will enable both counties to expand indoor capacities for businesses like restaurants and gyms and outdoor capacities for businesses like theme parks and large event venues.

Bars in both counties will also be allowed to reopen indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer, without a requirement to serve meals with alcohol.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody called the tier change a “huge milestone” for the county, which never reached the yellow tier last fall before the state’s deadly winter surge.

“Because so many members of our community are now fully vaccinated, COVID-19 case rates are at some of the lowest levels we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic,” Cody said. “We are now confident that vaccination not only prevents people from getting sick, it also prevents people from spreading COVID-19.”

“For a while it seemed uncertain to me whether the vaccines or the variants would win,” Cody added. “I think team vaccine is in the lead, holding the lead and will win.”

The tier changes come just under a month before the state plans to lift the tier system, formally called the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, allowing counties to reopen most businesses at full capacity on June 15.

As of Tuesday, 13 of the state’s 58 counties were in the yellow tier. However, those counties – which also include San Francisco, San Mateo and Los Angeles – account for 43.8% of the state’s population.

Only one Bay Area county, Solano, remains in the second-most restrictive red tier, indicating substantial risk.

– Bay City News and KQED’s Lesley McClurg

Copyright 2021 KQED