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If County Moves into Orange Tier, Indoor Dining and Indoor Gatherings will be Allowed

This afternoon, Santa Clara County announced a revised COVID-19 Risk Reduction Order that would go into effect once the County moves from the current Red Tier to the less-restrictive Orange Tier in the State’s reopening framework. Once in the Orange Tier, the County will allow indoor dining and indoor gatherings with restrictions, according to Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer and Director of Public Health for the County of Santa Clara.

On Sept. 8, Santa Clara County moved from the most restrictive Purple Tier to the Red Tier, which meant that the State was allowing indoor dining and gatherings, but the County held back, saying these are riskiest activities. However, once the County is in the Orange Tier, these activities will be allowed by the County but with stricter capacity limits, which are more similar to the Red Tier’s guidance.

Under the new order, the following would be allowed once we’re in the Orange Tier:

  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people.
  • Indoor gatherings of up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Indoor dining up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

Dr. Cody said these activities can be “superspreaders.” On the other hand, this is a huge announcement for restaurants and places of worship.

“The fact that an activity is allowed does not mean it is safe,” said the County in a statement. “COVID-19 continues to pose a serious risk to our residents.  This is why we urge all residents to be cautious, stay home when possible, minimize interaction with anyone outside their household, maintain social distance, wear a face covering, and move activities outdoors when possible.”

At the earliest, County Counsel James R. Williams said that the County could move into the Orange Tier on Oct. 13, but that depends on if the County can maintain its COVID-19 daily case rate and test positivity rate. The County does currently have a “credit” towards its case rate due to the amount of testing the County does. The County has been aggressively trying to increase testing to take full advantage of the “testing credit.”

The original Risk Reduction order was put in place in July after the County saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. Dr. Cody says this move into a new Risk Reduction Order is to better align the County’s guidelines with the State’s while ensuring local case numbers don’t spike, which would trigger the County to move backwards into a more restrictive tier. Dr. Cody worries that if Santa Clara County’s cases were to spike again, the State would apply even stricter restrictions on businesses.

Since the case spike in July, Dr. Cody says there’s been a gradual decrease in cases, but the County is still not back to the lower numbers it saw in June.

“It is imperative that we all continue to practice the precautions that have made our COVID-19 numbers move in the right direction,” said Dr. Cody. “The fact that you are able to do something doesn’t mean that you should. The public’s commitment, both businesses and our residents, to wearing face coverings, and maintaining social distancing and testing is what will help us move forward to the next tier in the state’s COVID-19 blueprint.”

Williams said that when the County does move into the Orange Tier and this new Risk Reduction Order goes into place, all businesses will have to complete a new Social Distancing Protocol to be able to operate. This is because they are changing density limits and changing capacity limits. So, even if your business currently has one, you will need a new Social Distancing Protocol.

Over the weekend, the County also announced two revised directives that went into effect on Oct. 4:

  • Revised Mandatory Outdoor Dining Directive: Some ambient musical performances are now allowed for outdoor dining. There are also new shade guidelines. Read more on the County’s website.
  • Revised Mandatory Personal Care Services Directive: Services to the face and facial services can now be provided with modifications and the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Read more on the County’s website.

More information on the new Risk Reduction Order is available on the County’s website.


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