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Public Policy Newsletter Article

New State Guidelines Around COVID-19 Lead to County Order Updates

  • 2020-09-24T14:30:00.000+0000
  • Author: Melanie Cohn

On August 28th, Governor Newsom released his Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a “Statewide, Stringent, and Slow Plan for Living with COVID-19.” Along with the plan came a new colored tier system – Purple (Widespread), Red (Substantial), Orange (Moderate) and Yellow (Minimal) – based on how prevalent COVID-19 is in each county and the extent of community spread. That color now indicates how sectors can operate.

As of September 22nd, seven counties in the Bay Area are operating at Red/Substantial status: Alameda, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano. Contra Costa and Sonoma Counties are in the Substantial/Purple tier.

Counties in the most restrictive purple tier must close indoor operations for restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and gyms, limit retail businesses to just 25% capacity and close indoor business for most other industries until the county can improve its numbers.

In the red tier, hair salons and personal care services can open with modifications, retail and malls can operate at 50% capacity, and attractions, places of worship, and movie theaters can operate at 25% capacity. In both tiers, non-essential offices are required to maintain that all employees work remote.

On September 18th, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that local government is working with the restaurant industry to develop a standardized health and safety plan and protocols to help restaurants prepare for reopening in accordance with the county’s red tier status. Indoor dining in the city will occur “no sooner than the end of September.”

Although still concerned about a possible post-Labor Day spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalization, Los Angeles County health officials confirmed Tuesday the county meets the criteria to move into a less-restrictive phase of the state's economic-reopening roadmap.

According to the state, Los Angeles County had a testing positivity rate of 2.8% and was averaging seven new cases per 100,000 – barely passing the case requirement to move into a less restrictive tier. Those figures would enable the county to move to the red tier if the numbers hold for two weeks.

In early September, San Diego County removed the provision in its County Public Health Order that required companies to temperature check there employees daily upon arrival to work. Employees can now self-check and report their temperatures. The county also added a requirement to report any “outbreak” of 3+ cases, but that requirement will likely be pre-empted by state legislation around workplace reporting requirements, Assembly Bill 685.

This Tuesday, it was announced that San Diego County will remain in the red tier for at least one more week. The county is reporting 6.9 new daily cases per 100,000 population, just 0.1 away from the purple tier.

San Diego County is also posting a 3.8% positive testing rate – well within the lower orange guideline of the state's four- tier reopening system.

This news comes as somewhat of a surprise after increasing COVID-19 numbers appeared to set the county on a path toward slipping into that most restrictive purple tier.