A group of friends imbibe at NuBo in Capitola.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

With COVID-19 cases low in Santa Cruz, is it OK to start mixing households again?

As COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz and California remain low, and vaccination increases, can you start having dinner parties again?

California now has the lowest COVID-19 cases per capita of the continental U.S., and case rates in Santa Cruz County are among the lowest in the state.

Amid this good news — and much of the economy reopening — residents may be wondering when they can reopen their homes to their friends.

Short answer: not yet.

As Santa Cruz County inches out of the pandemic, Lookout is chronicling the changes in our lives and the accomplishments of everyday people. “People in the Pandemic” is one of eight Lookout initiatives documenting all aspects of life amid COVID. For more, go to our COVID 2021 section, and sign up for COVID Text Alerts and our COVID PM newsletter here.

While formal “events” and even live performances are allowed, informal, indoor mixing of households is still discouraged unless everyone is fully vaccinated.

The reasoning behind this policy is that organized events are required to follow strict safety policies around mixing, ventilation and masking that are unlikely to be imposed at birthday parties or other informal gatherings.

“Our advice to everyone is to get vaccinated, wait two weeks after your last shot, and then celebrate with friends who have done the same,” county spokesperson Jason Hoppin said via email. “The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.”

In the meantime, gathering outdoors, following all the standard safety protocols, is the safest way for unvaccinated people to mix.

California’s latest seven-day new case rate — 40.3 per 100,000 people — is dramatically lower than the nationwide rate...

According to CDC and CDPH guidelines, fully vaccinated people can also mix with one low-risk unvaccinated household, and this household should be stable over time (i.e. a vaccinated household mixes with their unvaccinated neighbors, but no one else).