The COVID-19 testing center at the Civic Auditorium
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Third time’s a charm: Santa Cruz County moves into yellow tier, loosening up restrictions on many businesses

After twice just missing out on a move from orange into yellow, Santa Cruz County got the nod finally on Tuesday and will officially join the yellow tier ranks one day from now.

Finally ... yellow.

Santa Cruz County officially entered the least restrictive “yellow” tier of the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” framework of COVID-19 regulations Tuesday.

Santa Cruz narrowly missed the yellow tier twice, in late April and early May, due to case rates barely above the yellow tier threshold of 2.0 per one hundred thousand residents.

Under yellow tier restrictions, which will go into effect on Wednesday, many businesses are allowed to open at greater capacity.

  • Bars may open indoors at 25 percent capacity, or 50 percent if customers show proof of a vaccination or negative test.
  • Indoor music venues may increase to 50 percent capacity with proof of vaccination or negative test.
  • Family entertainment centers (bowling alleys, arcades, etc) may increase to 50 percent, or 75 percent with proof of vaccination or a negative test.
  • Gyms may increase to 50 percent capacity.

A full description of regulations by sector is available at the state Blueprint website.

Now, the adjusted case rate is 1.0 case per day per hundred thousand people — well below the 2.0 cutoff — and the seven-day average positivity rate is 0.5%.

The expiration date for California’s tier system is fast approaching. Officials have set a goal of scrapping the framework and fully reopening the state’s economy on June 15.

That same day, the state plans to align with recently released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and allow Californians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to go without face masks in most indoor settings.

To date, more than 35 million vaccines have been administered statewide, and 53.4% of Californians have received at least one dose, according to CDC data. However, people aren’t considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving either the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

California now has among the lowest coronavirus case and positivity rates of any state in the nation.

“We’re firmly committed to our collective goal [of] getting to June 15 and doing so safely and doing so thoughtfully so that we never have to look back,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a Visit California virtual event Tuesday morning.

Contributing: LA Times