Reopening San Diego

More Reopenings For San Diego Could Come Next Week After California Reaches Key Vaccination Goal

California expects San Diego to meet the new reopening criteria by Tuesday, meaning that the county will move from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier as soon as Wednesday

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California on Friday announced it has administered more than 2 million vaccine doses to people in vulnerable, low-income ZIP codes, which could allow counties like San Diego to more quickly reopen activities.

With the equity metric met, the criteria for a county to move within tiers of the state's color-coded reopening plan becomes easier to meet. California expects San Diego to meet the new reopening criteria by Tuesday, meaning that the county will move from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier as soon as Wednesday.

San Diego County is expected to move into the Red Tier on March 16, with changes taking effect the next day.

What is California's vaccine equity metric?

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that he would set aside 40% of vaccine for residents of some 400 ZIP codes the state deems most vulnerable based on metrics such as household income, access to health care and education levels.

The point is to tie reopening standards to ensuring that the people most impacted by the pandemic are protected against the virus. While race and ethnicity are not explicit factors in designating vaccinations, the ZIP codes overlap heavily with neighborhoods with higher populations of residents who are Black, Latino and Asian and Pacific Islander, officials said.

California adopted a four-tier, color-coded system in August that dictates how much activity is allowed in each county. New tier assignments are announced on Tuesdays.

Previously, counties could move from the most restrictive purple tier to the lower red tier based on metrics including the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per day over a period of several weeks. The threshold for entering the red tier will move from 7 cases per 100,000 residents to 10 cases.

What Can Reopen in San Diego?

Once San Diego County advances into the red tier of California's tiered reopening blueprint, restrictions on restaurants, gyms and other businesses and activities will begin to lift.

Many industries have been operating outside only since last summer, but starting next Wednesday, indoor operations could start again for San Diego restaurants, gyms museums, and more.

A shift to the red tier means eateries will be able to offer indoor dining again at 25% capacity or 100 people – whichever is fewer. The same goes for movie theaters. Museums, zoos, aquariums will be able to reopen indoor operations with modification, including 25% capacity. And gyms will be able to reopen indoors at 10% capacity.

NBC 7's Priya Sridhar has the latest on the county's coronavirus response.

A shift to the red tier means eateries will be able to offer indoor dining again at 25% capacity or 100 people – whichever is fewer. The same goes for movie theaters. Museums, zoos, aquariums will be able to reopen indoor operations with modification, including 25% capacity. And gyms will be able to reopen indoors at 10% capacity.

Additionally, schools that previously needed waivers to reopen in-person instruction will no longer need to apply but modifications will need to be met.

Indoor retail can increase their capacity from 25% to 50%.

While San Diego may be eligible to move into a less restrictive tier, it doesn't automatically mean the move will take place but a spokesperson for San Diego County said, "We are pleased with the direction we are heading and hope to make a move as early as next week."

There are also some reopening modifications that will start on April 1. Since San Diego will be in the red tier by then, outdoor live events like sports games and live music will be able to have guests up to 20% capacity as opposed to less than 100 people in the purple tier.

Also starting April 1, amusement parks in counties in the red tier will be able to have guests up to 15% capacity, even at their indoor facilities, though indoor dining should stay closed.

This week, the state also announced new rules for bars and breweries, which have largely been closed if they don’t serve food. Starting Saturday, breweries and distilleries that don’t serve food can open outside in both the purple and red tiers. The state guidance says patrons at both, as well as wineries, must have reservations and limit their stay to 90 minutes and that service must end by 8 p.m. Bars that don’t serve food can’t open until the orange tier.

What comes next?

Once the state administers 4 million shots in these neighborhoods, officials say they will update criteria for moving into the next tiers of orange and yellow.

“While we have reached a milestone today, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to help ensure we can put an end to this pandemic,” said Tomás Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. “We must all do our part by getting vaccinated as soon as it’s our turn and continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing to keep our communities safe.”

About half the state’s 58 counties have now moved out of the most stringent restrictions, allowing limited indoor dining and the reopening of movie theaters and gyms.

Officials throughout California are contemplating what things will look like in the nation’s most populous state once millions of people are vaccinated and they move to phase out restrictions on gatherings and businesses that have altered life for a year.

When officials last summer designed the four-tiered, yellow-to-purple system California now uses to decide whether people can dine indoors, go to the movies or gather with friends, they did not include a green tier — a recognition that a return to normalcy after the pandemic was far off. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is preparing to add one.

“The likelihood of hitting that green tier is probably sooner than some of us thought when we were looking at the summer and fall,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, said Thursday.

State officials rely on a complicated formula, including virus spread, to determine which activities are restricted in each county.

But a green designation won’t mean “go” for all things. Ghaly said such a label would still mean wearing masks and staying physically distant. He declined in an interview to offer more specifics on what restrictions would be maintained or to provide a threshold of vaccinations the state hopes to meet to allow such a go-ahead.

Earlier Thursday, state Public Health Director Dr. Tomas Aragón forecast that California could achieve herd immunity when about 75% of the population has been vaccinated, though that could change as the virus mutates.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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