Reopening San Diego

San Diego Moves Into the Orange Tier: What Happens Next?

Under the orange tier (which starts Wednesday), capacity will increase for many types of businesses and activities in San Diego County including restaurants, museums and movie theaters

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San Diego County is moving into the orange tier in California’s color-coded plan for safely reopening counties during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s everything you need to know about how the rules will change under the orange tier.

California has hit its goal of distributing 4 million vaccines in underserved communities hard-hit by COVID-19. Hitting this metric now triggers a reworking of the state’s tiered, color-coded framework, easing some reopening restrictions on businesses and activities.

Local leaders believe San Diego County is heading in the right direction toward the orange tier, but what will it take for us to get there? NBC 7’s Claudette Stefanian explains.

San Diego County has been in the red tier since mid-March but under these changes to the state’s blueprint, the region will now shift into the orange tier on Wednesday, April 7.

San Diego County Chair Nathan Fletcher confirmed the county's move into the orange tier, effective Wednesday.

“San Diego is officially moving into the 'orange tier,' yet another significant step in our recovery from COVID-19," Fletcher said in a prepared statement released to the media. "The vaccine has given us a path to save lives, restore our economy, send our kids back to school and get our way of life back. The combination of a low case rate plus the state hitting vaccine milestones allows us to continue moving forward."

It’s the moment San Diegans have been waiting for – the orange tier. NBC 7’s Audra Stafford has more on how local business owners are reacting to expanded reopenings.

What Changes Under the Orange Tier in San Diego County

  • Restaurants: capacity increases to a maximum of 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer (outdoor and indoor dining continues).
  • Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries: indoor service can resume, with COVID safety modifications, including 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer (and the rule about NOT having to serve food at these businesses continues).
  • Bars (without food service): can reopen outdoors, with safety modifications.
  • Museums, Zoos, Aquariums: capacity on indoor activities can increase to 50% (this was at 25% under the red tier rules).
  • Movie Theaters: indoor capacity increases to a max of 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Family Entertainment Centers & Bowling Alleys: indoor service can resume, with COVID safety modifications, at 25% capacity – or at 50% if guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination, per the California Department of Public Health.
  • Amusement Parks: capacity increases to a max of 25% (up from 15% under the red tier), with in-state visitors only.
  • Outdoor Live Events with Assigned Seats (sports and live performances): capacity can increase to 33%; in-state visitors only and primarily in-seat concessions.
Businesses in San Diego County can now operate within orange tier guidelines after the region shifted tiers yesterday. NBC 7’s Nicole Gomez explains what this means particularly for the events industry.

Also, effective April 15, the California Department of Public Health says indoor, seated live events and performances can resume under the red tier at a maximum of 10% or 100 people, whichever is fewer. In the orange tier, the max goes up to 15% or 200 people, whichever is fewer, or 35% if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination.

San Diego County public health officials said a 10 p.m. curfew in place for local restaurants since July 2020 will also be lifted under this wave of changes.

How can San Diego reach the Orange Tier and have even more restrictions ease? Supervisor Nathan Fletcher explains.

No More Tiers? California Aims to Fully Reopen on June 15

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that California would fully reopen its economy – and do away with the color-coded tier system – if two criteria are met:

  • If there’s enough coronavirus vaccine supply for Californians age 16 and older who want to be vaccinated
  • If hospitalization rates remain low and stable
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California aims to reopen June 15 if virus-related hospitalizations continue to decline and residents continue to get vaccinated.

Newsom said California had surpassed a milestone of 20 million vaccines distributed across the state – including the 4 million in communities hardest hit by COVD-19.

“If we keep the pace, we are moving now beyond the blueprint,” Newsom said. “We are announcing today that on June 15, we will be moving beyond the blueprint and will be getting rid of the colored tiers.”

Newsom’s speech came a day after he announced California has the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation.

“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic,” the governor added later in a press release sent out by his office. “We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here – wearing masks and getting vaccinated – but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”

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