San Diego County moved into the yellow tier Wednesday in California’s color-coded plan for safely reopening during the pandemic after the county's COVID case rate remained well below two per 100,000 people for two weeks in a row.
The news is a welcomed change – but does it even matter to most people since the state is slated to reopen and the tier system will be completely scrapped in just six days?
Reaction to the move fell short of excitement among people in Pacific Beach Wednesday morning.
“I did not know about [the tier change],” said Abigail Strong. “I think everyone is ready…we just want things to go back to normal. It’s been a long stretch.”
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“We didn’t really know about the yellow tier at all,” Gina Villella said, as she and three friends waited in line to enter Kono’s Café. “I think one of our Uber drivers informed us this morning,” she added with a laugh.
Some people remained indifferent to the news after more than a year of changing rules.
“People were kind of stoked about it – I thought it was kind of dumb given all restrictions going off June 15,” said Grant Anderson. “I think it’s kind of a waste of time at this point…we shouldn’t even be in a tier anymore.”
Anderson said he thinks the tier system should’ve ended when the CDC announced last month that fully vaccinated people did not have to wear masks anymore in most situations.
“I’m trying to go to festivals, I’m trying to party hard this summer,” Anderson added. “Let’s have a good one and just stop wearing masks.”
People called the progress a testament to the county's vaccination efforts but said it still means one thing: there is still a week before restrictions loosen even more.
Martin Medina manages Kono’s Café, where in the yellow tier, capacity increases from 50% to 75% if customers show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
But Medina told NBC 7 the state's reopening plans next week won’t change his.
“We’re allowed to, but we have to be cautious about it,” he said. “I think we’re going to stay at half capacity for a while until everything clears.”
Dave McDaniel owns Paradise Cove gift shop and heard about the change Wednesday morning.
Under the yellow tier, his store can open at full capacity, as long as it still allows for social distancing.
“I’m not completely sure what [the change] means for me,” said McDaniel, who has been operated at 50% capacity since the state allowed him to. “We’ve followed the guidelines all along because we don’t want to have to close up again like we did.”
He was forced to close the shop’s doors for two months in 2020 and told NBC 7 that even when he was allowed to reopen, Pacific Beach’s boardwalk, which borders his front door, was roped off with police tape, so business continued to suffer.
He said business has finally picked back up to 2019 levels, but the past year and a half has given him a new perspective on life.
“It was a weird year,” he said. “My motto for 2020 and the beginning of 2021 was not to worry about what I don’t have, just be thankful for what I do have.”
McDaniel says he can’t wait for what’s next.
“I expect it to be a busy summer…people have been cooped up for so long and what better place to come in the summer than San Diego?” he said.
On June 15, capacity and distancing restrictions will be lifted for most businesses and activities. Only “mega events” — events with crowds larger than 5,000 people indoors or 10,000 outdoors — will require or recommend vaccine verification for attendees through at least October 1.
San Diego County will stay in a state of emergency past June 15 to allow for more access to state and federal funding as the path to recovery from the pandemic continues.