Now In the Yellow Tier: What Does This Mean for San Diego County?

The yellow tier is California's least-restrictive tier -- so here's a look at what will change, in terms of COVID-19 restrictions once San Diego County officially moves into the yellow tier on June 9, 2021

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The color yellow has never looked so good. San Diego County will make its way into the yellow tier Wednesday 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 in our region under the yellow tier.

What Are the Rules Under the Yellow Tier in San Diego?

  • Restaurants: Indoor and outdoor dining continues, with max capacity at 50%. Capacity may increase to 75% if all guests show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination.
  • Gatherings: Outdoor gatherings should be kept to a max of 100 people; indoor gatherings should be kept to 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher detailed San Diego County's move into the Yellow Tier on June 8, 2021.
  • Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries: Indoor and outdoor service can continue with COVID safety modifications, but capacity can ramp up to 50% (up from 25% in the orange tier), or 200 people, whichever is fewer. Capacity may increase to 75% if all guests show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination (and the rule about NOT having to serve food at these businesses still stands).
  • Bars (without food service): Can open indoors with modifications, including 25% max capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Capacity may increase to 37.5% if all guests show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination.
  • Gyms: Capacity can increase to 50% (up from 25% under the orange tier rules). Saunas, spas and steam rooms can reopen. Capacity may increase to 75% if all guests show proof of negative test or full vaccination.
  • Amusement Parks: Capacity increases to a max of 35% (up from 25% under the orange tier), with in-state visitors only. Larger theme parks can open with modifications at 25% capacity, and reservations or advanced tickets are required.
  • Museums, Zoos, Aquariums: Can operate indoors and outdoors with modifications. Also, the capacity limits of 50% -- which was the rule under the orange tier – no longer apply.
  • Family Entertainment Centers & Bowling Alleys: Indoor service can continue with COVID safety modifications, at 50% capacity – or at 75% if guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination, per the California Department of Public Health. Food and drinks can be consumed in designated areas only.
  • Fairs: Can open to in-state visitors only, at max capacity of 35%. The San Diego County Fair is one of the big local events returning this summer, with COVID-era modifications, including reduced capacity and fewer attractions.
  • Movie Theaters: Can operate indoor at 50% capacity. This can increase to 75% if all guests show proof of a negative test of full vaccination.
  • Professional Sports: Can open outdoors only with modifications, including 67% capacity and in-state attendees only. Advanced reservations/ticket sales are required, plus outdoor concession sales only. The San Diego Padres are planning a "Second Opening Day" at Petco Park on June 17, once the tiered restrictions are lifted across California.
  • Marathons, Endurance Events: Can open outdoors only with modifications, including max capacity of 500 participants per hour and 1,500 total participants. This can go up to 3,000 total participants if all guests show proof of a negative test of full vaccination.
  • Live Performances: Can open with modifications that include reservations and in-state attendees. For outdoor venues, max capacity is 67%, with restricted concessions/dining. For indoor venues, there’s no eating and drinking in your seats but in designated areas only. Venues with seating up to 1,500 people can operate at 25% capacity or 300 people, or at 50% if all guests show proof of a negative test or full vaccination. Venues with seating of 1,501 and above can operate at 10% capacity or 2,000 people, whichever is fewer, with no eating/drinking. This can increase to 50% capacity if all guests show proof of a negative test or full vaccination.
  • Live Theater: Can open with modifications, with reservations and in-state attendees only. Outdoor venues can run at 67% capacity with restricted concessions/dining. For all venues – including indoor – there’s no eating/drinking allowed in seats, but in designated areas only. The same capacity rules apply here as they did for live performances for venues with up to 1,500 seats or 1,501 seats and above.
  • Private Events: Outdoor events – with tickets, a guest list, assigned seating – can run at a max capacity of 200 people, or 400 people if all guests test negative for COVID-19 or show proof of full vaccination.
  • Nightclubs: Closed.

San Diego County public health officials confirmed in a news briefing Tuesday that the county will shift into the yellow tier, effective June 9. The eased restrictions will begin that day, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

Many San Diegans told NBC 7 they're feeling optimistic about the course of the pandemic as the county moves into the yellow tier.

On June 9, San Diego County moves into the yellow tier, which is California's least-restrictive under the reopening plan, reports NBC 7's Melissa Adan

“For the next week, starting tomorrow, informal outdoor gatherings see capacity increase, private outdoor events see capacities increase, indoor seated events, outdoor seated events, gyms, bars indoors, restaurants, family entertainment centers, amusement parks and water parks will all see increased capacity,” Fletcher explained.

The county leader said the region is nearing its goal of getting at least 75% of the eligible population vaccinated with at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“One of the reasons we’re in the position we’re in on cases and hospitalizations is because of the incredible work of San Diegans getting vaccinated," Fletcher said.

According to Supervisor Nora Vargas, San Diego County has made strides in getting minority communities vaccinated. She said the following figures represent how much of each community has, so far, been vaccinated with at least one dose in the county:

  • 57.3% of eligible Latinos
  • 36.7% of eligible African Americans
  • 64.2% of eligible Asian Americans
  • 99% of eligible Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders

Despite the optimistic trends in San Diego County -- which now has an adjusted case rate of two COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents -- the county's public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, reminded locals that we are still under a pandemic.

NBC 7's Catherine Garcia spoke with Supervisor Nathan Fletcher about how the county is going about getting coronavirus vaccines to people who aren't prioritizing the shot.

“The pandemic is not over," Wooten warned. "June 15 is not the magic date or bullet for declaring the pandemic is over. We are still seeing cases but things are slowing down, and that’s what’s important.”

June 15 is not the magic date or bullet for declaring the pandemic is over. We are still seeing cases but things are slowing down, and that’s what’s important.

San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten

Wooten stated that San Diego will follow the state's ongoing state of emergency declaration.

“We need to get to a point where we have no cases for at least two incubation periods, and if that happens sooner than the end of the year, that’s another thing," Wooten said. "But the state will continue with [an emergency declaration] through the end of the year.”

Fletcher added that in a state of emergency, recovery is included in that path -- which is why California will continue operating under that declaration.

“What we’re doing is the standard practice," he said. "When you have a state of emergency, you have a pandemic, you have a disaster, you work your way through it. But that declaration of emergency needs to continue for a variety of financial reasons, fiscal reasons, state and federal reimbursement reasons, cure-ment reasons, liability reasons. But June 15, San Diego County, we will align with the state. The tiers will be gone.”

California's Long, Color-Coded COVID Path

California has been following its color-coded, tiered "Blueprint for a Safer Economy" since last summer, but San Diego County's move into the yellow tier will be short-lived -- six days, to be exact -- as the state gears up for its full reopening on June 15.

Come June 15, capacity and distancing restrictions will be lifted across the state for more businesses and activities. Large-scale indoor events will be subject to vaccination or negative COVID-19 test requirements for attendees through at least Oct. 1, per the state's health department. You can read more about what changes in California on June 15 here.

While in California's color-coded system, San Diego County has been through every tier -- purple, red, orange, and now yellow -- as COVID-19 cases increased and then decreased, and as vaccinations ramped up.

The county moved into the orange tier on April 7, 2021, as California hit its goal of distributing 4 million vaccines in underserved communities hard-hit by COVID-19. Hitting this metric triggered a reworking of the state’s tiered, color-coded framework, easing some reopening restrictions on businesses and activities.

Before that, San Diego County was in the red tier (since mid-March 2021).

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.
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.

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

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced back in April 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 made the initial June 15 announcement as California 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.”

On June 6, with just nine days until the big June 15 reopening target, Newsom tweeted that California had now administered 39 million vaccines.

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