Solano County moves to orange tier, finally leaves red behind

Solano County moving into orange tier

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Thomas Gase & Nick Sestanovich, June 1, 2021

This summer is looking to be less restrictive than last, as the state of California announced Tuesday that Solano County will be moving into the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

The blueprint establishes tiers for businesses and other entities to reopen following last year’s shutdowns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state is on track to remove the tiers entirely starting June 15, effectively removing nearly all restrictions for businesses.

Solano County has been in the red tier since March, having previously been in the most restrictive purple tier for four months. The county had previous been in the red tier from September to November.

Under this reopening:

  • Restaurants are now allowed to serve meals indoors at 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 200 people, whichever is fewer. This also applies to wineries, breweries and distilleries that serve meals.
  • Breweries, wineries and distilleries that do not serve meals may open indoors with modifications, including 25 percent capacity indoors or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Retailers may operate indoors with modifications.
  • Movie theaters and places of worship may operate indoors at 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 200 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Gyms, health club and yoga studios can operate indoors at 25 percent capacity.
  • Graduation ceremonies can be held outdoors at 33 percent capacity with assigned seating and additional modifications.

The reason for the move to the orange tier was a continuing decrease in cases to below six per 100,000, low hospitalizations and more than 225,000 residents receiving at least one vaccine dose, according to a Solano County news release.

Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano’s public health officer, said the county qualified for the orange tier based on a significant decrease in cases per day, positivity rates and its health equity metric, which measures positivity rates in disproportionately impacted areas. Hospitalizations have also been low as of late.

Vaccinations were also up, with 64 percent of eligible residents ages 16 and older and 62 percent of residents ages 12 and older receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, Matyas said.

When the state lifts its restrictions June 15, Matyas said Solano would lift all of its requirements although health officials will still recommend businesses retain precautions that are easy to retain if they choose to do so, such as physical barriers at restaurants or hand sanitizer dispensers.

“Things that have involved investments already made, I would think would be easy to maintain,” he said.

Additionally, Matyas said the California Division of Occupational and Safety Hazards (Cal/OSHA) may continue to require certain precautions of its employers.

Armando Gomez, a manager at Napoli Pizzeria & Italian Food in Vallejo, was pleased for the change.

“Personally, I’m excited,” Gomez said. “We get to fill up some more tables that were empty. We had four tables inside and now we can do about eight. We’ve managed to hang on there during this pandemic but this will also help.”

Solano County Public Health Administrator Jayleen Richards said there were some other benefits about moving up to the orange tier, even if the removal of tiers is just two weeks away.

“Yes we are pleased we are able to open up more and although the tiers will be gone soon we don’t view this as too little, too late,” Richards said. “This coming week we have a few graduations and some of them will be able to benefit with larger size restrictions. I know Vacaville was planning on doing just one ceremony instead of two if they could get the necessary requirements.”

Benicia, Vallejo and Jesse Bethel high schools had previously planned to do two ceremonies. The schools may be able to do one now depending on it of its maximum capacity requirements.

Richards said there were a few reasons for the upgrade in tiers.

“I believe it’s just more and more people getting vaccinated,” Richards said. “We were also expecting an increase in COVID-19 cases after Mother’s Day and it wasn’t that bad. It seems everyone was doing a good job and social distancing during that weekend. However, some places are still at a higher risk and will need to continue to use precautions.”

Two other Bay Area counties in the orange tier — Napa and Alameda — could be eligible to move to the yellow tier by next Tuesday. That would leave Sonoma, Solano and Contra Costa counties as the only remaining orange tier counties in the region.

Statewide, 48 percent of Californians live in yellow tier counties. And only four counties — Del Norte, Shasta, Yuba and Stanislaus — remain in the red tier indicating a “substantial” COVID-19 spread. There are no counties in the most restrictive purple tier.

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Bay Area News Group contributed to this story.