reopening the bay area

Contra Costa County May Slip Backward With Coronavirus Reopenings

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Contra Costa Health Services officials Wednesday warned that Contra Costa County could slip back into a more restrictive coronavirus reopening mode for business operations and public gatherings in the next few weeks.

Anna Roth, the county's health director, told the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that her county is "not immune from the trend" that has seen COVID-19 infections rise in 47 states, including California.

Contra Costa County, Roth said, has seen the new-cases-per-100,000-population numbers rise to 5.1 this week, which is one metric that could force the county to be moved from the "orange tier" on the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy back to the more restrictive red tier.

That is up from 3.7 new cases per 100,000 population recorded on Oct. 27, when Contra Costa had been moved from the red tier to the less restrictive orange tier.

In the orange tier, Contra Costa County can allow indoor worship services and other cultural activities at 50 percent building/space occupancy or 200 people, whichever is fewer. The county can allow indoor dining at 50 percent venue occupancy capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer; indoor swimming pools; and bars and other businesses that sell alcohol without meals to open for outdoor-only operation.

Also, indoor family entertainment centers (including climbing-wall gyms, bowling centers and "escape room" game venues) can be open at 25 percent venue capacity. Card rooms can open (indoors) at 25 percent capacity.

Other Bay Area counties are taking a cautious approach to COVID-19 restrictions, Roth said. San Francisco, the first Bay Area to be in the "yellow tier," has delayed some reopenings amid increasing infection rates.

Roth said Tuesday that the greatest increase in infection rate is coming in the 19-to-50 age group, with many in that group holding down "essential" jobs - including health care workers and first responders - that put them at elevated risk for COVID-19.

"Leaving your home makes you more susceptible to infection," Roth said.

Counties including Contra Costa face the task of continuing to increase COVID-19 testing while also working to move more testing from outdoor sites to indoor ones as winter weather approaches.

To that end, Contra Costa Health Services, in conjunction with the city of San Pablo and United Latino Voices, will host a free COVID-19 testing clinic Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the West County Health Clinic in San Pablo.

San Pablo remains one of the hardest hit areas of Contra Costa County for COVID-19 infections.

Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county's health officer, told the supervisors on Tuesday that the signs are out there of "COVID fatigue," after months of mask wearing, distancing mandates and sharply limited social interactions. He warned the supervisors, and everyone else, to remain vigilant.

"The virus is not tired of us, even if we're tired of the virus," Farnitano said.

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