Contra Costa and Santa Cruz counties moved to a more-restrictive coronavirus reopening tier Tuesday, forcing both to reduce indoor capacities for businesses like restaurants and gyms.
Both counties spent two weeks in Tier 3, also called the "orange tier," before being sent back to Tier 2, the red tier, on Tuesday due to increased rates of new cases.
The move will require both counties to pare the maximum indoor capacity of many indoor businesses from 50 percent to 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is fewer, while gyms must return to 10 percent of their maximum indoor capacity.
In addition, businesses like offices, cardrooms, bowling centers, climbing gyms, wineries and bars, breweries and distilleries at which food is not served must close once again.
"We know many people feel exhausted, they feel isolated and they're impatient," state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. "We know that this is hard work, but we must do more."
Contra Costa and Santa Cruz counties joined nine other counties in moving to more-restrictive tiers on Tuesday while no counties moved to a less-restrictive tier.
Ghaly noted that, amid the flurry of tier changes, the state's average test positivity rate over the last seven days sits at 4.2 percent, its highest level since late August and early September.
As a result, the state has its highest number of counties in the most-restrictive purple tier since the first week of October and its fewest counties in the least-restrictive yellow tier since late September.
"We are certainly seeing, almost all across the state, an upward trajectory," Ghaly said Tuesday.
Contra Costa County health officials warned last week that the county was on pace to move to a more-restrictive tier as its rate of new cases eclipsed four per 100,000 residents, the threshold for the orange tier.
On Friday, the county preemptively tightened reopening restrictions on some businesses and public activities to red-tier levels in anticipation of the tier change.
Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County's health officer, urged residents to continue following local and state health guidance like wearing a face covering to help the county curb its increase in cases.
"Face coverings help prevent people who do not know they are infected from spreading the virus to others," Farnitano said. "My mask protects you. Your mask protects me. Masks also provide some direct protection for the wearer."
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel suggested the county's recent surge in new cases is tied at least partially to residents celebrating Halloween with people from other households.
Newel also said many of the county's new cases are in young people, who are still fully capable of transmitting the virus to more at-risk populations even if they have mild symptoms.
"We are entering an especially dangerous period of the pandemic, and we ask everyone to meet this challenge by taking measures to protect one another," Newel said.