San Mateo County has moved into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, meaning looser restrictions on businesses, gatherings and activities starting Wednesday.
The county moved from the red Tier 2 to the orange Tier 3, the state announced on Tuesday, indicating a reduced risk of COVID-19 transmission. Local health officials say increased testing helped improve the county's COVID-19 numbers.
The state assigned this week's tiers based on data from the week ending Oct. 17, when San Mateo County had an adjusted case rate of 3 per day per 100,000, a test positivity rate of 1.6 percent and a health equity quartile test positivity rate of 3.7 percent.
"This is a total team effort, and by team I mean everyone who lives and works and loves San Mateo County," County Manager Mike Callagy said in a news release Tuesday. "Every time you wear your face covering, wash your hands, practice social distancing and take other common-sense precautions, you contribute to the team effort to reopening our economy and returning our lives to as normal as possible."
In the orange tier, additional businesses may loosen restrictions.
Dine-in restaurants, places of worship, gyms, malls and retail stores, museums and movie theaters may increase their capacity in the orange tier.
Bars and breweries not serving food may open outdoors only. Family entertainment centers may offer indoor activities such as bowling alleys and escape rooms with limited capacities.
Non-essential offices may open indoors with modifications, but remote work is still encouraged.
The changes took effect 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Festivals, nightclubs and live theater remain closed.
For a full list of which businesses and activities may reopen, click here and enter "San Mateo." Businesses and activities must follow the state's industry guidelines.
Dan Peterson, one of the owners of Old County Cellars, a winery in San Carlos, said they're thrilled with the move to the orange tier, as they were anxiously, but patiently waiting to be able to open indoors again. In the red tier, wineries could only open outdoors.
"It's just not as conducive to wine tasting to be right on the street, so we're happy to be opening back up indoors," Peterson said, adding that they will offer as safe an environment as possible.
Increased re-openings are especially good for small businesses, according to Rosanne Foust, president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association.
"They have remained resolute in following all the health orders. They've followed all the guidelines and now the success of us being able to reopen is just thrilling," Foust said in an interview. "These are businesses that have held on for seven months. Now they have an opportunity to reimagine themselves and reinvent themselves."
Foust encouraged businesses to remain vigilant and continue following health and safety protocols.
Local health officials also warned that people should not let their guard down, especially with the holiday season approaching. The county encouraged people to find alternative ways to celebrate Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in order to avoid COVID-19 exposure.
"We can't stress enough: wear your face covering, wash your hands, avoid close-contact with anyone not in your household," San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow said in a statement on Tuesday. "We have too much riding on our progress to go backwards now. Our comeback depends on all of us."