Santa Clara County’s gradual decrease in Covid-19 cases has allowed it to move forward in the state’s reopening criteria, officials announced Oct. 13.

The state reclassified the county into the Orange Tier, also known as Tier 3, as it met a number of testing and case count metrics outlined in California’s reopening guidance.

Beginning Oct. 14, many businesses can reopen indoors. Restaurants can operate at 25 percent capacity indoors, or 100 people, whichever is fewer, and indoor museums and zoos can open up to 50 percent capacity.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 200 people, and indoor gatherings are restricted to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. This includes movie theaters, churches and cultural ceremonies. 

College sports activities can resume without fans as long as they follow county and state requirements.

Under the Orange Tier, there are no capacity limitations for malls and other retail businesses.

Schools can reopen fully for in-person instruction, but it is up to their local districts to determine when that will occur.

According to County Health Officer Sara Cody, the county must have an average daily case count of less than four per 100,000 residents to qualify for the Orange Tier. Santa Clara County’s rate is 4.6; however, it was adjusted to 3.7 due to its higher rate of testing. The state framework gives counties credit toward their case rate if they test more people than the state average.

The county’s daily case counts have returned to mid-June levels, Cody said.

“This was hard fought,” she said. “We ask that everyone continue their efforts to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in our county. Everyone must take responsibility for preventing spread so that we don’t move back to more restrictive tiers under the state’s structure.”

However, she warned that things could change quickly, pointing to July when the county’s case counts tripled in less than a month.

Cody added that county health officials “strongly discourage”  those who are more susceptible to Covid-19 to take part in higher-risk activities such as dining indoors.

County Counsel James Williams said all businesses will be required to submit an updated social distancing protocol within the next 14 days. More information can be found at

He added that the county’s enforcement team will continue to check in with businesses to ensure compliance.

“Moving to the Orange Tier is significant especially given how large a county we are,” he said. “These are all essential steps to say in the Orange Tier. If we fall back for just a couple weeks, the state will move us backwards into the Red Tier. As a community, we have made tremendous progress, but it’s been slow and hard-fought progress.”

As of Oct. 13, 80 people in the county are currently hospitalized due to Covid-19.

According to county health data, Gilroy reported 32 new cases from Oct. 5-12 compared to 45 the week prior. In Morgan Hill, 17 new cases were reported during the same time period, with seven the week before.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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