Santa Clara County is easing local COVID-19 restrictions weeks before the state is set to fully reopen.
County health officials Tuesday announced the move to the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The change, effective Wednesday, will allow most businesses to operate indoors with minimal modifications, including bars that don’t serve food.
“We are in a different and much safer place than we were before, and as a result are able to make significant changes,” said Dr. Sara Cody, county public health director and health officer.
Case rates in Santa Clara County have declined to some of the lowest levels at any point in the pandemic, Cody said, and test positivity rates have hit an all-time low. Health officials are confident that vaccines prevent people from spreading COVID-19 based on the latest research.
As such, Cody said she will lift most of the local restrictions currently in place, including requirements that businesses maximize the number of staff who are teleworking, replacing prior rules with a limited local health order that goes into effect Wednesday.
The limited local health order will:
- Require employers to determine the vaccination status of employees within 14 days
- Define safety rules for unvaccinated employees or those not eligible for inoculation
- Require workplaces and schools to continue reporting positive cases to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department
In addition to that, officials said businesses will no longer need to impose social distancing protocols.
“As the state prepares to lift its Blueprint for a Safer Economy and adopt even more differentiated rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, this order will help businesses and the public prepare,” County Counsel James Williams said. “The bottom line is that now is the moment to ensure you’re fully vaccinated.”
About 1,210,744 Santa Clara County residents 16 and older—75.2%—have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 953,621 people, or 59.2%, have received two doses. To date, 118,687 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,098 have died.
The move to the yellow tier comes less than a month before California lifts COVID-19 restrictions on June 15, provided that there is enough vaccine supply for residents 16 and older and hospitalizations remain low. Nine other states have fully reopened and 38 other states plan to do so soon.
“We are getting closer to pre-pandemic normalcy,” Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is closer and brighter than ever because the residents of Santa Clara County have stepped up.”
Though some restrictions are lifting, the county will continue to follow the state’s mask mandate, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention easing its own guidelines last week for fully vaccinated people who are not immunocompromised. The CDC’s guidance says fully vaccinated people can go without masks indoors and outdoors as long as they’re not on a plane or on public transportation.
The mask mandate is expected to lift when California fully reopens on June 15.
Santa Clara County is still working to vaccinate residents, including 12- to 15-year-olds eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. In recent weeks, focus has shifted to ensuring youth and Latinos have access to shots.
Black and Latino residents have the lowest vaccination rates in Santa Clara County, and recent data shows that one in 10 Santa Clara County residents are refusing a COVID-19 vaccine due to fear of side effects or safety concerns, misinformation and scheduling issues.
The county is continuing to make efforts to reach the communities hit hardest by the pandemic to ensure equitable access to COVID vaccines. The latest information about vaccines and appointments is available on the county’s vaccine website at sccfreevax.org.
Contact Nick Preciado at [email protected]