Two weeks after it advanced to the state's "Orange" tier, Alameda County announced that middle schools and high schools may reopen on or after November 9, with restrictions.

Alameda County, which is second only to Santa Clara County for the most number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to date in the Bay Area, is like six other counties in the region now in the state's second-least restrictive tier for reopening. When the county moved into the "Orange" tier, indicating "moderate" spread of the virus, it allowed elementary schools to reopen as of October 13. In taking this next step two weeks from now, the county will be allowing all school-age children in the county to return for in-person classes, though it is leaving it up to individual districts and schools whether they choose to do so.

As KPIX reports, only 58 elementary schools in the county, most of them private, have opted to reopen so far.

County health department spokesperson Neetu Balram issued a statement Wednesday saying, "Although cases are rising elsewhere in the United States, the sustained stability of local COVID-19 metrics in Alameda County and the surrounding Bay Area counties allows us to move to the next phase of school opening for in-person learning."

As of today, the county has an adjusted rate of new cases per 100,000 people of 3.2 — the figure is adjusted down based on the prevalence of testing in a county — and an overall test positivity rate of 1.6% (San Francisco's is currently 0.82%, and SF County is the only one in the Bay Area to reach the "Yellow" tier, though it has not reopened most high schools for in-person classes yet.)

"The Public Health Department and the Health Care Services Agency are responsible for determining when it is safe to permit students and staff to return to in-person education in Alameda County," said Dr. Nicholas Moss, the Alameda County's Interim Health Officer, in a statement, adding that if cases suddenly begin to spike, restrictions and health orders may change.

He added that not all schools will have the same resources to protect students and teachers by the November 9 date. "Some schools will need more time and should open classrooms only when they and their school communities are prepared to do so," he said.

All schools need to submit a COVID-19 health and safety reopening plan to the county before being allowed to reopen.

Photo: Feliphe Schiarolli