The future is looking cautiously brighter as of Tuesday in the Bay Area, now that Sonoma, Napa, and Contra Costa counties have all graduated to "Orange" tier status, and people can go back to drinking at outdoor bars without ordering food in eight out of nine Bay Area counties.
State health officials updated the Blueprint for a Safer Economy today, with the three Bay Area counties joining 13 others that advanced to less restrictive tiers.
Under the "Orange" tier, gyms can open indoors at 25% capacity, and indoor pools can open as well. Restaurants can raise their indoor capacities to 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer. And bars can operate outdoors without food requirements, though still they can't open up their interior spaces.
Movie theaters and museums can also raise capacities to 50% (or 200 people for movie theaters).
Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press conference that officials had decided, "soberly and thoughtfully, guided by the data," that the four-color tiered system will likely go away by June 15, and most business and entertainment activities can then happen with masks on — though concerts and conventions and the like will require vaccination proof or a negative COVID test if they're happening indoors.
Large-scale, multi-day festivals like Coachella and Outside Lands are a bit of a different beast, however — especially when you consider how far people may travel to attend them.
When asked about these types of events on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said "we don’t yet have the path for those to occur." And he said that allowing such things to occur, even with restrictions, would likely happen "well after June 15." October 1 is now being used as an estimate when more restrictions may be lifted, assuming things don't go sideways with variants or surges.
Ghaly mentioned that something they are looking out for in the coming few months are COVID cases landing in hospitals after a patient has been fully vaccinated. That would possibly indicate the spread of a vaccine-resistant or more virulent strain.
As of Tuesday, California surpassed 20 million vaccine doses administered, and 23% of California adults over 16 are now fully vaccinated.
Also, as of today, California's test-positivity rate is the lowest in the nation at 1.8%, and the statewide average is 5.1 new COVID cases per day per 100,000 residents.