Alameda County was upgraded to the orange tier in the state's COVI9-19 blueprint on Tuesday, another improvement that sets the stage for the lessening of certain restrictions on indoor businesses in the future.
Alameda County Public Health Department officials announced later Tuesday that they plan to draft a new health order that will take effect in two weeks and allow limited indoor dining and other activities for the first time since March.
County officials said reaching the orange tier -- which means the county currently has a "moderate" COVID-19 infection as opposed to the previous red tier "substantial" rating -- was achieved due to residents coming together countywide to slow the spread of COVID-19. But they also cautioned that the virus is still very much present and social distancing policies still need to be strictly followed.
"We are glad to see improving case rates and decreasing test positivity, including among our communities of color, but we caution residents that cases can rise very quickly, as we saw during the summer surge," said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County's interim health officer.
"Especially with flu season coming, if we see spikes in COVID-19 cases and a rise in hospitalizations, we will take action to limit the spread and protect public health including resuming restrictions if needed," Moss added.
According to the state's four-level, color-coded "Blueprint for a Safer Economy" criteria, Alameda County reached the orange tier after recording between one and 3.9 cases per 100,000 per week and documenting a COVID-19 positive testing rate between 2%-4.9% (with a "health equity metric" between 2.2%-5.2%) over seven days. Both metrics were achieved for two consecutive weeks.
As of Tuesday, ACPHD has reported 22,216 confirmed cases and 431 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. In the Tri-Valley, Livermore has reported 965 cases, followed by Pleasanton with 476 and Dublin with 298. Countywide, the percentage of tests that return positive rests at 4.5%.
No new activities allowed under the orange tier were yet permitted in Alameda County as of Tuesday, as local health officials have discretion on reopenings, but ACPHD staff said they are in the process of drafting a new health order to allow for additional reopenings for the week of Oct. 26.
The indoor activities being contemplated to resume in Alameda County, which were allowable under the state's red tier guidelines but remained closed locally as a precaution by ACPHD, include:
* Indoor dining up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less.
* Indoor worship services up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less.
* Indoor theaters up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less.
* Expansion of indoor retail and malls at up to 50% of capacity and permitting limited food courts.
Beginning this Friday, Alameda County will also permit additional outdoor activities, including playgrounds that follow the state's guidance. Pleasanton officials said the city's 48 park playgrounds would reopen next week, on Oct. 21.
Previous red tier reopenings included indoor nail salon services and gyms, indoor personal services, indoor museums, and hotels for leisure travel. As of Tuesday school districts are also permitted to allow elementary-aged students to return to the classroom when schools are ready.
County officials warn for residents to continue to be diligent with social distancing and wearing masks, especially with flu season right around the corner.
"Steps to reduce the chances of becoming sick with the flu are the same as those to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and include: wearing a mask, keeping at least six feet of physical distance from anyone you don't live with, limiting mixing with people outside your household, and washing your hands regularly," ACPHD officials said in a statement.