News Flash

Menlo Park COVID-19 Pandemic News

Posted on: February 23, 2021

2/23/2021 - State loosens restrictions in San Mateo County; Red Tier allows for more reopening

As San Mateo County’s COVID-19 positivity rate and other metrics improve, the state of California announced Tuesday, Feb. 23, the wider reopening of businesses and certain activities in our county.

The county as of 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24, moves from the most-restrictive Purple Tier 1 to Red Tier 2 in the state’s four-tier, color-coded reopening plan.  

The move allows positive changes for numerous businesses:

  • Restaurants can resume indoor dining with modifications
  • Gyms can open indoors with modifications
  • Retail and shopping centers can increase capacity

The county progressed to the Red Tier 2 due to two metrics calculated by the state:

  1. Case rate has fallen to 5.6 percent
  2. Health equity quartile positivity rate has fallen to 3.7 percent (The health equity quartile measures rates of infection with the virus in the county’s most disadvantaged communities based on the California Healthy Places Index

The County’s outreach to and support of these communities in the Healthy Places Index are given significant weight in the State’s formula for the tier allocation.

“It is something to applaud,” said Louise Rogers, chief of San Mateo County Health. “Reducing that disparity is going in the right direction. Our goal is to drive that disparity, affecting our most impacted communities, to zero.”

Rogers said the rate of local COVID testing – 821 per 100,000 residents each day – places the county second to Yolo County in the most tests per day among the state’s 58 counties.

“Testing remains important, so we have good information about the extent of the spread of the virus in our community,” Rogers said.

Local COVID-19 cases spiked in December 2020. Positive cases set a record of 546 on Jan. 4, 2021, then fell over the past month. Still, cases have doubled since Dec. 9, 2020, from 19,107 to 38,353 through Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021.

To move to the next phase of reopening – Orange Tier 3 – further opens sectors of the economy, if positivity rates and additional metrics continue to fall.

School operations:

Decisions on public school operations are made by local school boards in consultation with the San Mateo County Office of Education. Individuals interested in the potential impact on schools should contact local school districts.

Youth and adult recreational sports:

Individuals interested in the status of youth and adult recreational sports should check with local governing organizations, local parks and recreation departments or both. The California Department of Public Health has issued new guidance on outdoor and indoor sports that takes effect Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.

Moving to Red Tier 2 allows:

  • Restaurants indoors
    Max 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • All retail indoors
    Max 50 percent capacity
  • Shopping centers, swap meets indoors
    Max 50 percent capacity, closed common areas, reduced capacity food courts
  • Personal care services – hair and nail salons, barbershops
    Open with modifications
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums
    Max 25 percent capacity
  • Places of worship
    Max 25 percent capacity
  • Movie theaters indoors
    Max 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • Gyms and fitness centers indoors
    Max 10 percent capacity
  • Family entertainment centers (kart racing, mini-golf, batting cages)
    Open for outdoors only with modifications

Amusement parks, bars without meal service, bowling alleys, indoor playgrounds, live theater, saunas and steam rooms, nightclubs and festivals are not permitted.

Businesses can review the state’s industry guidance for specific requirements.

Small private gatherings are allowed outdoors and indoors with modifications:

  • Masks and physical distancing required
  • No more than three separate households attend (including the host’s)
  • Gatherings should be 2 hours or less
  • Those with symptoms must not attend
  • Those at high risk of severe illness strongly encouraged not to attend
  • Singing, shouting, chanting, cheering, or exercising strongly discouraged outdoors and not permitted indoors
  • See guidance for gatherings.

Travel recommendations - State travel advisory remains in effect:

Californians should remain local (not traveling more than 120 miles from their home or other place of residence) and avoid non-essential travel. Travelers from other states or countries entering into California for tourism and recreation are strongly discouraged.

Some travel is considered essential and necessary. “Essential travel” is travel associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or otherwise required or expressly authorized by law (including other applicable state and local public health directives), including:

  • Critical infrastructure (like the water supply or power grid)
  • Economic services (like banking)
  • Supply chains (like food distribution)
  • Health care and immediate medical care
  • Safety and security
  • Work and study

Learn more about local COVID-19 testing and vaccination information.

Contact: Public Engagement Manager Clay Curtin
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