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Contra Costa County tightens capacity limits amid rise in Covid-19 cases

In the face of rising Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations in Contra Costa County over the past week, county public health officials on Wednesday tightened restrictions on business openings and public gatherings, starting Friday.

County health officials on Tuesday told the Board of Supervisors the rising Covid-19 case counts — reflecting trends in the Bay Area, state and nation — and specific numeric metrics could result in a return of Contra Costa County to the “red tier” of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy from the less restrictive “orange tier.”

Jesse Garnier Contra Costa County cumulative Covid-19 cases as of Thursday, November 5, 2020.

That regression could come as early as this coming Tuesday, only two weeks after the county had moved into the orange tier.

The Oct. 27 move into the orange tier triggered an expansion of community reopening activities in the county. But since then, the average daily number of new cases in the county has grown substantially, county health officials said.

Though Contra Costa remains in the orange tier for now, some of the changes announced Wednesday as part of the new health order are the same or similar to red-tier restrictions.

Outdoor bars are again prohibited, except where allowed under restaurant guidance with drinks as part of a meal. Indoor dining returns to a maximum of 25 percent venue capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer — down from 50 percent occupancy or 200 people. Indoor movie theaters and indoor religious services and similar cultural gatherings can operate at a maximum 25 percent occupancy or 100 people, whichever is fewer — down from 50 percent or 200 people.

Cardrooms and satellite wagering sites are again prohibited from indoor operations indoors. Since Oct. 27, these had been allowed to operate indoors at 25 percent capacity.

Nik Wojcik/SFBay The Old Spaghetti Factory staff in Concord, Calif. awaits customers to order and pick up food through front windows.

The new health order also limits the number of spectators at professional or college games to 25 people from no more than three different households. This is consistent with the county’s guidance on private social gatherings, said Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county’s health officer, in a statement.

The state allows counties to impose stricter standards than outlined in the various “tiers” if local health officials deem that necessary. Other Bay Area counties have made similar decisions in the name of caution; last week, San Francisco County pulled back on its reopening timeline, and Alameda and Santa Clara counties have reopened more slowly than the state tier system allows.

Farnitano said in the statement:

“We believe these measures are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID in our community.”

Other activities not specified in the new health order will still be allowed under orange-tier criteria, Farnitano said. These include indoor swimming pools and indoor family entertainment centers, including bowling centers and climbing-wall gyms, that can continue at 25 percent capacity.

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