Contra Costa County rolls back reopening over climbing COVID-19 cases

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Two new COVID-19 testing centers in Richmond
Dr. Samir Shah, chief medical officer for Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Health Centers, was helping out May 18 at one of the County's COVID-19 testing sites. (Photo credit: Contra Costa Health Services)

Contra Costa County health officials announced Wednesday they are pulling back on some reopening activities within the county in response to a “substantial” increase in the average daily number of new COVID-19 cases in the county.

Under the new order effective Friday, outdoors bars are no longer allowed to operate unless drinks are part of a meal; indoor dining, indoor movies and religious centers are back to a maximum 25 percent occupancy, or 100 people, whichever is fewer, down from 50-percent or 200 maximum occupants under the current health order.

In addition, cardrooms and satellite wagering sites, previously allowed 25 percent indoor capacity, can no longer operate indoors.

The updated health order also limits the number of spectators allowed at professional and collegiate sporting events to 25 people from no more than three different households.

“We believe these measures are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID in our community,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county’s public health officer.

The recent uptick in cases has occurred since Oct. 27, when the county entered the less-restrictive orange tier in California’s color-coded blueprint for reopening the economy, officials said.

“The most recent data show an adjusted rate of 4.9 daily cases per 100,000 people in Contra Costa – above the orange-tier benchmark of fewer than 4 per 100,000 people,” officials said. Also, 40 people were hospitalized at local hospitals on Nov. 2 due to COVID, compared to a low point of 17 in mid-October.

Should the numbers continue to exceed the orange tier benchmark for another week, Contra Costa will move back to the more restrictive red tier. The county’s newest health order modifications are an attempt to make sure that doesn’t happen.

For now, indoor swimming pools and indoor family entertainment centers (bowling alleys, escape rooms and climbing-wall gyms) can continue “naturally distanced” activities at 25 percent occupancy.

“Over the past months, the Bay Area counties have made the decisions they’ve felt best around opening or not opening businesses and activities,” County officials said. “San Francisco pulled back on their timeline for opening last week, Alameda and Santa Clara have all taken a slower pace than the state tier system allows. All three of these counties are essentially operating at red tier level restrictions even though they are in orange or yellow tiers.”

For more information, visit cchealth.org/coronavirus.