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San Diego County gets go-ahead to move to orange tier

Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher confirmed Tuesday that San Diego County will move into the orange tier on Wednesday, April 7.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego County is now in the orange tier, with the looser restrictions set to take effect on Wednesday. 

“We are moving into the orange tier effective tomorrow, which again when you think about where we’ve been from regional stay at home to purple to red to now moving into orange -- you can see the positive direction we’re on because of the presence of the vaccine. So that should be very encouraging, not just for the businesses that have been impacted but for all San Diegans,” San Diego Board of Supervisors Chair Fletcher said during a media conference Tuesday.

The move would allow businesses that were already open to expand their indoor operations. Bars that do not serve food will be permitted to open for the first time in almost a year. Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H. also announced an end to the county's 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and wineries that has been in place since July.

"At this point in time, although things could certainly change, I don't see imposing any additional or more restrictive measures," said Wooten. "If we continue to decline, in terms of case rates and daily case counts, we're very happy about the direction things are taking and helping to open up our economy."

Currently, the county’s adjusted case rate sits at 5.8 per 100,000, under the current guideline we would need to be under four for two weeks to move down. However, once the state hit 4 million vaccine doses in low-income areas, the orange tier threshold jumped up to 5.9 per 100,000. Last week the county logged a 4.9 adjusted case rate. 

"The presence of the vaccine and the prioritization of seniors and people with underlying health conditions, those that are the vast majority of hospitalizations, changes that formula and calculus a little bit. A slight uptick in cases is not the same cause for alarm today that it might have been a year ago or six months ago," said Fletcher.

When the county moves into the orange tier on Wednesday, residents will see a big difference. A full breakdown of what will change can be found at the bottom of this story.

  • No capacity limit at stores or malls
  • Restaurants, museums, movies and churches can be at 50% capacity
  • Gyms can go up to 25% capacity
  • Bars that don’t serve food can open outdoors

The move into the orange tier came the same day California reached its goal to vaccinate 20 million residents, including four million people in the hardest-hit communities.

Just last week the state changed the rules allowing indoor gatherings. California health officials announced changes Friday that will allow a resumption of indoor activities such as concerts, conferences and theater performances and a return of fans to indoor sporting events.

However, there is some confusion about large conventions. Mark Ghaly, M.D., the state's Secretary of Health and Human Services, said venues that host more than 5,000 people may not be able to open until October 1. The San Diego Convention Center is scheduled to host its first event in August.

Many of the upcoming indoor activity rules include strict capacity mandates based on a county's tier placement within the state's economic-reopening blueprint, along with requirements for attendees to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID- 19 tests beginning April 15. It's also the same day when all Californians aged 16 and older will be eligible to get a vaccine. 

Wooten told county supervisors San Diego would need to achieve a 75% vaccination rate to reach herd immunity, up from a previous estimate of 70%. 

Fletcher estimated more than half of San Diegans 16 and older have received at least one dose as of Monday and more than 30% are fully vaccinated.

"It seems we are well on track to surpass [herd immunity] by July 1 if not earlier," said Fletcher, in reference to the county's original herd immunity goal. "As supplies increase we will be able to move faster through the other half of these individuals who have yet to get their first dose."

Below is a full breakdown of what will change when San Diego County enters the orange tier on Wednesday:

Social Gatherings (4/15)

Max 50 people, indoor gatherings remain "strongly discouraged"

Private events (4/15)

Max 100 people outdoors

Max 300 outdoors if all are tested or vaccinated

Max 150 indoors if all are tested or vaccinated

Indoor live events (4/15)

Max 15% capacity or 200 people for a venue with a max capacity of 1,500

Max 2,000 people or 10% for venues with a max of 1,501 capacity, can be 35% if all are tested or vaccinated.

Other restrictions from red apply

Museums, theaters, places of worship

50% indoor capacity

Fitness centers

25% capacity (was 10%)

Indoor pools can reopen


50% capacity (was 25%) or 200 people


25% indoor capacity or 100 people

Bars that don't serve food

Open outdoors

Family entertainment centers

25% indoors or 50% if all tested or vaccinated

Alcohol service outside only

Outdoor live events

33% capacity (suites at 25%) of in-state guests only

Removes advanced reservation requirement

Other restrictions from red tier apply


Can reopen indoors, but encourage telework (was remote only)

Amusement Parks/Fairs

25% capacity of in-state guests, indoor venues must have time restrictions

Removes small group and online ticket purchase restrictions

Permits limited indoor dining

Overnight sleepaway camps

Open 6/1

WATCH: San Diego County COVID-19 update Tuesday (4/6)

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