San Diego County to enter red tier Wednesday

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SAN DIEGO — Restaurants, movie theaters, fitness centers and other businesses will be able to resume indoor activities Wednesday.

The state revealed new data Tuesday that moves San Diego County to enter the less-restrictive red tier, allowing many businesses to open indoors at 25% capacity, including restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship.

Schools can reopen for in-person instruction once a county has been in the red tier for a minimum of two weeks.

“This is another strong step forward in our responsible recovery from COVID-19,” Nathan Fletcher, Chair of the Board of Supervisors, said. “While it has been a long year, particularly for our gyms and restaurants, the vaccine has given us hope that we can not only save lives, but get our way of life back.”

State officials modified California’s four-tiered reopening blueprint to allow slightly higher case rates per 100,000 people once 2 million vaccines were administered in the state’s hardest-hit communities. The milestone was reached last week.

The floor for the purple tier moved to 10 daily cases per 100,000 population. As of Tuesday’s state update, San Diego County has an adjusted case rate of 6.8 per 100,000. Last week, the county had a case rate of 8.8 per 100,000.

The county also posted a seven-day average of 2.8% of COVID-19 tests returning positive and a 4.2% health equity quartile positivity rate. Both those rates qualify the county for the even less-restrictive orange, or moderate, tier but the state restricts movement between tiers to the worst-performing metric.

The county must remain the red tier for at least three weeks before it can move to a less restrictive tier. Then, the county must post two consecutive weeks of data in the orange tier before it can advance.

San Diegans waited months to hear San Diego County will officially be in the red tier Wednesday.

“That’s amazing news,” said Yidnek Meferia, owner of Flexx Fitness Club downtown.

By Tuesday afternoon, Meferia was already preparing his gym for the partial reopening.

“We need people to come in, and we’re ready,” he said. “We have the air filtration system here, infrared heating system here.”

Gyms can open indoors at 10% capacity and personal care services can open indoors with modifications. In two weeks, outdoor events like Padres games can open at 20% capacity and amusement parks at 15%.

“It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful day in San Diego,” said James Sanders, who stopped in at Field Irish Pub in the Gaslamp District. The manager of the restaurant, Philip Nestor, said they’ll be ready to open the doors for lunch Wednesday.

“It’s massive,” Nestor said. “It will keep us going, keep us open for sure.”

Exactly one year ago, restaurants like his were forced to shut down for the first time. Police officers went door-to-door to spread the word. It’s been a long road but things are finally looking up.

He said opening at 25% capacity will double their current revenue. Even better, Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s like an anniversary for everyone too,” he said. “I think people are ready to let loose and enjoy themselves.”

San Diego County public health officials reported 257 new COVID-19 infections and 10 deaths Tuesday, increasing the total cases to 265,906. The death count to remains at 3,462.

Of 8,790 tests reported Tuesday, 3% returned positive. The 14-day rolling average is 2.8%.

Hospitalizations decreased to 290 from Monday’s 300, while patients in intensive care beds increased by two to 97. There are 72 staffed, available ICU beds in San Diego County.

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Oceanside began administering shots Tuesday. The walk-in clinic offers vaccines from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday at the North Coastal Health and Human Services Agency building, 1701 Mission Ave.

The county’s first and largest vaccination super site will close Saturday. The Petco Park site, which has provided more than 200,000 Moderna vaccines, has closed multiple times due to lack of vaccines, but with the Padres preparing for opening day, its closure was inevitable.

The county, UC San Diego, the city and Padres opened the superstation on Jan. 11. It has five other superstations in La Jolla, Chula Vista, La Mesa, San Marcos and Del Mar, even as the last one faces supply issues of its own.

Scripps Health said the number of vaccines it received this week necessitates shutting down the Del Mar Fairgrounds COVID-19 vaccination super site Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following a weekend shutdown that started Friday. The site is scheduled to be open Thursday.

More than 722,000 — or 26.9% of San Diego County residents over the age of 16 — have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccines and more than 450,000 people — or 16.7% — have been fully vaccinated.

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