San Francisco moves to yellow tier, triggering long list of openings

San Francisco will be the first Bay Area county to advance to the least-stringent yellow tier, but Marin County — which is on the cusp of the yellow tier — will remain in the orange, according to the California Department of Public Health’s Tuesday update of tier levels.

With a jump into the yellow tier, San Francisco is able to move forward with new reopenings and expand additional activities, and the city said its new public health order will align with the state, with some exceptions. 

The city’s advancement permits some types of businesses to reopen for the first time since the start of the pandemic, including indoor bars, indoor family entertainment such as roller skating rinks, and libraries at limited capacity.

Marin has been on the brink of moving into the yellow tier for weeks now. The county’s Health Director Matt Willis urged residents to not be discouraged.

“I know some are disappointed by this, but it’s important to remember why we are taking these measures in the first place,” Willis said. “It’s to prevent serious illness and death mainly, and we’ve been very successful there. Our hospitalization and death rates are among the lowest they’ve been in a year. All Marin schools are open, public and private. We have high vaccination rates.”

A key metric in determining tier level is a county’s adjusted-case rate, which changes based on the number of tests performed. Willis said that while the county has seen a slight uptick in cases, a decline in the number of people getting tested in the county is the main factor keeping the county in the orange. 

“I think it highlights the limitation of a process based on a single metric measured on a single day,” Willis said; the county currently has 62% of those 16 and over fully vaccinated. “In our case, our testing rate is declining significantly. As the most highly vaccinated county, there’s local and CDC guidance that people who are vaccinated don’t need to access testing.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month the state will fully reopen its economy June 15 and dissolve the so-called Blueprint for a Safer Economy, where tier levels dictate which businesses can open based on the severity of virus spread in a county. In the meantime, the state will continue to operate under the blueprint that was adopted in August.

In the Bay Area, most counties are in the orange tier, with the exceptions of San Francisco in the yellow tier and Solano in the red tier, the second-most-restrictive tier.

The state’s color-coded reopening framework assigns a tier to each county, dictating which business sectors and activities can operate. There are four tiers with “purple” indicating widespread pandemic; “red,” substantial; “orange,” moderate and “yellow,” minimal.

The state announced new tier assignments on Tuesdays, and counties can move forward with reopenings as early as Wednesday. Counties can move at a slower pace than the state, and San Francisco will allow the new reopenings beginning Thursday, May 6.

Here’s a look at some of the reopenings S.F. will allow beginning Thursday. 

– Indoor bars, breweries and wineries may open to 25% capacity up to 100 people.  

– The three-household table limit on indoor dining is lifted and up to eight people are allowed per table.  

– Ice-skating and roller-skating rinks, arcades, golf and playgrounds can open at up to 50% capacity. 

– Mini-golf, pool halls and bowling alleys can expand to 50% capacity.

– Outdoor small gatherings can expand to 75 participants, even if food and beverages are consumed. Masks may be removed as long as six feet of distance is maintained between participants. Unvaccinated people are encouraged to wear facial coverings.

– Indoor small gatherings can expand to 50% capacity, or up to 50 people, with face coverings (unless everyone is fully vaccinated or there is one unvaccinated household that is low-risk).

– Libraries can open to 50% capacity. 

– Offices can expand to 50% capacity, not counting fully vaccinated personnel. 

– Indoor live audience venues may expand to 50% capacity, and those events in which food and beverages are served may host groups of less than 200 people, without requiring proof of vaccinations or negative tests. Events of up to 300 people or those that take up less than 25% of the venue capacity do not require an approved health and safety plan or proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test. 

– Outdoor live audience venues may expand to 67% capacity and those events in which food and beverages are served may host groups of less than 300 people, without requiring proof of vaccinations or negative tests. 

– Outdoor arts, music and theater festivals permitted to expand to up to 100 people. 

– Indoor fitness and athletic recreation youth and adult facilities can expand to 50% capacity and classes may expand to 50% capacity up to 200 people. 

– Indoor swimming pools can increase capacity to 50%. 

– Saunas, steam rooms and indoor hot tubs may reopen at 25% capacity. 

– Adult day programs and senior community centers can expand to 50% indoor capacity, up to 50 people. 

– Eating or drinking in cafes or restaurants in grocery and other retail stores will be allowed, following indoor dining rules.