San Francisco, San Mateo County move into purple tier; Santa Clara sets travel quarantine

A flurry of coronavirus tier-list updates were announced by health officials Saturday, bringing greater restrictions to several Northern California counties, including San Francisco, which slid back to the state’s most-restrictive purple tier as coronavirus cases continue to surge at an exponential rate statewide.

Calaveras, Plumas, San Mateo and San Francisco counties will move from the red tier to the purple tier, the state’s most restrictive designation due to rising infection rates, while Modoc County will move from the orange tier to purple. Alpine, Inyo and Mariposa counties, meanwhile, will go from the orange tier to the red tier.

Just as it has elsewhere in Northern California, cases of COVID-19 has been rapidly rising in recent weeks in San Francisco and its southerly neighbor San Mateo County. The most recent weekly average for daily infection reports from the San Francisco Department of Public Health reached a new high of 137, compared with July’s high of 131 at the height of the summer surge.

Although data from the California Department of Public Health indicates a relatively low COVID-19 test positivity rate of 1.8%, San Francisco is averaging more than 14 daily infections per 100,000 city residents.

The majority of the Bay Area is already in the purple tier, with the lone exception being Marin County, which is just one step below in the red tier.

That means both San Francisco, which has nearly 900,000 residents, and San Mateo County, home to about 765,000 people, will be placed under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s limited curfew order, which affects purple-tiered counties and is set to last until Dec. 21. The order takes effect Monday.

Under the curfew, all nonessential activity is limited between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., including in-person dining.

Now, only a few counties in California are exempt from the curfew. Seven counties in total are not in the purple tier, many of which lie along the Sierra Nevada on California’s eastern border.

San Francisco is now required to shut down all indoor dining services — although officials already took the step earlier this month of eliminating indoor dining due to an alarming increase in coronavirus cases.

“This is the most aggressive surge SF has seen to date,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “I don’t know how to be more clear — this is the most dangerous time we’ve faced during this pandemic. Do not travel or gather with others.”

Thus far, 15,342 San Francisco residents have contracted coronavirus, and 160 have died of COVID-19.

Los Angeles County, meanwhile, imposed a stricter lockdown due to the COVID-19 surge on Friday. There, all public and private gatherings with members of multiple households — barring church services and protests — have been banned.

Sacramento County has been in the purple tier and under state curfew orders for some time.

Local health officials said they do not, at the moment, plan to institute any similar full shutdown in Sacramento, but said they will be following the governor and state health officials lead in the coming days and weeks in enacting any further restrictions, should those be called for.

Dr. Peter Beilenson, the county health chief, said that Sacramento, as a “purple tier” county, essentially is largely shut down already. Stores remain open at 25% capacity, but indoor dining has been banned for now, as well as most other indoor group activities.

All counties moved into more restrictive tiers on Saturday are required to implement changes Sunday.

In the past two weeks, California’s weekly rolling average of coronavirus infections has gone up by almost 80%, according to the Mercury News in San Jose. The state was averaging 7,388 daily infections on Nov. 13, but as of Friday, California is averaging 13,092 new cases every day.

A total of 1.18 million Californians have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 19,000 have died as a result. Statewide hospitalization rates have jumped up in response to the recent surge, and in Sacramento County, health officials reported a record-high number of patients.

Santa Clara orders mandatory post-travel quarantine

Santa Clara County, home to 1.9 million residents including 1 million in San Jose, moved into the purple tier earlier this month, announced new restrictions on residents in light of the surge in coronavirus cases.

Among these restrictions is a mandatory quarantine period of 14 days following travel of more than 150 miles. Only health care workers who travel as part of their job or patients traveling for treatment will be exempted from this requirement.

Professional and collegiate contact sports are also prohibited under the new guidelines, which means the San Francisco 49ers may not be able to practice or host games at their Santa Clara facilities.

Alpine County moved into red tier

Alpine County, a rural, mountainous area with very few local infections, moved back from the orange tier to the red tier Saturday, meaning its 1,200 residents will not have to conform to the state’s curfew but will face some additional economic restrictions.

Just 50 people have tested positive in the county, but the test positivity rate has reached the threshold necessary for reassignment into a more restrictive tier.

California Department of Public Health data show that Alpine County’s test positivity rate is 5.8%, a figure which pushed the county over into the red tier. Per 100,000 residents, nearly 77 people are contracting COVID-19 per day.

The county was only moved up from the yellow tier into the orange tier on Tuesday, and will now face even tighter restrictions in the coming days. Restaurants, for example, will have to reduce indoor seating capacity from 50% — the orange tier limit — down to 25%.

“Many of our new cases are due to small gatherings with friends and family,” county health officials said in a statement. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet – faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic and this summer. If COVID-19 continues to spread at this rate, it could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes.”


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