SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—California health officials on Tuesday moved Santa Cruz County into the less restrictive “Moderate” or Orange tier, meaning that several businesses can reopen and welcome in more customers.
The move means that the county is seeing 1-3.9 new cases per 100,00 in population. Previously, the county was in the “Substantial” or red category, which is designated for those with 4-7 new cases per 100,000.
“We are doing very good about where we are as a county in terms of our Covid response,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel said during a press conference Tuesday morning.
Beginning today, restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and museums may increase indoor operations to 50% capacity, Newel said.
That is good news for the Green Valley Cinema at 1125 S. Green Valley Road, which opened Oct. 16 at only 25% capacity.
The theater can now double those numbers, but is still keeping its customers apart from each other and sanitizing theaters between movies, said manager Lori Adragna.
The theater is now showing first-run movies, as well as the 1978 classic “Halloween.”
“We want people to know we are open for business,” she said.
In addition, retail establishments can go to full capacity.
Bars, breweries and distilleries may resume outdoor operations, and wineries can resume indoor operations at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Gyms and fitness centers may increase indoor capacity from 10% to 25%.
Amusement parks, family entertainment centers, nonessential offices and live-audience sports, which were restricted under the previous tier, may open with modifications.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, for example, can allow 500 guests at a time for outdoor activities only, and only county residents.
Boardwalk spokesman Kris Reyes was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon. An employee who answered the phone said that officials are considering options about how, and when, to open.
Despite the good news, Newel said that the lessened restrictions do not mean that people should stop practicing safety measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. This includes wearing face masks, social distancing and avoiding large group gatherings.
“This does not indicate that you are any safer when you are out and about in our community,” she said. “This is not some kind of magic change in our community. You need to remember to take all the same precautions that you are taking already.”
Also during the press conference, Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency Director Mimi Hall said that the Covid-19 testing site at Ramsay Park in Watsonville will soon increase its capacity to 165 tests per day. Officials hope to add a second “lane” at that site that will offer an additional 165 tests per day.
The county is also seeking an additional site in North County with a capacity of 165 tests per day, Hall said.
As of Wednesday, there were 214 known active cases of Covid-19 in Santa Cruz County. Watsonville has continued to bear the brunt of the county’s cases, as the southernmost city has accounted for 56.1% of the county’s cases (1,615) despite holding just 18.7% of the population.
Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting said despite the move to the less restrictive tier the community should continue to practice social distancing and other preventative measures as cases are expected to rise during winter.
In an effort to avoid mass multi-family gatherings, Huffaker said that Watsonville cemeteries will be closed for Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a traditional holiday in Mexico that celebrates family members and friends who have died, from Oct. 31-Nov. 2. He, instead, encouraged the community to visit the cemeteries before or after the closures are lifted, and to join the various virtual celebrations.
“This year we can expect the celebration to be very different than it has in year’s past,” he said.
For local information on COVID-19, go to www.santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus, call 211 or text “COVID19” to 211211. Residents may also call 454-4242 between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.
For information on California’s tiered system, visit covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.