Outdoor dining
People drink and dine outdoors behind a plastic barrier at a bar and restaurant in Pacific Beach. REUTERS/Bing Guan

The latest ranking by the California Department of Public Health put San Diego County in the less-restrictive “red” tier of coronavirus infection effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning that she expected the reclassification after the county’s case rate came in at 6.8 per 100,000 population, well under the threshold of 10 per 100,000.

“Tomorrow, Wednesday, the county can officially move to the red tier,” Wooten told the board.

Supervisor Jim Desmond confirmed the move, which was officially announced by the state at noon, when it released the weekly update of county rankings under the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

“While I would like to see more open, including getting all our students back in the classroom, allowing weddings/events to take place, and getting more people back to work, we are moving forward,” said Desmond.

Being in the red tier means restaurants, movie theaters, museums and places of worship can open indoors at 25% capacity. Retail businesses in shopping centers can increase capacity from 25% to 50%. Bars remain closed indoors, but gyms can reopen at 10% capacity.

The change also opens the way for schools to reopen for in-person instruction, and for live outdoor events at 20% capacity — meaning fans could be in the stands for Padres opening day on April 1.

All establishments will still be required to follow social distancing and face covering guidelines for their employees and patrons.

“This is another strong step forward in our responsible recovery from COVID-19,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “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.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.