More indoor businesses, including movie theaters, gyms and restaurant dining rooms, may be able to reopen in Contra Costa County as soon as next week, should COVID-19 case trends continue, the county's health officer said Tuesday.
Dr. Chris Farnitano said that, as of Tuesday, Contra Costa has met the state's "red tier" criteria for one week. The county, currently in the "purple tier," will have to show it meets those standards again on Sept. 29 to join most of the rest of the Bay Area in the less constrained red tier. Sonoma County is the only other Bay Area county still in the purple tier as of Tuesday; Alameda, San Mateo and Solano counties made the move to the red tier this week.
Two key numbers registered Tuesday were the county's "cases per day per 100,000 population" number (6.5 cases), and its testing positivity rate (3.4%). Similar numbers recorded on Sept. 29, Farnitano said, will enable Contra Costa's move into the red tier.
Among the openings allowed in "red tier" counties are indoor gyms (at 10% capacity), museums and movie theaters (at 25% capacity), restaurant dining rooms and houses of worship and other cultural spaces (25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer).
Businesses that have been open under purple-tier rules can expand under red tier; nail salons, skin care boutiques and tattoo parlors can resume indoor operations, and indoor retail and shopping malls can go from 25% to 50% capacity.
Farnitano told the supervisors the plan is for the county to allow as much reopening as state red tier specifications allow.
"The most important thing is to be prepared to pull back if we see the numbers going the wrong way," he said.
Also, if current COVID-19 case trends continue, elementary, middle and high schools would be allowed to open as soon as Oct. 13 without needing waivers, Farnitano said.
Farnitano also said the COVID-19 death rate in Contra Costa is far lower than the national average. In Contra Costa as of Tuesday, 202 COVID-19 deaths had been recorded. That compares to about 700 deaths if Contra Costa had lost patients at the national rate.
Farnitano credited the relatively good local showing to residents being dedicated to the basics of preventing the spread of the virus -- washing hands, social distancing, wearing face coverings, staying home when possible.
He also said there have been more than 330,000 COVID-19 tests administered in Contra Costa, improving numbers, though still not enough, he said.
Getting flu vaccines, important in any year, takes on special importance in 2020, Farnitano said,to help ensure hospitals and clinics don't have to deal with two viruses that, at first, exhibit similar symptoms. And flu vaccine, he said, should be plentiful this season.