Santa Cruz County health officials are welcoming news the county is advancing along Gov. Gavin Newsom's tiered reopening track, but also cautioning residents that this is not a time for complacency.
The advance is good news for residents, signaling dropping COVID-19 case counts and also clearing the way for broader reopening, from gyms to movie theaters and potentially a limited reopening of the famed Santa Cruz beach boardwalk for county residents only.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday that Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties have moved into orange tier on the state's COVID-19 monitoring system.
Restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship can increase capacity from 25 to 50 percent and indoor gyms, hotels and family entertainment centers move to 25 percent.
"I want to give credit where credit is due and that’s with the community itself," Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said Tuesday.
Greg St. Claire owns four restaurants on the peninsula and says outdoor dining has been a lifesaver in the short term.
“That dining has saved a ton of jobs, gotten us back almost to pre-COVID volume," but it will not be enough, he said. "As the winter starts to knock on our doorsteps, this news of moving up a tier is absolutely fantastic news.”
Dr. Newel cautioned the advancement does not mean the pandemic is over.
"My biggest concern is that folks will think this means that we’re doing so well that they can abandon the usual practices that they have been doing," said Dr. Newel.
According to the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, there have been 2,821 cases of coronavirus during the pandemic with 207 active cases, with 25 known deaths due to complications from COVID-19. A skilled nursing facility in Santa Cruz County, the Watsonville Post-Acute Center, has struggled with an outbreak of the coronavirus.
So far, it’s claimed the lives of at least 18 residents.