With Kern County on the verge of entering into the more lenient red tier, a slew of businesses and public gathering places could potentially reopen or expand operations next week.
On Tuesday, Kern County’s COVID-19 metrics met the requirements to enter into the red tier 2 for the first time since the state debuted the four-tier system known as the Blueprint for a Safer Economy about five weeks ago. Previously, the county had been slotted in the purple tier 1 because the rate of new cases each day and positivity rate exceeded state metrics.
Designed to reward counties with falling rates of coronavirus spread, the system allows for the gradual reopening of businesses and public spaces as less virus is detected within the community. In Kern, businesses have been subjected to the most restrictive of the state’s regulations.
A county can only enter a less restrictive tier if it meets the standards for two weeks straight. Kern County is nearing the end of its two-week interim period. If its metrics hold, the county will be able to allow expanded economic activity.
During a Thursday press conference, Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said he was highly optimistic that Kern County’s coronavirus metrics would be low enough for the county to go from the tier 1 to tier 2 when the state releases its weekly update on Tuesday.
“Today’s numbers look good,” he said. “I think tomorrow’s numbers, we feel are looking good — our projections — and we are going to continue to put a good effort forward to do all the things we need to do as a community to sustain the effort to ensure that we move into the red tier.”
Below is a list of activities that would be allowed should Kern’s COVID-19 metrics remain low enough for the county to enter the red tier on Tuesday, according to the state’s website.
Gyms and fitness centers: Workout facilities would be able to move from outdoor operations only to indoor operations limited at 10 percent capacity.
Higher education: Colleges and universities would be allowed to hold indoor lectures limited to 25 percent capacity or 100 people. Certain courses like labs and art studios could be held at normal capacity.
Hotels, lodging and short-term rentals: Fitness centers, previously only allowed in outdoor settings, could now open indoors at 10 percent capacity.
Movie theaters: Allowed to open while limited at 25 percent capacity or 100 people.
Museums, zoos and aquariums: Allowed to expand capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent.
Office workspaces: Must remain in remote work.
Personal care services: Allowed to open indoors with modifications to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Places of worship: Allowed to hold services indoors at 25 percent capacity or 100 people.
Restaurants, wineries and bars: Restaurants would be allowed to serve customers indoors at 25 percent capacity or 100 people. Wineries can open for outdoor service. Bars, breweries and distilleries must remain closed.
Retail: Could expand indoor operations from 25 percent capacity to 50 percent capacity.
Schools: Two weeks after the county enters the red tier, schools may begin holding in-person classes. Certain schools may already have obtained a waiver to reopen.
Shopping centers: Could expand indoor operations from 25 percent to 50 percent. Food courts could reopen in a limited fashion.
Once in the red tier, the county could further advance into the orange tier, which would allow further activity. In order to do so, the county would have to significantly reduce its case rate to below an average of four new cases per day per 100,000 residents and its positivity rate to below 5 percent.
As of Tuesday, Kern's case rate stood at 5.1 new daily cases per 100,000, which was adjusted up to 5.4 because the county's rate of overall tests fell below the state average. Kern's positivity rate was 4.7 percent.
A county must be in a tier a minimum of two weeks before moving to a less restrictive tier.
"We're taking these tiers one step at a time," Alsop said. "Our goal today is to move into this next less restrictive tier, this red tier. Once that is done, we will continue to work as a county team, with all of you, all of our residents, all of our business community toward moving into the next tier."