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COVID Reopening: Alameda, San Mateo And Solano Counties Move To Red Tier; All Nail Salons Cleared To Reopen

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A number of Bay Area counties were able to move from the Purple or Widespread Tier of California's monitoring guidelines to the Red or Substantial Tier, according to health officials.

Changes to the updated section of the state COVID-19 website late Tuesday morning reflected that Alameda, San Mateo and Solano counties had all moved from Purple to Red.

ALSO READ: COVID-19 Reopening: What Has Reopened In Each Bay Area County?

The designation allows for increased business operations due to decreasing case rates. Currently, Sonoma and Contra Costa counties are the only Bay Area regions that remain in the Purple Tier.

"Alameda, Riverside, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo and Solano all reaching the thresholds for two consecutive weeks, moving from Purple to Red," said California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly during his weekly update on the state's monitoring of COVID-19 risk.

Before Tuesday's announcement, all Bay Area counties were in the Purple Tier except Santa Clara, Marin, San Francisco and Napa counties.

Late last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom provided details on California's new simplified, four-tiered COVID-19 guidelines for counties to reopen specific business sectors based on what health officials have learned about the pandemic in recent months.

Alameda County health officials issued a cautious statement in response to the move to the Red Tier, saying that there would be no immediate changes to what is currently permitted or prohibited in the county. The health department will be monitoring COVID-19 data through October 6 to ensure that Alameda County's metrics remain stable before releasing "a phased plan that balances increased risk of spread of COVID-19 from newly permitted activities alongside appropriate mitigation strategies."

The announcement emphasized the importance of reopening schools as soon as possible due to the educational inequities of students attending classes remotely, but clarified "schools must continue distance learning until such time that local conditions support in-person learning, even if the County meets the State's criteria for in-person learning."

However, the statement from Alameda County encouraged all schools and school districts "to prioritize preparing for reopening and engaging parents and staff in the planning so they can be ready" when the time comes. The Public Health Department and the County Office of Education collaborated to develop COVID-19 reopening guidance for schools that are available online. Waivers for Alameda County elementary schools to reopen have already been received and are being reviewed, county officials said.

San Mateo County Supervisor David J. Canepa released a statement Tuesday after the state announced the county has moved from the Purple Tier to the Red Tier on the state's COVID-19 monitoring list.

"Hallelujah, we are out of the purple and into the red," Canepa said. "Now we can eat indoors again, go see a movie and get some exercise at the gym. We've increased testing and have seen case rates decline but it doesn't mean this pandemic is over. We must still practice social distancing, avoid large crowds and most importantly continue to wear our masks."

San Mateo County has an adjusted case rate of 6.6 new cases per day per 100,000 people, and a 4.5 percent testing positivity rate for the week ending Sept. 12. Both numbers are based on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag. The county must continue to have an adjusted case rate below 7 percent and a testing positivity rate below 8 percent to remain in the red tier.

While Solano County health officials have not released a statement regarding the move to the Red Tier, the county's Office of Education noted that if Solano County remained at the Red Tier for 14 consecutive days, schools in the county would have the option to return to in-person instruction. However, officials also noted that districts may choose to remain in a distance learning model.

Dr. Ghaly also announced that the guidelines have been updated allowing nail salons to resume indoor operation in any county still designated at the Purple Tier, essentially letting those salons reopen across the state. Ghaly said that more details on guidance for that sector to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread for customers and staff would be made available soon.

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