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COVID Surge: Santa Clara, Marin Counties To Halt Indoor Dining; Move Back To Red Tier Imminent

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- Santa Clara and Marin County will halt all indoor dining amid a sudden spike of COVID-19 cases, with other Bay Area counties set to follow suit, health authorities announced Friday.

In addition, the dramatic increase in cases will assure the counties will be moved to the state's Red Tier of coronavirus risk beginning on Tuesday when the state provides its next assessment. Unless the current surge is quickly brought under control, both counties expect to be moved to the Purple Tier in the next few weeks, according to health officials.

READ MORE: COVID Roundup: Thanksgiving Gathering Fears Mount; Cal Football Still In Limbo; State Reaches Grim Milestone

The shutdown for indoor dining in the county will go into effect on Tuesday, November 17 at 12:01 a.m., officials said.  San Francisco and Contra Costa counties have already moved to pause indoor dining in addition to other rollbacks. Alameda, San Mateo and Solano counties still allow limited indoor dining, while Sonoma County does not as it remains in the Purple Tier with the most restrictive guidelines set by the state.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said on Friday alone, there were 362 new cases of coronavirus, while there are 110 people hospitalized in the county with the virus, a jump from an average of 80 patients in October. Cody also said the average number of new cases per day in the county has more than doubled since early October.

"It goes straight up," said Cody, gesturing to a graph showing a steep increase in cases in the past ten days. "Similar to San Francisco, we will be closing indoor dining. We anticipate that as of Tuesday the state will be assigning us to the Red Tier."

If Santa Clara County were to move back into the state's red tier, outdoor bars would be forced to close and so would bowling alleys and indoor entertainment centers. Gyms would be capped at 10 percent capacity. Wineries and cardrooms would be allowed to operate, but outside only.

"We've had an extended, warm summer and early fall and it's been great," said Dan Holder, the owner of Jack Holder's Restaurant in San Jose. Holder explained that the large, tented outdoor dining area in front of his restaurant has been a lifeline.

He said outdoor dining, in combination with limited indoor seating, has allowed his business to stay afloat. Holder is worried about the consequence of the new, stricter public health orders.

"This latest resurgence of COVID-19 is going to be a devastating blow to the hospitality industry in general. Even at 25 percent, there's not a restaurant I know that can make a living, make a profit," Holder said.

Jack Holder's customers say they hope that public health officials give some thought to the community's economic well-being when drafting new health orders.

"You've got to keep these places open. And everyone should just wear masks," said James Carey.

Dr. Cody said indoor activities without masks poses the greatest risk of spreading the virus. She says it's important to act now to gain control of rising infections, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaching.

In Marin County, case rates have nearly doubled in the past 10 days and continue to rise, according to Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis.

In addition to indoor dining at restaurants, movie theater concessions and food courts, other restrictions going into effect on Tuesday in Marin and Santa Clara Counties include:

  • Retail / malls – reduce capacity to 50%
  • Libraries – reduce capacity to 50%
  • Museums – reduce capacity to 25%
  • Places of worship – reduce capacity to 25% or 100 people (whichever is fewer)
  • Gyms and fitness centers – reduce capacity to 10%
  • Wineries – outdoor operations only
  • Family entertainment centers – outdoor operations only
  • Cardrooms – outdoor operations only
  • Indoor pools – closed
  • Bars and breweries (with no meal option) – closed

"We know that eating indoors without masks is a very high-risk activity, and as we close indoor dining we also strongly urge people not to eat or gather indoors with anyone outside their own household," Dr. Cody said in a prepared statement. "We must come together as a community and act now to get the virus under control."

"We're choosing to move into the red tier before the state moves us to get in front of this surge," Willis said in a press release. "We're seeing more people getting sick with COVID-19 and needing hospitalization. With flu season and potential impacts from holiday gatherings and travel, it's time to act to prevent a much larger surge."

Health officials are especially worried about people gathering indoors with the holidays coming up and the weather getting colder. Dr. Cody and other health officers have stated they will have to consider additional closures if current trends continue.

Friday's announcements follow a week of setbacks and reopening pauses across the Bay Area and the state in terms of rising COVID cases. Earlier Friday, Contra Costa County health officials announced that indoor dining, movie concession stands and indoor fitness centers will suspend operations starting next Tuesday.

The governors of all three states along the west coast also issued a joint travel advisory, urging visitors heading to California, Oregon and Washington or returning home from other states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the virus. .

Earlier this week, San Francisco's Mayor London Breed announced plans to roll back a number of reopenings, including indoor dining and indoor instruction at high schools not already reopened.

The same day Breed made that announcement, state health officials confirmed that both Contra Costa and Santa Cruz counties had moved from the Orange Tier to the Red Tier due to rising COVID-19 cases.

All greater Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley jointly issued holiday COVID-19 guidance on Wednesday, advising residents to keep gatherings short and small to prevent spreading the coronavirus.

Devin Fehely contributed to this story.

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