State to loosen gathering restrictions as Santa Clara County sees rise in COVID-19 variants

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN

State health officials on April 2 unveiled a range of loosened COVID-19 restrictions allowing for larger outdoor gatherings and concerts, effective April 15.

Notably, in the orange tier, which Santa Clara County currently sits in:

  • Outdoor gatherings may include up to 50 people.
  • Outdoor “private events,” receptions and conferences with pre-purchased tickets or a defined guest list and assigned seating may include up to 100 people. That capacity increases to 300 if all guests show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination.
  • Indoor gatherings with a capacity of 150 people are allowed if all guests show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination.

Notably, in the yellow tier, which Santa Clara County could qualify for within the month:

  • Outdoor gatherings may include up to 100 people.
  • Outdoor “private events,” receptions and conferences with pre-purchased tickets or a defined guest list and assigned seating may include up to 200 people. That capacity increases to 400 if all guests show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination.
  • Indoor gatherings with a capacity of 200 people are allowed if all guests show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination.

Just a day prior to the state’s announcement of loosening restrictions, Santa Clara County health officials warned of a surge in COVID-19 variants, signaling the region’s still “precarious” efforts to curb the pandemic.

“As of last week, every variant of concern has been detected in Santa Clara County,” a county press release reads. “All have either been shown or are presumed to be circulating in our community.”

The county noted that the rise of variants comes as its vaccine allocation has remained “flat” over the past several weeks, even as the 50-and-up age bracket became newly eligible for vaccinations on April 1, with eligibility set to expand to the 16-and-over population on April 15.

“We’re already seeing surges in other parts of the country, likely driven by variants,” County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. “Combined with the data we are seeing locally, these are important warning signs that we must continue to minimize the spread. We can still stop a surge from happening here if we hold onto our tried and true prevention measures for a little longer while we increase our vaccination rates.”

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