Alameda County is expected to move from purple to the less restrictive red tier, or Tier 2, as early as Tuesday next week if COVID-19 cases and positivity rates remain low. As a result, Berkeley will be able to lift some state restrictions on indoor business activities.

The last time Berkeley moved into the red tier with Alameda County was September 2020, three months before ICU capacities dropped throughout the state and the city underwent a strict regional shelter-in-place order.

Positivity rates in the city are lower than they were in September 2020 and a vaccination campaign is underway with thousands of essential workers, senior citizens, food industry workers and teachers being inoculated against the virus. As of last week, over 13,000 people had received the COVID-19 vaccine in Berkeley, not including skilled nursing facilities, those who got vaccinated by the county’s health care partners, hospitals and others, according to the city.

The red tier, or Tier 2, means there’s “substantial” COVID-19 risk in a given county, with four to seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents, and between 5-8% of tests coming back positive. Berkeley can only move into the red tier when Alameda County as a whole meets these requirements, but the Berkeley Public Health Department makes its own decisions on whether it will impose additional restrictions to state rules.

Matthai Chakko, city spokesperson, said Wednesday that the city will align with the state on business reopenings when Alameda County moves into red tier. Berkeley currently has a 0.47% test positivity rate compared to Alameda County’s 2.40% positivity rate, and the county’s seven-day adjusted case rate per 100,000 residents is currently at 6.30 cases. These figures make the county eligible to shift into the red tier if they can be maintained for another week.

The following activities would then be allowed indoors with 25% capacity or 100 people (whichever is less):

  • Dining
  • Museums and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Cultural ceremonies
  • Gyms and dance studios (at 10% capacity)
  • Retail (at 50% capacity)

Businesses without a mandated capacity limit in red tier, like grocery stores (which are currently operating at 50% capacity in purple tier), still have to follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow room for social distancing between customers.

Schools in every grade level will be allowed to open, but are still subject to health and safety guidance from the Alameda County Office of Education limiting on-campus capacities and negotiations between Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Federation of teachers.

Santa Clara,San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin and Napa counties are currently in the red tier and have opened up additional indoor activities in accordance with state rules. Tier assignments for each county in the state are available on the state’s website in an interactive map. 

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...