Berkeley enters yellow COVID-19 tier one week shy of state reopening

It’s the first time since the state began its tier system last summer that Alameda County has entered the least-restrictive, yellow tier.

a map showing the majority of the state in orange or yellow tiers, with only three counties still in red tier.
A majority of the state is now in orange or yellow tier, with most of the Bay Area in yellow tier. Credit: California Blueprint for a Safer Economy

With one week left to go until California drops its COVID-19 tier system and reopens its economy, Berkeley and Alameda County are moving into the least restrictive, yellow tier of the state’s reopening blueprint.

Though Berkeley has its own health department, it falls under Alameda County with regard to the state’s reopening system. The county currently has fewer than two cases per 100,000 people., a 0.7% test positivity rate and a 1.3% test positivity rate in neighborhoods identified as being most vulnerable to the virus. These numbers are even lower in Berkeley, with 0.16% test positivity and a case rate just under one per 100,000 people.

It’s the first time since the state instituted its tier system last summer that Alameda County has fallen into the least restrictive tier, following months of vaccinations for the general population and a sharp drop in cases after a deadly winter surge in January. Sonoma, Solano and Contra Costa counties are the only remaining neighboring areas still in the orange tier, in effect during “moderate” spread of COVID-19.

The state’s reopening on June 15 means there will be no remaining restrictions on business operations (aside from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines), but this is what yellow tier will look like for the coming week:

  • Bars can open inside at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • Restaurants can hit 50% capacity indoors (no longer limited to 200 people)
  • Wineries, breweries and distilleries can increase capacity to 50%, or 200 people, whichever is fewer
  • No capacity restrictions on museums, zoos and aquariums (previously set at 50%)
  • Gyms and fitness centers can expand to 50% capacity and open saunas and steam rooms
  • Family entertainment centers (like bowling alleys) can open at 50% capacity, or 75% if all guests show proof of vaccination
  • Outdoor live events increase to 67% capacity, outdoor gatherings can increase to 100 people
  • Outdoor private events can increase to 400 people if everyone has proof of vaccination

These changes will only last for a week until June 15, when California lifts its mask mandate for most venues and all remaining restrictions on business activity. There are also new mask guidelines currently in place for people who are fully vaccinated, which include being able to remove your mask when outdoors in Berkeley.

In Alameda County, 63% of people aged 12 or above are fully vaccinated; in Berkeley, 64%. While 78% of people in both the county and city have received at least one shot.

Supriya Yelimeli is Berkeleyside's homelessness and housing reporter. Email: supriya@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: SupriyaYelimeli. Phone: 510-585-8315.