As part of the state's color-coded COVID-19 reopening roadmap's final update this week, five additional counties, including San Diego, were formally shifted into the least restricted category.
Despite the fact that reaching the yellow tier in the state's blueprint allows businesses and other public spaces to operate more widely than they have in months, the state is planning to lift virtually all coronavirus-related business restrictions next week as part of its long-awaited economic reopening.
Although the improvements made on Tuesday came late in the epidemic, it represents success in California's fight against the virus.
California currently has one of the lowest levels of coronavirus transmission in the country, according to Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis.
"This is not an accident. It is the result of many, many hours invested by countless community leaders in educating people about preventing transmission and working to maximize access to vaccine, as well as the efforts of every single person who continues to make prevention a priority and has gotten the vaccine or shared their vaccination story to help someone else get vaccinated," mentioned during a briefing.
According to the most recent state data, Alameda, Napa, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties have all achieved the yellow tier.
"I commend everyone who has worked hard to help us reach this milestone, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated so we can put this pandemic fully in the past," Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County's health officer, said in a statement.
Furthermore, Stanislaus County has progressed to the orange tier, the state's next-least-restrictive reopening level.
More than half of all California residents will live in yellow-tier counties after the new tier designations take effect on Wednesday.
"San Diego continues to really perform well as we work our way out of COVID and we return to a very normal way of life — something that, after a very long year, year and a half, I think we should all take a measure of pride in," county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said on Tuesday.
According to the current plan, counties are divided into four color-coded tiers based on their rates of new coronavirus cases, which are adjusted for the number of tests performed, the rate at which conducted tests come back positive, and a health-equity metric that ensures the positive test rate in poorer communities is not significantly higher than the county's overall figure.
For example, entering the yellow tier necessitates an adjusted daily rate of fewer than 2 new cases per 100,000 people, an overall rate of positive test results of less than 2%, and a rate of positive tests below 2.2 percent within communities hard-hit by the virus.
To progress to a less restricted tier, counties must record qualifying data for two weeks in a row and must stay in that tier for three weeks before advancing again.
When counties reach the yellow tier, they can enable various businesses, including restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, amusement parks, sports arenas, card rooms, museums, vineyards, and breweries, to expand their capacity.
Bars that could only admit clients outside unless they served food and the orange tier can now reopen indoors with a maximum capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is less, with the restriction climbing to 37.5 percent provided all visitors produce proof of complete vaccination or a negative test.
In addition, amusement parks and fairs can increase attendance to 35% of capacity, up from 25% in the orange tier.
Visitors must either be citizens of California or be immunized appropriately.
With rising temperatures, water parks may increase to 40 percent capacity outside, up from 25 percent previously.
Indoor water parks, pools, and rides can now accommodate up to 25% more people, up from 15% previously.
Indoor seated live events and performances at large-capacity venues (venues with seating for more than 1,500 people) can reach 10% of capacity or 2,000 people, whichever is lower.
The restriction can be increased to 50% if everyone has a negative test or confirmation of complete vaccination, up from 35% in the orange tier.
Outdoor seated live events, such as baseball games, may extend to 67 percent capacity on the yellow tier, compared to 33 percent on the orange tier.
Attendees must either live in California or have had all of their vaccinations.
The state's tiering system, which was launched in late August to guide California's reopening during the summer coronavirus outbreak, has received its last upgrade this week.
The regular publication of fresh evaluations — dubbed "Tier Tuesdays" at the time — was keenly observed in the months that followed, with each fresh piece of data promising that a county's economy might be further unlocked.
However, the structure was unable to resist the wrath of the state's disastrous COVID-19 rise in the autumn and winter.
Officials said in mid-November that they were putting an emergency brake on reopenings and putting much of the state in the purple tier, the strictest category.
When that failed to stop the virus from spreading, the state went even further in December, suspending the framework in favor of a new stay-at-home order based on regional pressures on critical care services.
The most recent of these orders was dropped in late January, and counties have slowly progressed into less restricted classifications as their coronavirus scores improved.
California officials set a pair of targets targeted at increasing the equal distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations, making such transfers more straightforward.
The state modified the case rate criteria required to exit the purple tier after 2 million doses were provided in designated areas across the state — those in the worst quartile of a socioeconomic evaluation tool called the California Healthy Places index.
When 4 million dosages were distributed to these low-income neighborhoods, state officials lowered the entry requirements for the orange and yellow levels as well.
Previously, reaching the yellow tier required an adjusted daily new case rate of fewer than 1 per 100,000 persons, however now it requires less than 2.
Even though the change appears to be minor, it has had a significant practical impact.
Only nine of California's 58 counties would have reached the prior yellow-tier criterion as of last Thursday, compared to the 24 counties that currently do.
On the other hand, Californians will wake up to a different world on June 15, one in which many of the limitations that have been a part of daily epidemic life will be lifted.
Almost all enterprises and other institutions will abolish coronavirus-related capacity limits and physical distancing requirements on that day. Those who are entirely vaccinated will be free to go without masks in most scenarios.
There are a few stipulations.
Individual enterprises may have their own guidelines — either self-adopted or mandated by state workplace safety inspectors — and counties may choose to retain some limitations in place.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has also stated that the COVID-19 state of emergency order, which gives him and health authorities extensive ability to impose additional regulations and limitations temporarily, will be extended beyond next Tuesday.
“I’m mindful of the work that we’ve done, the progress we’ve made in the state as it relates to mitigating the spread and transmission rates of this disease,” last week, he stated.
However, because the pandemic's course has been known to alter swiftly in the past, Newsom cautioned. “we’ve never said that we were not going to consider some modifications post-June 15.”