Berkeley enters orange tier: Bars, offices able to reopen

Update, March 30: The state has allowed Berkeley and Alameda County to enter the orange tier, the city announced. All business expansions and openings will be allowed as of Wednesday, March 31.

Original story: Bars and offices can reopen in Berkeley and several businesses can expand operations if COVID-19 case numbers hold steady and the city enters the orange tier along with Alameda County on Wednesday.

Berkeley is considered part of Alameda County as far as its assessment for reopening and, on Tuesday, the state is expected to announce that the county can move into the orange, or “moderate,” tier, city spokesperson Matthai Chakko said. The changes would go into effect Wednesday.

Alameda County COVID-19 numbers have been dropping for several weeks and there are now 3.3 adjusted cases per day per 100,000 people. The overall test positivity rate is 1.4% and that number is 2.4% for neighborhoods for the places most vulnerable to COVID-19 in the state’s Healthy Places Index.

Berkeley Public Health has been aligning with state guidelines, and the following businesses will be able to open up and modify services Wednesday if the city moves into the orange tier:

  • Bars: Can open outdoors, no food service required
  • Wineries, breweries, distilleries: Can open indoors, 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • Family entertainment centers: Can open indoors, including bowling alleys, 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • Offices: Can open indoors, with industry guidance 
  • Retail, malls: No capacity restrictions (increased from 50%), following CDC guidelines for social distancing
  • Museums, zoos, aquariums: 50% capacity
  • Places of worship:  50% capacity
  • Movie theaters: 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer
  • Fitness centers: 50% capacity, and indoor pools can open
  • Restaurants: 50% indoor capacity, or 200 people, whichever is fewer
  • Outdoor live events: Live audiences at permanent venues are allowed, 20% capacity with local attendees

Alameda County’s numbers fall within the requirements for the orange tier, which ask for 1-3.9 cases per 100,000 residents per day, a 2%-4.9% overall positivity rate and a 2.2%-5.2% positivity rate for vulnerable neighborhoods.

Over 20% of Berkeley residents are now vaccinated, according to the city’s dashboard, and vaccine eligibility opens up to everyone aged 50 and above Thursday, at which point this group can start booking appointments.

Orange (or Tier 3) is one tier above the yellow tier, which is currently the fourth and least restrictive tier. In the coming months, Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce an even more open tier, a “green tier,” which would essentially allow every sector to reopen fully.

Homepage image of 21st Amendment Brewery in San Leandro. Photo: 21st Amendment/Facebook