Breweries are among the businesses that will be allowed to resume operating if Contra Costa County moves to a less-restrictive tier in the state's pandemic reopening system. (Photo by Louis Hansel/Unsplash)

If current trends continue over the next two weeks, Contra Costa County should be able to enter the COVID-19 “orange tier” that will allow expansion of some business and cultural activities within the county, health officials said Tuesday.

“People are adhering to our (COVID-19) guidelines, and we appreciate that,” Anna Roth, Contra Costa County's health director, told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning. “It's a very promising sign.”

Contra Costa had moved into the current “red tier” on Sept. 29.

Among the things that can happen in the “orange tier” designation that the red tier doesn't allow includes bars, microbreweries and wine bars being able to serve outdoors without meals; cardrooms — previously outdoors only — can move indoors with 25 percent capacity; family entertainment centers like bowling centers and climbing walls can open indoors, with modifications, at maximum of 25 percent capacity; and cultural ceremonies (including houses of worship) can go from 25 percent to 50 percent capacity indoors, but still with a maximum of 100 people.

California counties achieve the “orange tier” when their COVID-19 case rate is between one and 3.9 new cases per 100,000 residents, and a positive-test rate of between 2 and 4.9 percent, and maintain those numbers for two weeks in a row.

Roth said the county already meets one key criteria, with a 2.4 percent positive test rate. The case-rate number, she said, was 4.3 per 100,000 residents, and needs to come down to under four to allow a move to the orange tier.

Supervisor John Gioia noted that some portions of Contra Costa — parts of Richmond, San Pablo, Pittsburg, Antioch and Bay Point — continue to have higher infection rates and that the Latinx community, in particular, still sees disproportionately high infection rates.

Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the county's deputy health officer, said a new testing station opened in Bay Point last Saturday, and that testing appointments are available at testing centers around Contra Costa, with same-day or next-day appointments generally available, with 24- to 36-hour results the norm. The Bay Point testing station is one of five with weekend hours, he said.

Tzvieli and Roth both said Tuesday, as they have for months, that the more testing that happens, the better, and encouraged people to get tested regularly. They also told supervisors they need to improve communications about COVID-19 to the general public, and make the Contra Costa Health Services' COVID-19 websites — now densely packed with data — easier to navigate.

And the county's contact tracing efforts are bearing fruit, Tzvieli said. Upon being told of a recent wedding reception that could have been a “super-spreader” event, tracers were able to determine that only one of the approximately 100 attendees has tested positive for COVID-19.

While most of the local COVID-18 news Tuesday was good, Roth and Tzvieli said their department expects to have holiday guidelines in place soon for dealing with expected holiday activities and get-togethers. Roth also counseled all listening Tuesday to not succumb to “COVID fatigue,” and to not let up on taking the needed safety precautions.

“We want to remind you that your efforts are paying off,” Roth said.