Bowling centers are among the businesses allowed to reopen following Contra Costa County's move into a less-restrictive coronavirus reopening tier. (Photo via Kaley Hayden/Flickr)

Contra Costa County on Tuesday moved from the red tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy to the less restrictive orange tier, which will allow larger local gatherings, including for indoor events like worship services, more diners inside restaurants and the reopening of bowling centers.

Contra Costa's adjusted per-capita case rate — the average daily number of new COVID-19 cases identified in the county per 100,000 people — was 3.7 on Tuesday, barely qualifying the county to move into the orange tier, Contra Costa Health Services officials said Tuesday.

The county more easily met threshold requirements for two other criteria for the move from red tier to orange — average daily percentage of COVID-19 tests that return positive in the entire county, and that average daily percentage in the county's most disadvantaged neighborhoods, known as the state's “health equity metric.”

The county's overall test positivity rate as of Tuesday is 1.9 percent, with a positivity rate of 4.9 percent or lower needed to qualify for the orange tier. That number for census tracts identified by the state's health equity metric as most disadvantaged was 3.9 percent on Tuesday, significantly below the 5.2 percent required to move into the orange tier.

With the move to the state's orange tier, Contra Costa County can now allow indoor worship services and other cultural activities at 50 percent building/space occupancy or 200 people, whichever is fewer; indoor dining at 50 percent venue occupancy capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer; indoor swimming pools; bars and other businesses that sell alcohol without meals to open for outdoor-only operation; indoor family entertainment centers (including climbing-wall gyms, bowling centers and “escape room” game venues) can open at 25 percent venue capacity; and card rooms can open (indoors) at 25 percent capacity.

Contra Costa County will now remain in the orange tier for at least two weeks. The state could move Contra Costa into the less-restrictive yellow tier, or back to the more restrictive red tier, depending on how the positivity rate and per-capita case rate number change (or don't) over two consecutive weeks. The state updates the official numbers every Tuesday.

Health officials caution that, as the holiday season approaches and people are drawn to prospective indoor gatherings of family and friends, it is more important than ever for people to follow the state health guidelines for physical social distancing and use of face coverings to prevent a regression to the red tier restrictions.

County health officials also urge residents to get regular COVID-19 tests, even those who have no symptoms. Contra Costa would not have qualified for the orange tier this week, health officials said, had it not tested more residents than the state average.

To reduce the spread of the virus in Contra Costa County, and to continue its progress toward reopening, county leaders urge the public to get tested for COVID-19 regularly, including people who have no symptoms of illness.

Contra Costa would not have qualified for the orange tier this week had it not tested more residents than the state average. California adjusts the case rates of high-testing counties downward to reflect their work controlling the virus. Without that adjustment, Contra Costa's per-capita case rate this week would have been 4.1, which would not qualify for the orange tier.

About 3,500 people get tested every day for COVID-19 in Contra Costa County, and county health officials want to boost that number to 4,500.