Santa Cruz County has moved to the “Widespread,” or purple, tier of state’s Covid-19 reopening plan, which carries with it the most serious restrictions on businesses and services, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a lunchtime press conference Monday.

The move also means that retail businesses must reduce the amount of customers they allow inside to 25%, churches and other places of worship must move their services outdoors, and movie theaters can only show outdoor movies. Restaurants also can only serve outdoors.

Live audience sports are forbidden, and amusement parks must close.

In addition, masks are now required for anyone leaving their residence, a mandate with very few exceptions.

Santa Cruz joins 40 other counties throughout the state that are now in the Purple tier, after health officials reported a nearly 15% positivity rate, and a 48% increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations, Newsom said.

The state is averaging about 7,000 new cases daily, with 9,890 reported Monday.

The grim news came with a bit of good news, with the recent announcement that two companies have developed a vaccine for the disease. The pharmaceutical company Moderna said Monday that its new vaccine is 94.5% effective, and drugmaker Pfizer announced its own vaccine on Nov. 9, which they claim is 90% effective.

It is not yet clear when the drugs will be available to the public. It will first go to first responders, healthcare workers and residents of facilities such as nursing homes, health officials have said.

“We’ve moved from a race to a sprint,” Newsom said of the coming vaccines.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary, said that the measures are largely in place to protect healthcare from being overburdened, which is especially important as influenza season approaches.

Ghaly urged everyone to continue wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. He also said that families should limit indoor gatherings and restrict travel to essential only.

“We must keep transmission low,” he said. “That’s to keep from flooding the healthcare system.”

The move comes a week after Santa Cruz County moved back from the orange “Moderate” tier to the red “Substantial” tier following a spike in coronavirus cases.

According to the Santa Cruz County dashboard, there were nearly 650 active cases of Covid-19 in the county as of Wednesday.

Overall, the county has reported 3,682 cases. Nearly 3,000 have recovered from the disease, and 27 have died. The vast majority of those cases have come in South County. North County, meanwhile, has seen just 615 reported cases, including 93 in Scotts Valley.

County health officials said in a press release that anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, even mild, should be tested. If a person receives a negative test result, the County said, they should finish quarantining and not end early—typically 14 days after last close contact with a person who has Covid-19. 

Testing locations can be found at santacruzhealth.org/testing.

Those who have questions about quarantine or isolation periods should contact their medical provider, the County said.

“We’ve moved from a race to a sprint.” 

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom

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