Sonoma County to move to red tier on March 14

By Katherine Minkiewicz, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, March 12, 2021

After months of living in the state’s most stringent tier of the color-coded, four-tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy, Sonoma County will finally get to move into the red tier at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, March 14.

The move to the less restrictive red tier marks a hopeful turning point for the county, which has been in the purple tier longer than other neighboring counties.

“The move to the red tier is the most hopeful news that our community has received in a long time,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “But now is not the time to let up. We need to continue to be smart and safe. That means wearing our masks, avoiding large gatherings and, most of all, getting tested. Getting tested is one of the best tools we have at our disposal to control the spread of the virus and to reopen our economy.”

The change to the red tier is a result of the state’s decision to adjust the minimum case rate requirement for transition to red from 7 to 10 per 100,000 once California finished administering 2 million vaccine doses in the state’s 400 zip codes that have been most disproportionately impacted by the virus.

With the adjustment of the required metrics for the red tier, the state credited Sonoma County with two weeks of maintaining less than 10 cases per 100,000 and based on this decision, the county is being allowed to enter the red tier on March 14.

According to a county press release, moving from the purple tier into the red tier for the county means:

● Restaurants are allowed to open indoors with 25% capacity or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is fewer.

● Retail establishments are allowed to open indoors at 50% capacity.

● Movie theaters are allowed to open indoors with 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

● Gyms are allowed to open indoors with 10% capacity.

● Museums, zoos and aquariums can open indoor activities at 25% capacity.

● Breweries, wineries and distilleries that do not serve meals may open outdoors only with modifications. The modifications include ensuring that patrons have reservations and patrons observe a 90-minute time limit. Service for on-site consumption must end by 8 p.m.

● Bars that do not serve meals remain closed in the purple (widespread) and red (substantial) tiers.

“We are pleased at the progress that our county is making, and we thank everyone who is doing their part to fight COVID-19,” Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said in a statement. “From the staff providing vaccinations and testing, to the community organizations providing outreach and education, to every individual who is choosing to wear face coverings and practice social distancing, each of you is making a difference.”

The shift to the red tier also means that once the county is in the red tier schools in all grades, TK-12, may reopen after they have posted their COVID-19 Safety Plan to their website homepage at least five days prior to starting in-person instruction.

Schools must adhere to the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH)COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework.

Modifications for in-person instruction include cohorting students, implementing social distancing measures inside and outside the classroom, ensuring sufficient ventilation, promoting health hygiene like hand washing, frequent cleaning and disinfecting, screening for symptoms and exposure and instituting measures to be taken in the case of a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.

Once open, schools will not need to close if the county returns to the purple tier.

In addition to the changes that qualify the county for the red tier, the state announced plans for additional metric adjustments for reopening.

According to the press release, “The planned adjustments for the orange tier are also tied to state goals for vaccination thresholds for residents in the communities hardest hit by COVID – those that fall into the lowest quartile on the Healthy Places Index. When 4 million doses have been distributed to these communities, a case rate of 6 or less per 100,000 qualifies for counties to move from the red to the orange tier.”

This article was produced by Sonoma West Times & News, the hometown newspaper of Sebastopol and west county since 1889. See more news at