San Francisco is joining the yellow tier: Here's what can reopen

ByAlix Martichoux, Lyanne Melendez, and J.R. Stone KGO logo
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
SF joining yellow tier: Here's what will change
San Francisco is eligible to join the yellow tier this week, which is good news for bars, gyms and other businesses. Here's what can change and reopen in the yellow tier.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Big news for San Francisco: the city and county is eligible to join the yellow tier this week, according to the California Department of Public Health.

"I didn't think the yellow tier was ever going to come!" says D. Miles Jr., the 'Godfather of Skate' in San Francisco. Miles says his Church of 8 Wheels roller rink will open Friday.

Good news after they tried to unsuccessfully open twice in the orange tier, and were shutdown by the city.

"Now it's my turn so I'm on top of the world today. It's fantastic. We're ready, we're prepared, and the funky good time will continue," says Miles.

And funky times will be continuing a week from Thursday at California Academy of Science's NightLife, a weekly nighttime event with a DJ that had become popular before the pandemic.

VIDEO: Closed businesses optimistic as SF enters yellow tier

Businesses that have been closed due to coronavirus restrictions are looking to rebound as San Francisco enters the yellow tier.

"We just thought it was the perfect time to bring back nightlife," says Lin Kung who is NightLife event program manager at California Academy of Sciences. Kung went on to say, "It is a big, well ventilated space and we are taking as many precautions as we can."

And while business travel isn't yet back, leisure travel is, says those at Hotel Zepplin near Union Square.

"We are seeing occupancies rise, seeing more interest and demand in people getting out," says Aaron Feeney who is the area director of sales and marketing for three San Francisco Hotels which include Hotel Zepplin, Hotel Zetta, and Hotel Zelos.

There is a hope though and a wonder if that trend will continue.

"The question now is what is the public's tier? What is their comfort zone? Are people really going to feel comfortable right now going into a movie theater, going to a sports event, going into a bar?" says ABC7 News Insider Phil Matier.

Come Friday, the Church of 8 Wheels roller rink will be at 50 percent capacity.

"What I'm gonna do is get back in the saddle, back in the roller skates and we're gonna roll, we're gonna have a funky good time," says D. Miles Jr.

Here's what can change for businesses in the yellow tier:

  • Gyms can increase capacity from 25% to 50%. They can also reopen saunas, spas and steam rooms.
  • Wineries, breweries and distilleries can boost indoor capacity to 50% or 200 people, whichever number is fewer.
  • Bars that don't serve food can reopen indoors at 25% capacity. Group sizes will be limited to eight per table. In the orange tier, they were only allowed to reopen outdoors.
  • Indoor restaurants are no longer required to limit parties to three households. Up to eight diners are allowed per table.
  • Professional sports teams can have more fans at outdoor stadiums. In the yellow tier, 67% capacity is allowed. That's compared to 33% in the orange tier.
  • Live performances like concerts and plays can also increase audience capacity to 67% outdoors. At indoor performance venues, capacity can expand to 50%.
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums no longer have a 50% capacity limit. They still need to follow COVID-19 safety precautions like mandatory face coverings.
  • Family entertainment centers like arcades, ice skating, roller skating, and indoor playgrounds can boost capacity to 50%.
  • Theme parks can increase capacity from 25% to 35%.
  • Cardrooms' capacity can increase from 25% to 50%.

There are also a few changes for social gatherings. Outdoor gatherings can expand to 75 people, even if food and drink are consumed. Indoor gatherings, like weddings for example, are limited to 50% of the venue's capacity or 50 people.

San Francisco said it plans to implement the above changes starting Thursday. It's the first time indoor bars will be allowed to operate in the city since March of last year.

Earlier on in the pandemic, the city was often stricter with COVID-19 restrictions than the state allowed. Recently, however, San Francisco has been quicker to reopen as case rates plummet and vaccinations continue to climb.

MAP: CA counties that can, can't reopen under new rules

For some businesses, like hair salons or retail stores, being in the yellow tier doesn't change anything at all, except that it speaks to how low COVID-19 cases are in San Francisco.

Between April 18 and April 24, San Francisco's test positivity rate was at 0.6% and its average rate of new COVID-19 cases was 1.8 per 100,000 residents. Those low numbers qualify the county to join the state's least restrictive tier.

About 72% of San Franciscans over 16 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 49% are fully vaccinated.

Even more surprising than San Francisco going yellow this week is that Los Angeles County is doing the same. Once the epicenter of California's coronavirus crisis, Los Angeles now has a 0.5% positivity rate.

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