More of Elk Grove’s businesses can reopen their indoor services or allow more customers inside, starting this week. State officials placed Sacramento County and nine other counties into the less restrictive Red Tier 2 status on March 16 after they experienced a steady drop in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks.

This is the first time that Sacramento County has been in the red tier since November when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on the county in an effort to slow down the rate of COVID-related hospitalizations.

Angi Perry, the president and CEO of the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce, reflected on the challenges that impacted businesses during the pandemic.  

“This long road we’ve been on has been challenging for everyone,” she said. “Our thoughts are with all of those who have lost loved ones, businesses fighting to stay afloat, families struggling to get by week to week, and of course our frontline and essential workers risking their lives every day, and so many others.”

Perry is hopeful about the county’s recent move to the red tier status.

“We are optimistic that the result of vaccinations and diligent safety measures will continue to move us forward,” she said.  “Elk Grove is resilient and the future looks bright.”

On March 12, the state changed its metric for determining how a county qualifies for a Red Tier status in California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan. A Red Tier county’s COVID case rate is now between four to 10 COVID cases per 100,000 residents. Counties were previously required to have between five to seven cases per 100,000 residents in order to have the red tier status. This revised metric enabled Sacramento County to advance to the red tier this week.

As of March 16, Sacramento County’s COVID-19 case rate was 7.2 cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, according to the county’s public health department. The county also had a test positivity rate of 6.7%, which fits the 5-8% rate that’s required for a red tier status.

Sacramento County’s case rate must now drop to 1 to 3.9 cases per 100,000 in order to advance to the Orange Tier 3 status, which allows more indoor businesses to open.

Sacramento County’s public health officer, Dr. Olivia Kasirye revised the county’s public health order to reflect its new Red Tier 2 status.

Businesses must still practice safety measures such as requiring face coverings and social distancing. All retail can now operate at 50% capacity and supermarkets can allow 100% capacity. Gyms and fitness centers can have a 10% capacity, and restaurants can reopen their dining rooms at a 25% capacity.

On March 17, Cinemark announced they are reopening several California movie theaters, including Elk Grove’s Century Laguna 16 theater, since such facilities can now operate at a 25% capacity.

This week, the Elk Grove Unified School District started reopening their elementary schools for in-person learning. Students attend classes twice a week and resume their classes online. The district moved their scheduled reopening of middle and high schools up a week to late March after Sacramento County moved to the red tier.

These reopenings follow a year after the district closed all of their 67 campuses after a few students were exposed to COVID-19 in March 2020.

During that month, the city of Elk Grove reportedly had Sacramento County’s first COVID-19 fatality after a resident of a senior living facility died. Elk Grove since then had 11,417 confirmed COVID cases and 137 deaths, according to Sacramento County’s public health data. Elk Grove, which has more than 174,000 residents, is the county’s second largest city.

What can operate under the Red Tier 2 status  

Sacramento County’s public health department on March 16 loosened up restrictions for certain businesses and facilities. Here are some changes:

• Wineries and breweries no longer need to serve food with their drinks. However, they must require customers to make reservations and enforce a 90-minute limit for them. Onsite consumption must end by 8 p.m.

• All retail can now operate at 50% capacity, while supermarkets can have full capacity

• Gyms and fitness centers can operate at 10% capacity.

• Libraries can have a 50% capacity

• Movie theaters can reopen at a 25% capacity or fewer than 100 customers

• Restaurants can operate their dining rooms at 25% capacity or fewer than 100 customers