SF Moves to Least Restrictive COVID-19 Tier, State OKs Some Theme Park and Stadium Reopenings

People walk through San Francisco's Union Square shopping district on Sept. 3, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco became the first large, urban county to be assigned to the “yellow tier,” the least restrictive category in the state’s color-coded system for defining what businesses and activities can resume during the coronavirus pandemic, state officials announced Tuesday.

Beginning next Tuesday, Oct. 27, “non-essential” offices in San Francisco can reopen at 25% capacity, indoor dining can expand, climbing walls can reopen and fitness centers can increase their indoor capacity to 25%, city officials said.

“We continue to make overall progress as a state with the slow and stringent reopening,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan in a Zoom press conference.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also credited the county’s cautious approach for this development.

"San Franciscans have taken COVID-19 seriously from the very beginning, and thanks to everyone's commitment to wearing face coverings and following public health guidance, we are able to keep moving forward with reopening,” said Mayor Breed in a statement. “Today really is a sign of hope for our city and for our economic recovery."

San Franciscans can look forward to more and more businesses reopening over the next few weeks — including indoor pools and bowling alleys — as laid out in the city’s timeline.

San Francisco Unified School District said it plans to resume in-person instruction for the youngest grades and those who receive special education services, although no date has been set yet.

Currently, other counties in the “yellow tier” for "minimal" risk of COVID-19 transmission are less densely populated, like Modoc, Humboldt and Mariposa counties.

Theme Parks and Outdoor Stadiums Can Reopen

The state also issued long-awaited guidance concerning amusement parks and outdoor professional sporting events.

Theme parks can reopen in counties assigned to the less restrictive orange and yellow tiers.

  • Small theme parks, defined as having a capacity of less than 15,000, can reopen in orange tier or "moderate risk" counties at 25% capacity or fewer than 500 visitors, whichever is less
  • All theme parks can reopen in counties that are in yellow or "minimal risk" tiers at 25% capacity
  • All parks must require advance ticket reservations and screen guests for COVID-19 symptoms
  • Masks be worn at all times except when eating or drinking

For now, that means Disneyland, which is located in Orange County, currently in the red tier, won’t be reopening.

Meanwhile, professional sports games can resume at outdoor stadiums in counties assigned to the orange and yellow tiers, with modifications.

  • In orange tier or “moderate risk” counties stadiums can reopen at 20% capacity, at at 25% capacity in yellow or “minimal risk” counties
  • Ticket sales must be restricted to customers who live within a 120 mile radius of the stadium
  • Stadiums must provide parking so that visitors don’t park in surrounding neighborhoods
  • Advance ticket reservations, assigned seating and wearing face masks are required
  • Eating and drinking are allowed while in assigned seats
  • No tailgating is allowed

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Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, said theme park guidelines were developed after sending delegations to visit to parks currently in operation around the country. He said outdoor stadium events are considered lower risk, because visitors have assigned seats and spend less time at sporting events than at amusement parks.

Public health officials acknowledged that reopening more businesses may mean an increased risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“We must not let our guard down,” said Ghaly as he urged Californians to continue wearing masks, wash their hands and observe social distancing rules.