By Betty Yu

REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) — San Mateo County has moved into the Orange Tier of the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system and no one was happier about the improved status than Fera Hashemi.

Hashemi has been awaiting for this day ever since the COVID outbreak drove patrons out of her restaurant in mid-March. Now, Arya Steakhouse in downtown Redwood City is ready to serve up its Persian cuisine to more customers, and see more faces indoors.

Before the pandemic, much of its business came from hosting large corporate and holiday gatherings.

“We are at half of what we were doing last year. And you know the dining and the parties make up the difference for a restaurant like us, because we’re not able to do a party of 30, we’re not able to do a party of a hundred,” Hashemi told KPIX 5. “We used to get companies like Facebook, Symantec, Genentech, all of them.”

With most tech workers still working from home, Hashemi hopes increasing indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50% will also mean more diners will feel more comfortable.

“I’m actually to the point where, if I can’t sit inside, I don’t even want to eat in a restaurant,” said Ivan Constantini of Redwood City.

Tisha Constantini was eager to eat indoors Tuesday night.

“We wear our masks when people are close by, but I think we’re comfortable sitting at a restaurant. There’s plenty of space,” she said.

The indoor capacity also applies to movie theaters, museums and places of worship. Gyms, fitness centers and hotels will be allowed to reopen indoor pools, while gyms themselves can increase their capacity from 10% to 25% of their maximum occupancy.

“During quarantine, people either get really into fitness or go the other way and snack, you know gain weight, and that happened to me and so now that gyms can reopen, it’s a really good thing,” said Yesenia Hernandez of Redwood City. “Especially for me, now that I can get into fitness and do something active.”

San Mateo County was able to meet the Orange Tier status with a test positivity rate of 1.6% per 100,000 people. There have been 159 total deaths since the pandemic began.

“It’s great to be in orange, better to be in yellow, better to be in yellow, but great to be in orange,” said San Mateo County supervisor David Canepa. “Something that should be celebrated, but at the same time something that shouldn’t make us complacent. We have a long way to go.”

So officials warned the county could backslide if local residents do not remain vigilant. That includes participating in traditional, crowed Halloween activities.

San Mateo health officials have offered a list of safe alternatives to traditional trick of treating.

  • Create a haunted house or candy scavenger hunt in your home for members of your household in place of going house-to-house
  • Having a scary movie night or Halloween-themed activities (pumpkin carving, face painting) at home
  • Participating in online parties or costume contests
  • Dressing up homes and yards with Halloween-themed decorations
  • Participate in a Halloween scavenger hunt in your neighborhood and look for Halloween-related objects (e.g. witches, spiderwebs, black cats) while maintaining social distance from people from outside your household.
  • Car parades that comply with public health guidance for vehicle-based parades
  • Drive-through events where individuals remain in their vehicles and drive through an area with Halloween displays