By Betty Yu

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX) – Contra Costa County says COVID-19 cases are rapidly spreading. Most of the new cases are spreading within the home, with an infected member of a household passing the virus to people with whom they live.

Health officials announced Tuesday the county is rolling back to the red tier. That means restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters will be able to operate indoors at a maximum of 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer, while gyms and dance studios will only be able to open indoors at 10 percent capacity.

Additionally, starting Friday, Nov. 13, retail stores that operate indoors must scale back their maximum occupancy to 50 percent or 100 people, whichever is lower, while indoor shopping malls must reduce their occupancy and reduce the occupancy of food courts to 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is fewer and office workspaces must operate remotely.

Health officials are urging Contra Costa County residents to consider how they are protecting themselves and their families from the virus, county health officials said.

“The most critical way to protect against COVID-19 is to wear a face covering whenever you are near people who do not live with you, and whenever you go in a building that is not your home,” said Contra Costa Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano. “Face coverings help prevent people who do not know they are infected from spreading the virus to others. My mask protects you. Your mask protects me. Masks also provide some direct protection for the wearer.”

“Oh I’m definitely tired of doing it, but if it’s going to help, it’s going to help,” said Elizabeth Evans of Concord.

Data from Contra Costa show that the average daily number of newly identified COVID-19 infections has risen steadily since the county entered the orange tier of the state’s plan on October 27. On Tuesday, the 7-day average, per-capita number of new cases (the “adjusted case rate”) was 5.3 in Contra Costa, higher than permitted for counties in the orange tier for a second consecutive week. That triggered the county’s shift back into the more restrictive red tier.

Modern China Cafe in Walnut Creek says it’s lucky to have outdoor fire pits and a large patio to attract customers, but that doesn’t mean winter will be easy.

“Winter is kind of a challenge for us. It’s raining, windy, also we go back 25 percent, it hurts business, so maybe we have to do the to-go,” said Owner Eric Zhang.

The county said cases are rising at an alarming rate. For example, on Sunday there were 46 people hospitalized with COVID-19 – the highest one day total in two months.

“You can see everywhere in the world has kind of gone forward and gone back,” said Adam Nijem, owner of Star Method Boxing.

That’s why he says the fitness studio chose to not offer small group classes even when it could, and focused on private training.

“We said you know what, things are a little bit shaky, we’re not going to bank on everything continuing to move forward. So we’re actually going to hold our business at this point, at the red tier, 10 percent capacity,” Nijem said.

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