SAN JOSE (CBS SF/BCN) — Santa Clara County joined two other Bay Area counties now in the Red Tier of California’s system of measuring risk of COVID infection.

Santa Clara joins Napa and San Francisco counties on Tuesday in moving from the most restrictive Purple Tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, indicating the risk of COVID-19 transmission has gone from “widespread” to “substantial” based on their coronavirus case and test positivity rates.

READ MORE: COVID Omicron Variant: CDC Expands Surveillance To San Francisco International Airport

At an afternoon press conference in San Jose Tuesday, county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said effective Wednesday, the county was now fully aligned with the state’s plan.

“This is a significant change for us, as we have traditionally kept local rules in place – some more strict, some less strict – than the state’s rules,” said Cody. “But we are now adjusting our approach to enable us to focus 100% of our energy on what we know is our clear path out of this epidemic, and that is vaccination.”

The county says it’s now hitting its stride in vaccination efforts, and it asked people for a few more months of patience as the pandemic nears its anniversary mark.

“It’s been an extraordinarily long year for everyone,” Cody said.

Four other counties across the state moved into the red tier Tuesday, reducing the number of purple tier counties in California to 40.

Whereas most business sectors were required to operate outdoors or remain closed under purple tier restrictions, the tier changes will allow the three counties to resume indoor operations at 10-25 percent capacities for businesses like gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums.

At a news conference in Palo Alto Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said 12 more counties were likely to also move into the Red Tier beginning next week. He spoke at Barron Park Elementary School to advocate for the state’s school reopening plan and encourage campuses to resume in-class instruction as quickly as possible.

Cody cautioned residents the county’s movement into the Red Tier should not be an excuse to forego safety measures since there is still a substantial risk of infection.

“Just because the state’s framework may allow an activity, it does not mean that it is safe,” said Cody. “For example, it is especially risky for someone who is older or who has chronic health conditions and who’s not yet received a vaccine to be indoors, particularly in an indoor setting where not everyone is wearing a mask.”

Cody urged residents to stick to the principles of keeping each other safe.

“Number one, go outdoors. Outdoors always safer than indoors where there is plenty of natural ventilation. Number two, keep your mask on whether you’re indoors or outdoors, and whether you’re required to or not. Keep your mask on. Three, keep your distance from others who you don’t live with, and finally, get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” she said.

READ MORE: San Francisco Bay Area Bridge Tolls To Jump By $1 On Jan. 1

The county is looking toward easing even more restrictions in the months ahead, and businesses in the area are ready for it.

“Real excited,” said David Derueda of San Jose restaurant Jake’s of Willow Glen. “We’ve been waiting for this for a year now.”

“Yeah, we have been through a lot over the last year, especially owning a restaurant,” said Randy Musterer of Sushi Confidential.

The entire staff of Sushi Confidential had vaccination appointments Tuesday at Mexican Heritage Plaza. So they brought lunch for the health care workers.

“We have a little box for them, assorted sushi, some edamame and salad,” Musterer said of the appreciation boxes.

Restaurant workers weren’t the only ones here hoping to get back to work.

“Yeah man, it’s great to have the vaccine,” said guitarist J.C. Smith. “Being a pro musician, I need to go to work and I’ve been sitting at home. The only places I’ve been touring are my living room, my bedroom, my bathroom, and the kitchen.”

So a step forward today in Santa Clara County, and with it, more optimism that the pandemic is winding down.

“I feel like people are starting to come back, happy,” said Derueda “Things are a little bit back to normal and people are excited about being here.”


Wilson Walker contributed to this report.

MORE NEWS: E.G. Daily On 'Rugrat's New Holiday Special "Traditions": 'We Embrace Everyone And Everything'

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.