REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) — San Mateo County became the first San Francisco Bay Area county since the holiday surge in new COVID-19 cases to return to the Orange Tier on Tuesday.

The county’s shift to the less restrictive Orange Tier officially goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, March 17.

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The shift comes one year to the day after the beginning of the Bay Area’s first stay-at-home order. San Mateo County was last in the Orange Tier in the state’s color-coded plan for reducing COVID-19 in October 2020. The county has been in the Red Tier for three weeks.

Prior to Tuesday, only three of California’s 58 counties representing just 0.1 percent of the state’s population were in the Orange Tier. A majority of the state — 42 counties representing over 35 million residents or approximately 87.7 percent of Californians — remains in the Red Tier.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President David J. Canepa made the announcement, calling the state health officials decision to move San Mateo from Red to Orange “a true comeback.”

“I feel like the sun is shining again on San Mateo County as moving to the Orange Tier marks that we are making a true comeback,” Canepa said. “It means that there is no longer a substantial risk of catching COVID in this county.”

The county’s COVID-19 dashboard numbers actually qualified it for a move to the least restrictive Yellow Tier, but state guidance does not allow a county to jump two tiers in a given week. The county must remain in a tier for three weeks.

The county tweeted out an image that summarized what will be allowed at the new tier designation.

San Mateo County Orange Tier restrictions (San Mateo County)

San Mateo County currently has 5.6 new cases per 100,000 residents with a positivity rate of 1.1 percent.

But Canepa warned local residents the momentum could slow if precautions are not maintained during St. Patrick’s Day. Under the Orange Tier, bars — a popular gathering spot on St. Patrick’s Day — can reopen with outdoor service.

“Now we must minimize the risk if we want to move to Yellow and then Green to complete this historic comeback,” he said. “That means respecting the health orders of social distancing, frequent hand washing, avoiding large crowds and most importantly wearing your damn masks, especially if you are going to enjoy a pint during St. Patrick’s Day.”

Jamil Rey owns Fort McKinley in South San Francisco. He’ll be able to offer up even more seats in his sprawling restaurant and open the bar for the first time in a year.

“It’s one fourth of our revenue. But that one fourth is a big thing for us as small owners,” said Rey.

Here are some of the other activities that have fewer restrictions under the Orange Tier.

  • Places of worship: open indoors at 50% capacity
  • Movie theaters: open indoors at 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • Hotels: open with modifications, plus their indoor pools can open and fitness centers can open at 25% capacity
  • Gyms: open indoors at 25% capacity and can open indoor pools
  • Restaurants: open indoors at 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer
  • Wineries, breweries and distilleries: open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • Bars: outdoor only
  • Family entertainment centers: open indoors at 25% capacity for naturally distanced activities like bowling and rock climbing walls
  • Professional sports: outdoor stadiums can have audiences up to 33% capacity starting April 1
  • Live performances: outdoor only at 33% capacity starting April 1

Andria Borba contributed to this story.