SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco on Tuesday became the first county in the Bay Area to return to the less restrictive COVID Yellow Tier, according to California health officials.

The state announced its updated tier assignments on the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy website late Tuesday morning shortly before noon.

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The move means San Francisco has met the criteria set by state health officials to advance to the least restrictive tier based on the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and other health metrics. San Francisco officials plan to expand “almost all activities to 50% indoor capacity,” unless California requires more restrictive capacity limits.

Where possible, city officials will also remove limits on the number of people participating in activities and loosen other operating restrictions. Live spectator events, festivals, meetings, receptions and conventions will see significant expansions as well.

“This is an incredible milestone for us to hit as we move forward on our path to recovery, and it is possible because of how well we are doing in our efforts to vaccinate everyone we can in this City and how well the people of San Francisco have done listening to public health officials,” Mayor London Breed said in a release. “The Yellow Tier means that no longer are there any businesses that are required to keep their doors shut in this city, and it means we are continuing to allow more activities to be done safely with more people.”

The San Francisco Department of Public Health issued its final health and safety guidelines to reopen activities allowed under the yellow tier of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, with some additional local restrictions, effective as of 8 a.m., Thursday, May 6.

The city is averaging just 26 new cases per day, the lowest number since June 2020, and fewer than 20 people are currently hospitalized due to the virus for the first time in more than a year. The city’s test positivity rate has also fallen to just 0.6 percent.

Roughly three-quarters of the city’s residents age 16 and up have received at least one vaccine dose, according to city health data.

Vaccination rates are even higher for vulnerable groups like those over 65, 86 percent of whom have received at least one vaccine dose. In addition, 73 percent of those over 65 are fully vaccinated.

“Thanks to the collective efforts of San Francisco residents and workers, we are making great progress to continue on this trajectory,” San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said in a statement. “It is essential that everyone take the opportunity to get vaccinated as soon as possible and encourage coworkers, friends and family members to do the same.”

Colfax added that declining vaccination rates and reopened business sectors have forced some other states, including Oregon and Washington, to pull back on their reopening plans and cautioned that city residents should continue heeding public health guidance.

The updated guidance will be made publicly available on the city’s COVID reopening website.

While much of the Bay Area has been in the Orange Tier for several weeks, no counties in the region had managed to move to the Yellow Tier until San Francisco made the shift on Tuesday.

It appears that Marin County just missed the cut. That county and all other Bay Area counties remain in the Orange Tier, except for Solano County which is in the second-most restrictive Red Tier.

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Los Angeles, Mendocino and Trinity counties also moved into the Yellow Tier on Tuesday.

Health officials in San Francisco had announced on Friday that it appeared likely the city would move into the state’s least restrictive Yellow Tier this week.

While health officials haven’t announced details, in accordance with past moves to less restrictive tiers, San Francisco residents will be able to enjoy relaxed safety protocols with businesses expanding capacity in a number of sectors.

“It’s looking pretty rosy,” said Dr. Robert Wachter, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine.

If the city follows state guidelines, restaurants, movie theaters, libraries, offices, churches, family entertainment centers and gyms and fitness studios will be able to open indoors at 50% capacity. Indoor bars, breweries and wineries will be allowed to open at 25% capacity up to 100 people.

“It feels really exciting,” said Jayson Wilde who manages Pagan Idol, a bar in the Financial District. “Obviously we are taking our precautions and feeling as safe as possible. Next Friday means 25% without food.”

Wilde said his staff is prepared to focus on the core business of making tiki drinks after a year of pivots.

“We’ve gotta go full bore and open the entire menu, do everything like we’ve done before but just with, like, a restricted amount of people we have in here,” explained Wilde.

Outdoor gatherings can include as many as 100 people and outdoor live audience venues may expand to 67% of capacity, according to published state guidelines. San Francisco has largely adhered to state guidance in previous COVID tier moves.

On Monday, SF health officials announced that San Francisco would follow the state’s new guidance on masking reflecting recently updated CDC recommendations.

Acting San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip released a statement Monday after a decision by the state to generally align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidance on masking for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

For the purposes of this guidance, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after they have received a single-dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Currently, individuals 16 and older are eligible to get vaccinated in San Francisco.

“The CDC’s announcement that fully vaccinated, and in some instances unvaccinated, people no longer need to wear masks in certain outdoor settings is fantastic news that reflects the science and data we now have on the efficacy of the vaccines in preventing community spread and driving down case rates and the minimal risk of transmission outdoors,” said Phillip in a statement.

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