SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Santa Clara County on Wednesday morning became the third Bay Area county to enter the least-restrictive Yellow Tier, with many restaurant owners breathing a sigh of relief at being able to increase their indoor capacity.
Currently under the state’s COVID reopening plan, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties are in the Orange Tier, while Solano County remains in the Red Tier.READ MORE: County Health Officer Supports COVID Vaccination Requirement In West Contra Costa Unified Schools
Victor Garcia — the owner of Tostadas in San Jose — told KPIX he couldn’t be more excited. The county returning to the Yellow Tier means more customers inside and more responsibility for him — because now he has to track his employees’ vaccinations.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s safety for everybody: for me, for my family, for my employees, for my customers,” said Garcia.
In addition to the Yellow Tier move lifting some capacity restrictions, county health officials also requiring businesses to track which of their employees have been vaccinated.
“All I can say is, whatever comes, we’re ready for it. Tostadas doesn’t back up. We take on any challenge,” he said.
While Garcia has no problem with the added responsibility, there are some privacy advocates who say the new requirement to collect the vaccination status of employees is troubling. They’re worried who might have access to the data and how it might be used.READ MORE: DA Rules Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting Of Demetrius Stanley Was Justified
There are medical privacy laws in California, but there are often exceptions for public health.
“It is legal for an employer to request your vaccine status. Many people say that there may be limits from HIPAA, but that’s incorrect,” explained UC Hastings Legal Expert Prof. Dorit Reiss. “That does not apply to your employer, that applies to your provider.”
Meanwhile Tostadas has only been open for only two years and one of the years, it was clamped down by COVID. Tostadas, along with many other businesses in Santa Clara County will be able to expand their capacities under the Yellow Tier. Indoor dining at restaurants, movie theaters and gyms can open at 50% capacity. Bars in the county that do not provide meals can resume indoor operations at 25% capacity.
“It’s getting better, so five percent makes a difference for us,” said Garcia. “Even having one more person, two more people, three more people; little by little, we’re getting in a better place.”
While many people are anxious and ready to get back to some sense of normalcy, there are still concerns even as vaccination rates in the county climb. That is understandable to Garcia.MORE NEWS: FDA To Consider Pfizer Application For COVID Booster Shots On Friday
“Everybody has their own different opinion, but mine is about health. And if they require it and I have to, then I definitely do it,” he said.