COVID19 update: Santa Clara County enters Red Tier effective Wednesday 3/3

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody announced today that the County has met the requirements to enter the state’s Red Tier of COVID restrictions, effective Wednesday, March 3.

Cody further announced that while historically the County has set more restrictive guidance than the state, today the County has adopted a new approach that better aligns local restrictions with state guidelines. The shift will help the County focus on vaccinations.

“Our goal is to bring an end to this pandemic and to enable all of us to resume the parts of our lives that we miss and that we need,” said Dr. Cody.

Cody reported that more than 400,000 doses have been administered since the first vaccine was issued on December 17. Close to 60 percent of residents over age 65 have received at least one dose. The figure is particularly important given this age group previously accounted for 80 percent of COVID-related deaths.

“We continue to urge everyone to stick to the principles we know keep each other safe. Go outdoors. Keep your mask on. Keep your distance. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

Red tier restrictions

Under the Red Tier, retail and shopping centers can open at 50 percent capacity, museums, zoos and aquariums at 25 percent capacity, movie theaters at 25 percent capacity, gyms/fitness centers at 10 percent capacity, and indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. Bars are still closed where no meals are provided.

The County’s mandatory travel quarantine is no longer in effect, but residents must continue to follow the State’s travel advisory to avoid nonessential travel and to quarantine for 10 days after travel. 

The County’s risk reduction order remains in effect – use face coverings, and maximize social distance. Businesses should maximize telework, have social distance protocols on display, and report COVID-19 cases to the County Public Health department.


On Friday, the County suspended its Mandatory Directives for both Youth and Adult Recreational Athletic Activities and Programs Serving Children and Youth, aligning with state guidance on sports, gatherings, day camps, fitness facilities, childcare programs and providers, and cohorts. Sports guidance continues to evolve following negotiations with player groups such as Let Them Play, with protocols increasing in complexity.

Outdoor sports allowed in Red Tier include:

  • Badminton (doubles)
  • Baseball
  • Cheerleading
  • Dodgeball
  • Field hockey
  • Gymnastics
  • Kickball
  • Lacrosse (girls/women)
  • Pickleball (doubles)
  • Softball
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Volleyball

Outdoor high contact sports including football, soccer and basketball are allowed in the Orange Tier, but can also be played in the Purple or Red Tier with an adjusted case rate equal to or less than 14 per 100,000. That’s so long as the players meet certain conditions, including informed consent and weekly participant testing for ages 13 and above. If more than half of a team’s participants are under 13, the entire team is exempted from testing, except for coaches.

Other changes

The County also converted its Mandatory Directive for schools to Guidance for Schools, while schools still remain subject to the State’s public health guidance for K-12 schools.

The County has a new Mandatory Directive for Case Reporting by K-12 schools, youth athletic programs and other youth programs, requiring that any positive test by any program participant must be reported immediately to the County Public Health Department.

While the Mandatory Directive for gatherings has been relaxed, indoor religious services are now allowed at 20 percent capacity. On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order allowing indoor worship services to resume at 20% capacity in Santa Clara County, reversing the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in the case. “The County’s gathering rules… have always been neutral and applied equally to all gatherings across-the-board,” said County Counsel James Williams in a statement expressing its disappointment. “We continue to urge all religious institutions to carefully follow the public health recommendations to avoid spread of COVID-19 among their congregations and the broader community.”

To read all the protocols, visit

Vaccine eligibility and new sites

On February 13, The State expanded vaccine eligibility, now inclusive of the following groups:

Phase 1A – healthcare workers and long term care residents.

Phase 1B – food/agriculture, education/childcare, and emergency services, and those over age 65.

As of February 28, 2021, many healthcare providers in Santa Clara County have expanded vaccination to include workers in the following industries: education and childcare, food and agriculture, and emergency services. On March 1, the County opened a vaccination site for education workers at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, slated to issue more than 500 appointments per day. New vaccine sites also opened recently at Gilroy High School in Gilroy, and at Emmanual Baptist Church and East Valley Clinic in San Jose. Appointments can be made through the County’s website at or by calling 211 for help with scheduling.

The State also recently updated its vaccine eligibility and allocation guidelines. Beginning on March 15, as vaccine supply allows, the State allows healthcare providers to use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals age 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of one or more severe health conditions including cancer, chronic kidney or pulmonary disease, down syndrome, immunocompromised due to organ transplant, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, heart conditions, severe obesity, certain Type 2 diabetes cases, or in other cases of severe high risk disability.