QUARANTINE UPDATE: SMC Moves to Orange Tier at Midnight Tonight – What Does That Mean?

South San Francisco, CA  March 16, 2021 Press Release

California has a blueprint for reducing COVID-19 in the state with revised criteria for loosening and tightening restrictions on activities.

Based on the local “risk” level, as of March 17, 2021, San Mateo County is in Tier 3 (Orange) of the state’s four-tiered, color-coded reopening system. The most restrictive rules apply to Tier 1 (Purple) and the less restrictive to Tier 4 (Yellow).

The Tier 3 designation allows additional businesses and organizations to open and certain activities to take place with restrictions. All businesses and individuals must continue to follow health and safety guidelines.

San Mateo County’s health order requiring face coverings, social distancing, and limited gatherings remains in effect.


With the move to orange tier, the following is now allowed:


Shopping malls: Can open indoors with modifications

  • Closed common areas
  • Reduced capacity food courts

Places of worship: Can open indoors with modifications

  • Open at 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer

Dine-in restaurants: Can open indoors with modifications

  • Capacity must be limited to 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer

Offices (non-essential businesses): Can open indoors with modifications

  • Encourage working remotely

Bars/Breweries (where no meal provided): Can open indoors with modifications

  • Capacity must be limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is less

Movie theaters: Can open indoors with modifications

Gyms & fitness centers, including indoor pools: Can open indoors with modifications

  • Capacity must be limited to 25%
  • Indoor pools can open
  • Indoor hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms must close
  • Climbing walls can open

Family entertainment centers:

  • Can open indoors for naturally distanced activities, with modifications
    • Capacity must be limited to 25%
    • Bowling alleys and escape rooms allowed
  • Can open outdoors with modifications for activities like kart racing, mini golf, batting cages

Amusement parks and theme parks: Smaller parks can open with modifications

  • Capacity must be limited to 25% or 500 people, whichever is less
  • Outdoor attractions only can open
  • Reservations or advanced ticket sales required
  • Local attendees only (from the same county as the park’s location)
  • Additional activities will be permitted starting April 1, 2021

Hotels, lodging and short-term lodging rentals: Can open with modifications

  • Fitness centers can open to 25% capacity
  • Indoor pools can open
  • Indoor hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms must close

Museums, zoos and aquariums: Can open indoors with modifications

  • Indoor activities limited to 50% capacity


  • California has updated the guidance and framework for reopening-12 schools for in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year. Learn more in the K-12 schools reopening framework and guidance. Individuals interested in the potential impact on local schools should contact local school districts.

Youth and adult recreational sports

For further information by industry sector, visit the state’s Industry Guidance website.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines in San Mateo County: https://www.smchealth.org/covidvaccine

Learn more about COVID-19 testing options in San Mateo County: https://www.smcgov.org/testing

Businesses allowed to reopen or expand operations must follow industry-specific guidelines for health and safety, face covering requirements and social distancing.

Social Distancing Protocols for Businesses: All businesses permitted to continue operations are required to post a Social Distancing Protocol for each of their facilities in the county frequented by personnel or members of the public. Social Distancing Protocol: EnglishSpanishChineseTagalog.

Health and Safety Plans for Businesses: The Order requires all businesses to develop, implement and share detailed written Health & Safety Plans that demonstrate how they will comply with the detailed State guidance for that business.

State Industry-Specific Guidance (Earlier sectors)

State Industry-Specific Guidance (Later sectors)

For Individuals: What Can I Do?

Follow State guidance: You may engage in all activities allowed by the State. Continue to monitor State guidance for prohibited activities: State Guidance

Monitor your health: Under CDC guidelines, individuals who are experiencing fever, cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms should stay home except to get medical care. This can prevent transmission of COVID-19 to others. If you’re not sure if this applies to you, check your symptoms with the CDC’s Symptom Screener.

Be safe: Crowded settings, especially those indoors, increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19. Comply with the County’s Face Covering Order, stay 6 feet away from others, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as frequently as necessary. Higher-risk individuals (over 65 or with serious medical conditions) should consider continuing to stay home until Stage 4. Minimize errands by getting groceries delivered or asking for help from friends or family.

Access community resources: People who are experiencing homelessness or unsafe living conditions where they cannot afford safe shelter are encouraged to try to stay with family or friends, identify housing options, or access emergency resources such as shelter. They can also call 211 or one of the Core Service Agencies located throughout San Mateo County: San Mateo County Core Service Agencies

Where can I get more information?

The County has additional information for the General Public, Healthcare Providers, regarding Children, Older Adults, Face Coverings and businesses regulated by Environmental Health, which can be found here:  https://www.smchealth.org/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions and here: https://www.smcgov.org/covid19-face-covering


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