Orange County is currently on the orange tier of the COVID-19 pyramid. Illustration by Junanna Chen.


The different COVID-19 tiers and restrictions explained

California has 4 major COVID-19 restriction tiers, with Orange County being in the orange tier.
<a href="" target="_self">Tyler Sonderholzer</a>

Tyler Sonderholzer

April 12, 2021

Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” plan has four major COVID-19 restriction tiers for all of California’s counties to follow. The tiers, from most to least restrictive, are purple, red, orange and yellow.

The tiers are based on the case rate per 100,000 residents, the positive test rate for the entire county, and the lowest health equity quartile’s positive test rate. The case rate factor also depends on the number of Californians who are vaccinated in some of the hardest-hit Californian communities.

Purple Tier

The purple tier is the most restrictive tier out of the four tiers in California, and it means there are widespread COVID-19 transmissions in the respective county.

For a county to be in this tier, the daily new case rate has to be above 10% and the test positivity rate has to be above 8%. Currently, two Californian counties are in the purple tier, where most aspects like dining, gyms and theaters are all restricted to outdoors.

The state’s sports requirements only allow outdoor low-contact sports such as running, golf and cross country. In this tier, schools must remain closed for online learning but schools that were already allowing in-person instruction before a county moved to the purple tier are allowed to stay open.

Red Tier

The red tier is what most of California’s counties are under at the time of publication. The red tier eases some restrictions of the purple tier such as schools can reopen for in-person instruction, inside dining can reopen at 25% capacity and movie theaters can reopen at 25% capacity.

Meanwhile, professional sporting events can reopen at 25% capacity and theme parks can reopen at 15% capacity, which started April 1.

Outdoor moderate-contact sports such as baseball, softball, tennis and cheerleading are allowed to resume. For a county to move into the red tier, there needs to be a 4-10% daily new case rate per 100,000 residents, 5-8% positive tests for the entire county and less than 8.1% positive tests in the health equity quartile.

Orange Tier

As of April 6, The orange tier currently has 32 counties such as Orange County, which moved to the orange tier on March 31. The requirements for a county to be able to move into the orange tier, there must be 1-3.9% daily new cases, 2%-4.9% positive tests for the entire county and less than 5.3% positive tests for the health equity quartile.

Outdoor high-contact sports such as basketball, football and soccer and indoor low-contact sports such as bowling, curling and gymnastics can resume in the orange tier. Professional sporting events can expand to 33% capacity and theme parks can expand to 25% capacity.

Yellow Tier

As of April 6, only two counties are currently in the yellow tier, which is the least restrictive tier, and the metrics to reach the yellow tier are less than 1% daily new case per 100,000 residents, less than 2.0% positive tests for the entire county and less than 2.2% positive tests for the health equity quartile.

Outdoor professional sporting events and live performances can expand to 67% capacity and theme parks can expand to 35% capacity. Indoor moderate-contact and indoor-high contact sports, such as ice hockey, dance, volleyball and wrestling, can resume.

Overall, the restrictions are based on how well a county is slowing the spread of COVID-19. The better a county does at slowing the spread, the fewer restrictions there are.

Following the state’s requirements and listening to the top health officials may not be ideal but it necessary to slowly get rid of COVID-19 and go back to normal life.

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