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California’s Colored COVID Tier System, Explained

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California Department of Public Health
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Updated March 11

In an attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the state of California has adopted a tiered system for loosening and tightening restrictions on counties. 

Different colored tiers represent different levels of risk — from “minimal” (yellow) to “widespread” (purple). Each county is assigned to a tier based on its test positivity, rate adjusted case rate and health equity metric. Under each tier, different businesses and activities are restricted.

On Nov. 17, as cases surged throughout the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced several changes to the tier system, including changes to how and when tier adjustments will be made, and how quickly counties must implement restrictions. The governor said the state will reassess tiers for counties multiple times during a week.

Additionally, on March 3, the state announced they will soon tie reopening to vaccine equity rates. When 2 million residents in the hardest-hit communities are vaccinated, which officials estimated could be within two weeks, the state will loosen requirements for its color-tier system. The threshold for entering the red tier will move from seven cases per 100,000 residents to 10 cases. 

Officials say the criteria for the orange and yellow tiers will be readjusted when 4 million of the state’s most vulnerable residents are vaccinated. Read more about this change here.
 
You can look up your county’s tier and risk level for various activities on the state’s website

See what businesses and activities are restricted under each tier in this PDF from the state, pictured below.

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