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After new reported cases of coronavirus fell significantly, Kern County qualified to enter the orange tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy effective Wednesday.

The change means bars will officially be allowed to open outdoors for the first time in months, and many more businesses can expand capacity.

“It’s very heartening to see that we appear to be turning the corner on this, and all the metrics are going in our favor,” Supervisor Mike Maggard said Tuesday during a Board of Supervisors meeting in which the tier change was discussed.

As of Tuesday, Kern County’s adjusted case rate was 3.2 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, a decrease from 5.3 per 100,000 residents reported a week earlier.

The county’s testing positivity rate this week was 2.2 percent, while the testing positivity rate in disadvantaged areas was 2.6 percent.

This was the second week Kern County qualified for the orange tier. Counties must hit tier metrics for at least two weeks before entering a less restrictive tier.

The state’s plan for regulating COVID spread through business and social restrictions, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, has four tiers — yellow, orange, red and purple. During the winter surge, Kern County languished in the purple tier for months, with severe restrictions on social events and business activity in place to keep COVID-19 spread at a minimum.

Kern County Public Health Services Director Brynn Carrigan called the county’s transition to the orange tier an “exciting” day.

In addition to bars being allowed to open outdoors, the following changes can take place.

  • Retail no longer has capacity restrictions
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums increase capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent
  • Places of worship increase capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent
  • Movie theaters increase capacity from 25 percent or 100 people to 50 percent or 200 people
  • Hotels and lodging can open indoor pools
  • Gyms and fitness centers can increase capacity from 10 percent to 25 percent and can open indoor pools
  • Restaurants can increase indoor capacity from 25 percent or 100 people to 50 percent or 200 people
  • Wineries, breweries and distilleries can open indoors at 25 percent or 100 people
  • Family entertainment centers can open indoors at 25 percent capacity or 50 percent capacity if all guests show proof of testing or full vaccination
  • Card rooms can open indoors
  • Offices can open indoors, but telework is still encouraged
  • Outdoor live events with assigned seating can increase capacity from 25 percent to 33 percent or 67 percent if all guests show proof of full vaccination or testing