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San Franciscans Who Feel Comfortable Dining Indoors Just Need To Cross the County Line

Marin and San Mateo County dining rooms are open for business

Restaurants like Westlake Joe’s in San Mateo County can reopen their dining rooms with limited capacity
Westlake Joe’s/Instagram

While restaurant dining rooms in San Francisco remain dark, folks in SF who want to enjoy a sit-down, indoor meal can still do so: they just need to cross the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County, or venture south into San Mateo County. Both regions have reopened for indoor dining in recent days, after their COVID-19 rates moved them from the “widespread” infection risk level into the “substantial” one.

In a press release sent Tuesday by the San Mateo County manager’s office, officials said that the state of California had just moved the region into the “red” category of its color-coded list, which allows indoor dining to resume at 25 percent capacity, with a cap of 100 diners. “Effective immediately,” officials say, restaurants may resume business indoors, as long as they “follow industry-specific guidelines for health and safety, face-covering requirements, and social distancing.”

“Hallelujah, we are out of the purple and into the red,” said San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa via a written statement. “Now we can eat indoors again, go see a movie, and get some exercise at the gym.”

Marin County had a more dramatic journey to reopening, announcing on September 4 that they’d made it out of the purple zone. That ruling was reversed a few days later by the state, and for over a week the county and state went back and forth on its status. On September 15, Marin was declared “red” once again, and its restaurants reopened for indoor service that day.

Several other Bay Area counties are also in that red level, with some allowing restaurants to reopen, while others restrict service to takeout and outdoor seating. Napa County was declared “red” as of August 31, and reopened indoor dining immediately. Santa Clara County went red on September 8, but indoor dining remains on hold. Santa Cruz County also went red on September 8, but did not list restaurants as one of the business sectors allowed to expand operations.

San Mateo County wasn’t the only Bay Area region to move into the red Tuesday, as Alameda and Solano counties also left the purple zone. Alameda county officials said Tuesday that they won’t make any changes to activities immediately, as they are “using the next two weeks to ensure our metrics will remain stable and we will release a phased plan.” Solano county officials directed Eater SF to the state’s reopening guidelines, seemingly suggesting that indoor dining is on in the region, but as of publication time had not provided definitive confirmation.

That means that only two Bay Area counties are still prohibited by the state from resuming indoor dining: Contra Costa County, in the East Bay, and Sonoma County, in wine country. According to KRON 4. in Sonoma County, the wildfire-related evacuations and subsequent close quarters, Labor Day activities, and its significant population of elderly residents has kept its infection rate high. Meanwhile, Contra Costa County’s case rate remains higher than the “red” rate, which the state says must be within 4 to 7 new cases per 100,000 residents a day. As of Tuesday, Contra Costa was reporting 95 new cases per day for the past week, with a population of just more than a million people.

San Francisco has also occupied the state’s “red” category since August 31, but unlike its neighbors to the north or south, the city isn’t open for indoor dining quite yet. As part of an agreement with restaurant industry stakeholders, SF will keep indoor on hold until the region reaches the state’s “orange” (“moderate risk”) reopening level, in an effort to avoid the reopening and reclosing roller coaster the city saw in June.

According to the SF Chronicle, the city expected its new, orange status to be announced Tuesday, but that didn’t happen, even though city officials say that SF’s infection rates meet all the criteria to enter that next reopening stage. County health officials have now filed a formal request with the state Public Health Department asking it to re-evaluate San Francisco’s COVID-19 data. If that request is successful, restaurants across SF could welcome indoor diners by October 1. But until then, folks seeking a roof and four walls as they dine must head north or south for an indoor experience.