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Santa Cruz Finally Climbs Into The Yellow Tier

Jerimiah Oetting
Santa Cruz County is officially in the Yellow Tier in California's Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Gyms and fitness centers, like Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, can double its number of climbers indoors.


After weeks of anticipation, Santa Cruz County finally climbed into the Yellow Tier on Wednesday. The move marks an important step towards fully reopening the economy, but some businesses are moving forward carefully.

Many businesses will see few if any changes from the previous Orange Tier. Restaurants are still capped at half of their normal capacity, as are movie theatres. Bars can now serve patrons indoors, though only up to 25% of capacity. Outdoor gatherings can include 100 people, but indoor gatherings are still discouraged.


Gyms and fitness centers get a more significant boost. Saunas and steam rooms can open for the first time during the pandemic. And, these businesses can double their total number of people indoors, from 25% to 50% of their normal capacity.

Pacific Edge Climbing Gym in Santa Cruz was already bustling in the Orange Tier last month. King Humann, a 66-year-old who has climbed at Pacific Edge since it opened nearly 30 years ago, said the gym was already starting to feel like it did before the pandemic.

“It’s a lot more crowded, but still a lot of fun,” he said. “(You) get to see a lot of people you haven’t seen in a while.”

Mike Kittredge, the general manager at Pacific Edge, said reopening the gym will be a gradual process.

“We might phase that in over a couple of weeks so we don’t catch our membership off guard,” Kittredge said. “There are more considerations to opening up to that 50 percent capacity.”

In late April, Santa Cruz County was expected to be one of the first counties in the Greater Bay Area to enter the Yellow Tier. But the county narrowly missed the tier’s requirements, triggering weeks of delay. To qualify for the new tier, counties must maintain an average case rate of 2 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks straight. On April 27, Santa Cruz County’s average was 2.1 cases.

Now, Santa Cruz joins 13 other counties, including San Mateo, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

Even as restrictions loosen, getting back to normal is going to feel different for everyone. For King Humann, normal came after his vaccination.

“The more people get vaccinated and the healthier we get, the more we get to go back to playing when we have the chance,” Humann said.

California is set to fully reopen in less than a month, on June 15. More detailed information about the restrictions in each tier can be found at the Blueprint for a Safer Economy page.

Jerimiah Oetting is KAZU’s news director. Prior to his career in public media, he was a field biologist with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.