After what feels like a year-long slumber, the Monterey Bay area is beginning to reawaken. COVID-19 infections are falling, vaccinations are increasing and businesses are reopening.
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel recently surprised those attending a news briefing with this very optimistic prediction, “We hope that we can reach some level of herd immunity statewide and locally by late spring.”
The prediction was obviously great news, but came with some very important “ifs.” Newel says herd immunity is possible “if” the assumption that 20 to 30 percent of Californians are already immune is true, and “if” the state can vaccinate another 40 to 50 percent of the population. Then, herd immunity, at 60 to 70 percent, can be achieved.
The Monterey Bay area entered the Red Tier in the state’s reopening plan on the anniversary of California’s first stay-home order with Santa Cruz County entering it last week and Monterey County entering it this week. Dr. Newel says Santa Cruz County could soon move up another tier to Orange.
Chris Shake owns several restaurants in Monterey County. He says moving into the Red Tier with indoor dinning is a big deal.
"We're expecting a tremendous turnout. In fact, we get weekly calls just about all year round asking when are you opening for indoor dining," Shake said.
The Red Tier means the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has been closed for more than a year, can open with modifications. Schools can begin to hold in-person classes and movie theaters can open with 25% capacity. The City of Monterey’s Sports Center is now scheduled to reopen by month’s end.
Local health officials said the community must remain vigilant by wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, and getting the vaccine when it's your turn.