The state of California moved San Mateo County into the less restrictive “orange” tier on Tuesday, easing restrictions on gatherings and some businesses. The relaxed rules take effect at midnight on Tuesday.

The state says the risk of catching coronavirus in San Mateo County is now “moderate.” The change allows some entertainment centers, bars and breweries not serving food, indoor climbing walls and certain other businesses and activities to open with capacity restrictions. Dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and additional businesses can boost their indoor capacities as well.

To meet the milestone, the county had to meet a complex metric including improved rates of new cases and positivity when tests are conducted.

The county credited an increase in testing and data, in part, for its better condition. It corresponds with the city of Half Moon Bay’s hopes to expand COVID-19 testing. Thus far, it has tested at least 400 local residents.

Last week, the city started a separate testing service for seniors and opened a phone line that helps residents book appointments in English or Spanish. Now, staff are looking to expand testing to farms and tent encampments.

These recent and future additions to the city’s testing program are helping to meet San Mateo County’s equity goal that prioritizes protecting lower-income residents and populations of color who are at higher risk of the virus.

According to Matthew Chidester, Half Moon Bay deputy city manager, for every round of testing the city does, the county reports back summary demographic numbers that allows the city to fine tune its outreach methods

As of Oct. 23, two of the 392 that the city tested came back positive. Chidester said this 0.5 percent positivity rate is a sign that the Coastside’s safety measures are paying off. Across the county, the positivity rate is below 1.6 percent, the cutoff to meet the orange tier. Chidester remains vigilant.

“The demographic numbers have been fairly representative but not as strong as we would like,” he said.

In a city that is about 30 percent Latino, 22 percent of all COVID-19 tests here where race and ethnicity were reported were from Latinos. This is a drop from the more representative 30 to 40 percent of Latinos when the city’s testing site first opened.

“Of course, these are people who are voluntarily coming to get tested and you’re probably going to get a certain demographic. So we need to continually push to get everybody,” Chidester said.

That means making registration easy and testing available at more locations, he said.

The city contracted with On Point Language Solutions, a phone translation business based in Half Moon Bay, to make registration accessible for Spanish speakers and those unfamiliar with the city’s online booking platform.

And on Oct. 22, testing began for seniors in partnership with Senior Coastsiders. That day, 36 seniors got tested.

Looking ahead, Chidester said the city will work with Abundant Grace Coastside Worker to offer testing to the low-income and homeless individuals. It will begin its own farmworker testing program modeled after the worksite testing Puente de la Costa Sur has been doing in the southern part of the county. And it is planning a pop-up testing site at Main Street Park, which offers low-income housing.

“By offering this general testing to anybody it really helps paint a better picture of how many people are affected in San Mateo County,” Chidester said.

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