As California continues to navigate the quagmire of reopening the state amidst an unrelenting global pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a new “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” (Blueprint) to determine when businesses can and cannot open. The new metric employs a color system, where each county is assigned a color based upon “risk-based criteria.” Under the system, lower risk activities or sectors can open sooner and high-risk activities and sectors cannot open until later phases. The scheme is as follows:

  • Purple – Purple indicates a widespread risk of COVID-19 where many non-essential indoor business operations remain closed. A purple county will have more than 7 new daily cases per 100,000 and a more than 8% positive test rate.
  • Red – Red indicates substantial risk of COVID-19 where some non-essential indoor business operations are closed. A red county will have 4 to 7 daily new cases per 100,000 and a 5% to 8% positive test rate.
  • Orange – Orange represents a moderate risk where some indoor business operations are open with modifications. A county in the orange tier will have 1 to 3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 and a 2% to 4.9% positive test rate.
  • Yellow – Yellow represents a minimal risk where most indoor business operations are open with modifications. To fall into the yellow tier, there must be less than 1 daily new case per 100,000 and a less than 2% positive test rate.

Currently, the vast majority of counties in California remain in the purple tier, including Los Angeles County, Riverside County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County, Solano County, Sonoma County, Contra Costa County, and Sacramento County. San Diego, San Francisco, Napa, and Lake Counties are currently designated red.

According to information published by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on the Blueprint system, the CDPH will assess “indicators” weekly and a “county will remain in a tier for a minimum of three weeks before being able to advance to a later tier.” If a county falls into two different tiers, the county remains assigned to the more restrictive tier. Additional information regarding the tier system and how counties will advance from one tier to the next can be found at the CDPH’s overview of the plan here and on the Blueprint website.

Employers navigating these murky waters should continue implementing safety protocols applicable to their businesses. If you have questions regarding how California’s new tier system affects your ability to open and/or manage your workforce, please reach out to your favorite Perkins Coie attorney, who can help.