San Diego earns a sliver of yellow as tier system ends

Bars, like Lakeside's Eastbound Bar and Grill will benefit starting Wednesday from San Diego's move to the yellow tier.
(Eduardo Contreras /The San Diego Union-Tribune)

State warns of vaccine lottery scams; local DA says none have popped up so far in San Diego


Downward-trending coronavirus infection rates have put San Diego on the cusp of joining the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s reopening system, though the change is anticlimactic — a bit of a lemon wedge — with the entire structure set to expire on June 15.

San Diego County has an adjusted rate of 1.2 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in the state’s latest weekly tier report. It was the second week under 2 cases per 100,000, meaning that the region will automatically move from orange to yellow on Wednesday, June 9.

Bars are the biggest beneficiaries. Though many have already quietly returned to service, all may now officially use up to 25 percent of their indoor spaces with a limit of no more than 100 patrons under their roofs at once.

Indoor gatherings may increase from 50 to 100 person capacity and gyms and fitness centers may now use up to 50 percent of internal spaces, double the amount allowed in the orange tier. They also regain use of saunas and steam rooms.

In her biweekly COVID briefing to the county board of supervisors, Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego’s public health officer, said she will continue to support an ongoing emergency declaration which has now been in place for more than a year, one that Gov. Gavin Newsom says he intends to continue through 2021.

Many public speakers have been calling the declaration unnecessary, unjust and illegal since shortly after it first took effect, and those outraged cries continued Tuesday, June 8.

During the county’s subsequent weekly COVID news briefing Nathan Fletcher, chair of the board of supervisors, said the emergency status is a formality designed to ensure access to federal and state pandemic response funding and to other emergency-only options such as enhanced liability insurance.

Restrictions that people care about, he said, will go away despite the technical continuation of the “emergency.”

“Day to day life for San Diegans will revert to as close as we’ve been to normal in more than a year and a half,” Fletcher said.

Widespread vaccination — San Diego now has more than 2 million residents who have received at least one dose — is credited with creating the conditions that pushed daily and weekly case totals low enough for yellow. Though the state’s “Vax for the Win” lottery, set to dole out 15 more $50,000 prizes Friday, June 4, and 10 $1.5 million bonanzas on Tuesday, June 8, has not yet caused an obvious spike in new inoculations, it has apparently gotten the attention of scammers.

The California Department of Public Health warned Monday evening, June 7, that California residents reported receiving calls, text messages, emails and direct messages on social media from scammers pretending to be state officials attempting to get in touch about winnings.

Amid so much sketchy behavior, the CDPH reminds residents that there is no process to enter the lottery. The state pulls entrant information directly from vaccine registries. The only way to win is to have received at least one dose before a drawing is held. Winners will not be asked to pay any fees or provide their bank information. Caller ID for state officials getting in touch will say “State of CA CDPH” or come from a email address. Winnings will arrive in the mail in the form of a check mailed by the state controller’s office.

A representative with the San Diego County District Attorney’s office said in an email Tuesday, June 8, that it has not yet received any local reports of vaccine scams.

— Paul Sisson is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune