Reopening California: It's allowed, but is it safe? We asked 3 doctors if they'd participate in orange tier activities

SAN FRANCISCO -- Several Southern California counties could possibly move into the orange tier soon, resulting in higher capacity at indoor restaurants, reopened bars (outdoors, at least), bowling alleys back in business and more. But just because you can do something, should you?

Ultimately, it comes down to your personal health risks, your comfort level and -- a big one -- whether or not you've been fully vaccinated. (That means two weeks since your last shot.) As vaccinations increase and COVID-19 transmission drops, being out and about in public continues to get safer.

"If all the right guidance is being followed, I do think it's OK to go to some of these restaurants or other indoor settings that we're allowing to open," said Dr. Nicholas Ross, the public health officer of the Bay Area's Alameda County. "You know if we didn't feel like it was safe from a public health standpoint, we wouldn't move ahead with these types of changes."

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KGO-TV asked three UC San Francisco doctors if they'd be comfortable doing some of the newly allowed activities in the orange tier and found their answers varied quite a bit, which makes sense when you consider how personal these decisions are. See their answers below. (Some have been edited for length and/or clarity.)

Would you dine indoors at a restaurant at 50% capacity?


Dr. George Rutherford, head of disease and global epidemiology at UCSF: "Depends on what my other risk factors were. If I'm 85 years old and had chronic heart disease, I'd be a little careful about that. If I'm 25 and had absolutely nothing wrong with me and somehow managed to get fully vaccinated because I'm a health care worker or something, I'd have no hesitancy to do that."

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Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease professor at UCSF School of Medicine: "No, but maybe if I'm sitting by the window and put my mask on when not eating and while in the restroom. This generally reflects my own personal comfort, but given low test positivity and case rates in San Francisco, It's a generally safe activity as long as folks use precautions. Restaurants vary widely by ventilation so look at that, as well. It also depends on whether folks have medical comorbidities, so they would get bad COVID. If you do, feel more nervous."

Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF School of Medicine professor: If not vaccinated, no. If vaccinated, yes.

Would you see a movie indoors at a theater at 50% capacity?


Rutherford: "It depends on how much risk you're willing to take. The chances of vaccine failure are very small, but they're not zero. If I were unvaccinated and had risk factors, absolutely not. If I were vaccinated and had risk factors, I might still even be a little cautious."

Chin-Hong: "If not vaccinated, no. This generally reflects my own personal comfort, but given low test positivity and case rates in San Francisco, it's a generally safe activity as long as folks use precautions."

Gandhi: "Yes, with masks and distancing."

Would you go to an outdoor bar and have a few drinks with a friend?


Rutherford: "Depends on social distancing, it depends on whether you and your friend are vaccinated are not."

Chin-Hong: "Yes, especially in windy SF. Also, I want a really strong heat lamp."

Gandhi: Yes, if wearing masks (when not drinking) and distancing (between tables). If both people are vaccinated, yes.

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Would you take your family bowling?


Rutherford: "That strikes me as pretty low risk. Sure."

Chin-Hong: If we are not vaccinated, no. If vaccinated, maybe. "This generally reflects my own personal comfort. It's safer than indoor dining, as you can keep your mask on for most of the time unless you are a snack maven. It's also easier to socially distance from other groups, as well, in most cases."

Gandhi: "Yes, with masks and distancing."

Would you go to an outdoor pro sports game? (This will be allowed in the orange tier starting April 1.)


Rutherford: "If they're limited capacity with a lot of spacing... I'd feel much more comfortable going if I were vaccinated than (if I were) unvaccinated."

Chin-Hong: If not vaccinated, no. If vaccinated, yes.

Gandhi: "Yes, with masks and distancing."

Would you go to an outdoor concert? (This will also be allowed in the orange tier starting April 1.)


Rutherford: "It would depend on the venue. If you're talking Woodstock, no. If you're talking the Philharmonic or something at the Hollywood Bowl, possibly. It depends on the venue and the density."

Chin-Hong: If not vaccinated, no. If vaccinated, yes.

Gandhi: "Yes, with masks and distancing."

MAP: CA counties that can, can't reopen under new rules

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