A few moments ago, the California Department of Public Health has lowered Humboldt County’s COVID rating from the purple zone (“widespread”) to the red (“substantial”).

The move, which was expected today, means that more businesses can open up to more activity. Indoor dining will be allowed at local restaurants, for example, and retail stores can move up to 50 percent capacity. (See a full list at the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” website, and expect a statement from the county on the redesignation shortly.)

The changes take effect at midnight tonight, and will last for a minimum of two weeks.

The redesignation also means that local schools that are still closed to in-person learning may now open up to hybrid or in-person classes. A wider variety of youth sports — including baseball, softball, cheerleading and outdoor volleyball — may now be practiced in the county, as per an advisory on the subject released late last week

Earlier today, at the Board of Supervisor meeting, Humboldt County health officer Dr. Ian Hoffman said that unlike in January, when the county briefly dipped down into the red for a couple of weeks only, there is every indication that the current reassignment may be more permanent.

“We feel we’re in a much better position than in January, when we barely made it into the red tier,” Hoffman said. “This time [our epidemiological data] is much more solid.”

Hoffman urged the public to continue to avoid indoor gatherings, and to continue to do as much outdoors as possible.