Coronavirus News: When will Jiu Jitsu be Legal in California?

By the number of questions I have got in the last 24 hours it’s on a lot of people’s minds.  I am going to try  my best to answer you in a “just the facts” manner in just discussing the legal options without my overt opinions (and believe me, I have some). I am also not going to go into the safety of the matter or the ethics in this email either (I have opinions that as well).  I am obviously only talking about Jiu Jitsu here, but the information and links I am providing can be used to find information on the legality of any other activities.  

Before we begin you also have to realize that their are four levels of government we as Americans deal with:  Federal, State, County  and City.  Each of these levels obviously has widely different levels of reach and have different roles, and I know I said I would keep my opinions to myself but if there is one thing this Pandemic exposed, it’s that the levels of communication between each of these levels is confusing, not just to the ordinary citizen, but seemingly to the levels of government themselves.  

For purposes of enforcement of activities and the legality of Jiu Jitsu, it generally comes down to two levels for us:  State and County.   Previously the Federal policy was not to get down to this level and leave it up to the states, however certain things might change with the Biden administration coming in such as his issuing a national mask mandate.  

At the city level (specifically San Jose) I have come to the conclusion that they are not enforcing any level of Covid Protocol, but are reacting to the county and state mandates like everyone else.   

So policy and enforcement comes down to State and County levels for our purposes.  The State sets the initial policy and the county can modify it, but it cannot be more lenient than the state is, only more strict.  In places of conflict the more strict rule will be enforced.  However seemingly only the County has done any visible enforcement.

Santa Clara County has probably been the strictest in the nation when it comes to policy and enforcement.  There have been a number of situations where they enforced a more strict rule than the state has (Indoor dining and sports being two of the most visible) and they have the authority and will to enforce things.  They have stated that they will follow along the State Guidelines for now however, but they do have the ability to change their mind on a policy by policy basis.  

California last year instituted a Tiered system for their reopening plans, and this outlined what activities were legal and which weren’t at each level of the tier.  

Opening of gym indoors (gyms, Heroes) would only be permissible once the county hit the RED Tier.  (Santa Clara County is currently in the more restrictive purple Tier).

In December, the State issued an emergency Shelter in Place Order based on the number of ICU beds available within a region (instead of going by county, they grouped them together in five geographic regions).  If ICU  availability dropped below 15% the region would enter Shelter in Place Emergency Orders).  In the Bay Area, all of the counties except San Mateo County voluntarily entered the Shelter in Place Orders early, but the whole region was placed under SIP on December 15th.  

Yesterday the Governor lifted the Shelter in Place Orders for the State, which brings us back to the Tier System (again, Santa Clara sits at the Purple Tier).  It was definitely an interesting move as the Bay Area ICU capacity rebounded to 23%, other regions in the State remained much lower.
There are no specified guidelines for martial arts schools, we fall under the more generic “gyms” category. 


The Youth Directives now include specific wording to encompass martial arts schools.  It is also stated that indoor activities are only permissible in counties where gyms are allowed to operate indoors:


Also, note that Santa Clara County does not make an exemption for vaccinated athletes and Personnel


Now it’s also worth stating that Santa Clara County has also enforced Covid policies and protocols more than anyplace in the country.  At some point they went from warning system to automatic fines and it can be for observed violations (too many people in a space) to even not having the proper signage.  While there are cases of county officials making patrols and contacting merchants about enforcement, the county has also set up a hotline for where citizens can report violations.  I won’t comment on how those hotlines and reporting have been used but I will say it is tricky to say what is being enforced and not.  I do know multiple gym owners who have had visits and conversations with the county officials, including us.

(For the record, the conversation was about our Youth Classes on the Eastside, which we opened up earlier in summer before allowing adult classes to occur.  The officer actually acknowledged that our interpretation of the rule was correct at the time we made it that we could open, but the verbiage had changed to their interpretation and we had to shut down again.  Luckily we moved to red tier three days later.  I only say this to illustrate we have attempted to comply with the rules as much as possible and even the officials acknowledged the confusion. ) 

Now as far as predictions on how the trends are moving and when Santa Clara County will move back to the Red Tier (we actually made it all the way to the Orange Tier).  You may have seen some headlines this week where maddeningly the state stated they are withholding some of their information in order to avoid confusing the public.


There are a few sites / charts I check on a daily basis:

At the State Level:


Despite the state withholding some information, this site has been updated on a regular basis and may be what the State is basing their models on. Clicking on Nowcasts shows an R-Effective rate Statewide at .83 which means cases are decreasing statewide.  Santa Clara County specifically is at .84 (for every one person infected, they spread to .84 people)    Clicking on Forecasts you can see Santa Clara currently has 554 Daily Hospitalizations, and the project 393 a month from now.


There is a map on the bottom of the page and you can click on Santa Clara County.  This shows the current metric the state is using to hold Santa Clara County (or any other county) to a tier.  Note that these metrics are based on Cases per day  and positivity rate.  To move to Red Tier a County has to be at below 7.0 (per 100K) Adjust Case Rate for Daily New Cases AND have an adjusted positivity rate below 8.0%   You can see Santa Clara County currently is at 33.6 and 14.9% respectively

At the County Level


This dashboard provided by Santa Clara County shows daily cases, deaths and hospitalizations.  It is usually but not always synced up with the State numbers.  As of January 25 it is showing 544 new cases.  Santa Clara County has a population slightly below 2 million, and if you do the math you realize that the new case load need a 7 day average to be approximately 140 cases per day to move to the red tier.  

For reference, we have a 7 day rolling average of 1036 cases and there has been a daily spike as high as 2258. 


I also tend to look at the testing dashboard on a regular basis as well, which as of January 25 shows a positivity rate of 6.7% which is actually good enough to move into the red tier by itself.  Note that before the surge Santa Clara County routinely tested below 3% however.  

So if you check these on a regular basis you might be able to make some predictions on caseload and what the State / County response will be.  I was pretty successful in making predictions using these tools all the way into the November surge which shut things down and again as the spike was so alarming at that point.   Also, this doesn’t put into consideration how the vaccine rollout will affect these numbers and change policy and the unfortunate news of new Covid variants being detected.  

FRAT VERSION:  Santa Clara County is in Purple Tier and we cannot operate indoors until we reach Red Tier.  

A patented long Gumby answer to a seemingly simple question, but in all fairness it’s a really complicated and convoluted subject.  If  you have any questions let me know I’ll try to answer to the best of my abilities.

Stay safe and healthy everyone, and looking forward to seeing everyone back on the mat soon.


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