California Counties Inch Open Amid Progress in Covid War

(Courthouse News photo/Barbara Leonard)

(CN) — Several California counties have made enough progress in their fight against the novel coronavirus to advance on the state’s tiered reopening plan, while one county is at risk of backsliding into the most restrictive tier.

Sierra County in Northern California progressed to the yellow or “minimal” tier with a positive case rate less than 2%. Placer, Alameda and Santa Clara counties advanced to the orange or “moderate” tier with a positive test rates below 5%, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Kings, Kern, San Benito, Stanislaus and Sutter counties exited the most restrictive tier and progressed into the red or “substantial” tier with positive test rates between 5 and 8%. This means the counties’ restaurants can welcome diners indoors and churches can bring worshippers inside at 25% of capacity, while gyms can open at 10% capacity.

Eight of the state’s 58 counties are at the yellow “minimal” tier, while 10 counties are on the opposite side at the most restrictive purple or “widespread” tier. And one county is on the precipice of falling back to “widespread.”

California health officials are reviewing the health data provided by Riverside County, according to California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday during a virtual briefing.

“We’re working with Riverside, looking at their data… making sure that we understand it well and that we have a good conversation with them to make sure that it’s accurate before making any further decisions,” said Ghaly.

Riverside County’s testing volume has lagged and its case rate when adjusted under the state’s daily average has gone up. The county’s health website reports that as of Tuesday, there are 7.6 positive cases for every 100,000 residents in Riverside County. The county has seen 61,800 confirmed since the onset of the pandemic and its death toll stands at 1,200.

But the state’s tier assignment website shows Riverside county has 8.1 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. Adjusted for tier assignment, the rate stands at over 9 new cases per 100,000. Riverside County health officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fresno County was also on the threshold of slipping back into the most restrictive tier but officials confirmed it would remain in the red category.

The Golden State saw 2,378 new cases over the last 24-hour period. The state’s 7-day average of new cases stands at 3,421, slightly higher than in previous weeks, and the test positivity rate is 2.6%.

California health officials visited theme parks in other states to see how they’re handling infection control during the pandemic, but Ghaly said he has not read the reports on those visits.

Officials visited theme parks in Orlando, Florida, to understand how communities near theme parks function. There will be upcoming visits to California theme parks to see how they are gearing up to reopen when the state releases its own guidelines, Ghaly said.

“It will come out when we are ready, we are working with our theme parks and waiting on feedback” from those visits, said Ghaly.

And while Halloween is not outright canceled in California, large gatherings, trick or treating and large-scale Dia De Los Muertos festivities with people who do not live together are not recommended by state health agencies.

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