Large Swathes of California Seeing Progress in Coronavirus Fight

The California Department of Health’s color-coded coronavirus map showing each of the state’s 58 counties’ progress in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.

(CN) — Nearly seven months after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, California health officials announced Tuesday that Ventura County and others across the state are seeing a drop in the rate of infection even as some areas are seeing spikes of infection.

Eight counties moved into less restrictive tiers of the Golden State’s color-coded coronavirus rating system. The system runs from the widespread, the most restrictive tier color-coded purple — meaning fewer sectors of the local economy can reopen — to the least restrictive or minimal tier, which is yellow.

“We’re seeing movement,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Monday. “When we began, 38 counties were in the purple and that is down to less than 20.”

Merced, Ventura and Yuba counties moved into red, the second most restrictive tier, while Inyo moved into the third most restrictive orange tier.

The smaller counties of Humboldt, Plumas, Siskiyou and Trinity counties all moved into the least restrictive or yellow tier as they have seen less than one daily case per 100,000 residents and less than 2% of tests conducted have come back positive.

But Shasta County slid backward from the orange to red tier. The Northern California county of roughly 180,000 reported about 7 positive cases for every 100,000 people and a positivity rate above 3% over a 7-day average, according to its health agency.

A vocal group of residents in Shasta County have decried the health restrictions established by state and local health officials and are also challenging a flu shot mandate. Health officials said they have received threats for trying to implement health restrictions.

Over the weekend, Shasta County reported over 1,000 total confirmed cases. With the latest back slide into the red tier, the county’s restaurants, bars and other businesses must comply with deeper health restrictions.

A faith-based university, Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry in Redding, Shasta’s largest city, is responsible for over 100 cases in the last week according to county health officer Karen Ramstrom.

On Tuesday, residents excoriated the Shasta County Board of Supervisors during a public meeting. According to news reports, a man tried to make a citizen’s arrest during the meeting and was escorted out by sheriff’s deputies.

Ghaly, the state’s health secretary, said he hopes the messaging from state, federal and local agencies about the importance of infection control makes it to residents.

“I think we’re in a sort of political season right now. So much is being talked about as it relates to our Covid response,” Ghaly said. “But again, guided by data, guided by science, guided by lessons of the past, we see the path moving forward by emphasizing all of the things we have done up until now.”

On Monday, shortly before he left Walter Reed Medical Center where he was being treated for a coronavirus infection, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs & knowledge.”

South of Shasta, Tehama County with a population of 65,000 reports an 11% positivity rate over a 7-day average and is back into the purple or widespread tier. According to The New York Times Covid-19 tracking database, Tehama County saw 64 cases in the last week, while Shasta County saw 275.

Ghaly said the state is in close discussions with those counties on the decision to push them back into more restrictive tiers.

The state rolled out a new health equity metric that is meant to address economic and racial disparities and who are getting infected and dying at higher rates.

“Low-income, Latino, Black and Pacific Islanders have been hardest hit,” state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said.

With this new metric, counties will need to address high rates of death and infections within certain neighborhoods and job sectors. That will tie a county to measure its success based on the health and wellbeing of those neighborhoods, which means prioritizing essential workers and those who cannot work from home.

Across the state, health officials reported 1,677 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. Since the onset of the pandemic in March, California has seen over 838,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and a death toll over 16,000.

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