On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that Santa Cruz County and San Diego County would be leaving the state COVID-19 watchlist due to fewer positive cases, while four new rural counties were added to the list.
‘People come on, people come off, the numbers shift every single week’
Both counties have record five consecutive days of having less than 100 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people. Santa Cruz had reached the threshold late last week while San Diego met the requirement on Monday.
“This is a dynamic list. People come on, people come off, the numbers shift every single week,” said Governor Newsom during a press conference on Monday. “I anticipate this week the numbers to shift again and it looks like, all things being equal and the latest 24-hour reporting period, which we will have later this evening, it’s very likely San Diego will join the list of those counties removed. So, likely tomorrow.”
Getting off the watchlist, which is widely seen as the first step towards greater reopening perimeters, has a strict checklist for each county to follow. If a county on a watchlist records less than 100 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day for five days, they are off the list. If a county is off the list for two weeks with no case relapse then local officials can begin reopening K-12 schools. And if that goes well further re-openings can happen with approval from the state health officer.
California, counties stress slow, cautious re-openings
“What it doesn’t mean right now is the opening of anything at all,” said Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel during a Monday press conference.
Dr. Newel also noted that after the 14 days that some businesses would start to reopen. “I would anticipate but this is no promise, but I would anticipate that we would see hair salon, nail salons, personal services back indoors probably be reopened up,” added Dr. Newel.
San Diego officials noted similar sentiments, as did Orange County officials, who have said that their county is close to being removed from the watchlist as well.
Governor Newsom also noted on Monday that four rural counties – Amador, Calaveras, Inyo, and Mendocino – would be added to the watchlist due to higher COVID-19 positivity figures.
The large number of county fluctuations on Monday came after the wake of the COVID-19 positivity rate errors found by the state earlier this month. The errors delayed many counties from being moved on or off the list, caused a backlog of nearly 300,000 test results, and was a factor in the resignation of California Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Sonia Angell.
“Higher populated counties are seeing declining numbers of COVID-19 in California,” explained an unnamed CDPH employee who wished to remain anonymous to the Globe. “This is by no means over, but it is showing that California is slowly getting a handle back on COVID-19. As long as the counties still view this seriously, positive rates will go down even further, and that’s what we all want.”