On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom and Health and Human Services (CHHS) Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that several counties will be moving to the next reopening stages.
5 counties move to lower tier after showing improvement
Amador, Orange, Placer, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties will be moving from the purple tier, the highest level that indicates “widespread” cases within the county at 7 or more new cases per 100,000 residents to the red tier, the next lowest level that indicated a “substantial” infection percentage at between 4-7 new cases per 100,000 residents. The move will allow the reopening of some non-essential indoor businesses such as movie theaters and the increase of capacities at already open places such as malls and zoos. The color change also indicates a lower percentage of positive tests.
A sixth county, Marin County, had also been expecting to move up on Tuesday following more positive data, but the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) cancelled the decision at the last minute on Monday due to problems with the timeframe of the data being used by the county.
“So we did have a conversation with Marin County over the weekend,” said Dr. Ghaly at the press conference on Tuesday. “In fact, when we did the official run yesterday with Marin County data, the anticipated move to red is really being held back.
“We did have conversations with local health officials in Marin in respect to the data and agreed to continue to look at the data and if an adjustment is warranted in the next days to weeks, we will make that and move the county.
“[The other 5 counties] have maintained the appropriate average for more than 2 weeks.”
Tuesday’s county moves were the first county changes in Newsom’s new reopening plan, designed to have simpler guidelines as well as to be a slower reopening process for counties.
“It’s an iterative process that we engage with our minds not made up,” explained Governor Newsom on Tuesday. We are open-ended in our approach. Getting closer to determining when and how to open up.”
COVID-19 rates continue to fall, state warns that cases may go up following Labor Day
New tier movements will now be announced every Tuesday, needing to meet the next tier’s criteria for at least two weeks and needing to remain in a tier for three weeks before the next jump can be made. Requirements to moving back to more stringent tiers require worsening COVID-19 rates in the respective county, a factor that experts warn could be put into play soon following the Labor Day holiday weekend.
“Beaches were filled again, there were parties. Factors that we saw during the Memorial Day and July 4th weekends that also brought spikes in cases,” Dr. Ben Coilbert, a Los Angeles area doctor who has treated COVID-19 cases, noted to the Globe.
Governor Newsom also confirmed the rate spikes on Tuesday.
“Three-day holiday weekends have not been advantageous in terms of the mitigation of the spread of this virus,” added Newsom “You look back at seminal periods when we experienced large surges, and they tended to occur three weeks after holiday weekends such as the Fourth of the July. And so we’re going to continue to hold the line.”
Both the Governor and the DHHS Secretary also gave good news concerning the declination of COVID-19 in California. Positivity rates have fallen by half to 3.8% from a month ago, with hospitalizations over two weeks down 24%. ICE patients also fell by 21% in the same amount of time.
As of Tuesday, with the five counties moving down a level, there are currently 33 counties in the highest purple reopening tier, 14 in the red tier, 9 in the orange tier, and two in the lowest yellow tier. More counties, including Marin, are expected to fall down more tiers in the coming weeks.