Sonoma County, one of the last two Gulf counties stuck in the most restrictive layer of California’s coronavirus recovery plan, could meet state criteria as early as next week, allowing it to resume a wider range of public activities by mid-October, a public health official said Wednesday.
The result will depend on the continued improvement of two key indicators that show that the spread of the virus began to slow in Sonoma County in late August and has stabilized since early September. If the trend continues – and does not reverse in the next two weeks – the county will be positioned to shift from the “purple” layer of the state, which severely limits the type and scope of indoor activities, said Dr. Sundari Masse, a county public official. health.
Sonoma and Contra Costa counties are the only two districts of the Gulf left in the purple layer subject to the strictest restrictions on indoor activities under the color-coded, four-tier state system used to classify the intensity of the pandemic. In the last month, seven other Gulf counties have moved to the next level, the “red”
The improvement has allowed many other businesses and public places in these counties to expand indoor activities to 50% of capacity, including clothing stores, shoe stores, florists, jewelers and libraries. In Sonoma County, they are currently allowed to serve customers indoors, but only at 25% of capacity.
Mase said Wednesday that the county is very close to meeting the two criteria needed to move to the red stratum, and that could happen on Tuesday when the state makes its weekly county assessments.
During a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Mase pointed to a number of reasons why the county has lagged behind other Gulf counties since the start of the pandemic. She said many of the nine counties in the Gulf region had been affected by the increase in “good month ahead” cases and were therefore recovering earlier from Sonoma County.
“So we’re probably falling behind,” she said. “In other words, we are seeing a decrease in cases, perhaps a few weeks after them.”
But Mase also pointed out that Sonoma County is less like other urbanized districts in the Gulf region and shares more in common with Monterey County, which also remains at the purple level. Both counties are home to tourism, agriculture and other industries, with large bases of agricultural workers living in the county.
“The main workers in Sonoma County also live and work within our borders,” Masse said.
Strong testing and tracking of contacts in the county, especially in local Latin American communities and adult care facilities, has led to the discovery of more cases, Masse said.
“It’s good because we find all our cases and isolate them,” she said. “It also increases our number.”
Announced nearly four weeks ago, Governor Gavin Newsum’s reopening plan identified four color-coded levels of COVID-19 restrictions based on the extent of the virus in the county. The purple layer, the most restrictive, indicates the “widespread” transmission of the virus; red means “significant”, “orange” means “moderate” and yellow means “minimal”.
The state re-evaluates the counties every Tuesday based on the frequency of their cases, the average daily cases per 100,000 inhabitants and their degree of positivity, the share of all tests for COVID-19 that give a positive result.
Nineteen counties in the state are at the red level, and 25, including Sonoma County, remain at the purple level.
To reach the red stratum, Sonoma County must have seven or fewer new cases each day per 100,000 inhabitants – or approximately 35 cases per day – and a positivity rate below 8%. Currently, the county has 8.3 new cases per capita per day and a positivity rate of 4.6%, but counties must meet both criteria in order to progress.
Mase said that with the recent decline in local cases, it is possible that Sonoma County will meet the requirements of the red layer by next Tuesday. It must then continue to meet these requirements for two consecutive weeks before proceeding.
However, schools will be barred from reopening classrooms without denial by the county’s public health department unless the county remains in the red for another two weeks – or at the end of October at the earliest.
Contra Costa County, the other county in the bay, still in the purple zone, met the requirements of the red layer on Tuesday, starting the two-week countdown before it could continue. The cities of Alameda, San Mateo and Solano left the purple zone on Tuesday, joining the counties of Napa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara.
Karl Fischer, a spokesman for Contra Costa Health Services, said the county had declined in its COVID-19 performance since early July and had brought its local health order in line with the state’s opening plan.
“At the moment, we have no additional restrictions on what the state allows at the moment,” he said.
Sonoma County took the step on Wednesday, issuing a new health order, removing county restrictions that went beyond public health mandates. As a result, nail salons could resume indoor service on Thursday morning in Sonoma County, bringing the county in line with state guidelines issued by Newsom on Tuesday.
The new local health policy does not change the requirements for businesses and individuals aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.
Mase said the only other changes stemming from the new order are: raising the limit on the size of childcare groups from 12 to 16 and allowing personal lectures and student gatherings at universities when the county enters the red degree.
You can contact staff writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @pressreno.