OC Closer to Orange Tier, Improving Trends Rending

Thursday, March 25, 2021

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(Orange County Register)

Just one week after entering the red tier – which let restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms invite customers back indoors – Orange County is already on track to advance to the even less-restrictive orange tier for the first time since state officials introduced the four-tier framework of pandemic rules last summer.

If local COVID-19 case rates and other critical metrics used to track the speed and spread of the coronavirus stay as low as they are now, the county could advance to the orange tier on March 31, said Dr. Clayton Chau, OC Health Care Agency director and county health officer.

The tier shift would clear another wave of business sectors, including bowling alleys and bars that don’t serve food, to reopen after months of closure – with masking and other pandemic rules in place – while houses of worship, restaurants, and various retailers could boost their indoor capacities.

Non-essential offices could summon white-collar workers back to their cubicles, though the California Department of Public Health still encourages working from home.

This week, Orange County’s coronavirus case rate dipped into orange tier levels at 3.5 cases per day per 100,000 residents, down from 4 cases per 100,000 last week, according to a Department of Public Health March 23 update.

The share of tests coming back positive – or testing positivity – inched lower this week to 2.1% from 2.2% last week.

Testing positivity among the county’s hardest-hit neighborhoods – known as the health equity metric – also fell slightly this week to 3.2% from 3.5% last week.

All three of a county’s metrics must fall within the next tier’s ranges for two consecutive weeks to advance. Counties also have to remain in a tier for at least three weeks before moving on to a more relaxed tier.

“We are now on our second week of red tier, so my prediction is if everything goes well … we will have three tiers of red tier next week and two weeks of orange tier next week,” Chau told the county Board of Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday.

Los Angeles County also is poised to enter the orange tier next week, while higher case rates in the Inland Empire will keep Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the red tier.

Earlier this month, state leaders adjusted certain pandemic guidelines so that starting April 1, theme parks can reopen in counties in red or better tiers.

Outdoor live events and performances, including professional sports, can also reopen for local residents with capacity limits and other modifications next week regardless of a county’s tier status, though stadiums and venues in purple-tier counties, where the coronavirus is still widespread, have to limit crowds to 100 people.

Learn more about the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Photo by Orange County Register.

Category: COVID-19, orange county