County officials expecting to remain Red as more schools resume in-person learning

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Yolo County remains at least two weeks away from moving into the less restrictive orange tier on the state’s blueprint for reopening.

Data released by the state on Tuesday showed the county’s daily new case rate rose from 3.3 per 100,000 residents a week ago to 4.2 this week. In order to move from the red Tier 2 to orange Tier 3, where additional businesses can reopen and greater capacity will be allowed in others, the county’s daily new case rate must remain below 4 for two consecutive weeks.

The county’s test positivity rate also rose — from 2.2 percent to 2.4 percent — but does meet the metric of below 5 percent required for the orange tier. Likewise, Yolo County’s healthy equity metric, which measures the test positivity rate in a county’s most disadvantaged populations based on zip code, remained below the 5.2 percent required for the orange tier.

In order to move to the orange tier, the county must meet all three metrics for two straight weeks.

Moving to the orange tier would allow Yolo County businesses that were able to reopen after entering the red tier two weeks ago to welcome more customers inside. Restaurants could increase indoor dining capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent, while gyms and fitness centers could increase capacity from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Places of worship and movie theaters also could increase capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent in the orange tier.

Additionally, wineries could open for indoor service as could family entertainment centers such as bowling alleys, and bars and breweries could open for outdoor service.

But the county’s interim health officer, Dr. Larissa May, warned last month that moving from red to orange could be a challenge for Yolo County as schools reopen for in-person instruction and UC Davis students return.

“(T)here’s a lot of questions around what’s going to happen when schools are able to open and what’s going to happen when institutions of higher education are open,” May said at the time. “(I)t seems unlikely that we will be able to get past Tier 2.”

However, she said, “anything’s possible. We just don’t know what that epi curve is going to look like coming into the fall.”

Now a few weeks into fall, the county has seen its cases trending up since the beginning of the month.

Still, after two weeks in the red tier, all schools in Yolo County can reopen for in-person instruction, albeit with restrictions in place. However, the decision to reopen is in the hands of individual school districts.

Many private schools returned to in-person instruction for students in grades K-6 weeks ago after receiving waivers to do so. Now all can reopen and have begun doing so. Students returned to St. James School in Davis, for example, on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s numbers were not a surprise, given that the new cases reported daily on Yolo County’s COVID-19 dashboard have remained in double digits for eight of the last 10 days. To meet the orange tier metric of fewer than 4 cases per 100,000 residents, the county needs to average fewer than nine new cases a day.

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