Yolo County sees drop in COVID case rate, remains in Purple Tier

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Yolo County remained in the state’s purple tier for widespread risk of COVID-19 spread on Tuesday, but also received some good news: The county’s test positivity rate and daily new case rate both fell well within the ranges required to move to the less restrictive red tier. The county must maintain those metrics for another week in order to make that move.

If the county’s test positivity rate remains below 8 percent (it is currently 4.2 percent) and its adjusted daily new case rate remains below 7 per 100,000 residents (it stood at 4.7 on Tuesday), the state would move the county to the red tier, presumably when the state updates tiers next Tuesday.

Another bit of good news for some local business owners on Tuesday: Nail salons statewide will be allowed to reopen for indoor services.

Nail salons have been restricted to outdoor services only in counties in the purple tier, but Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said Tuesday those salons will be able to open everywhere, regardless of tier, provided the county health officer agrees.

Yolo County is planning to allow nail salons to reopen, county spokeswoman Jenny Tan said Tuesday, and will be issuing guidance shortly.

Yolo County is now one of 25 counties statewide that remain in the purple Tier 1, where numerous activities and businesses remain restricted or closed altogether.

Five counties made the move to the red Tier 2 on Tuesday: Alameda, Solano, San Mateo, Riverside and San Luis Obispo, joining 14 other counties in that tier. Nearly all of the Bay Area is now in the red tier, with the exceptions of Contra Costa and Sonoma counties.

Sacramento County, like Yolo, remains in the purple tier but also met the metrics for the red tier over the last week.

Moving to Tier 2 would allow a number of Yolo County businesses, including gyms, libraries, movie theaters and places of worship to reopen, albeit with restrictions on the number of people allowed in at a time.

Restaurants could also resume indoor dining with a maximum capacity of 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is fewer, and schools could resume in-person instruction.

Further business re-openings would come in the orange Tier 3, which three counties (El Dorado, Lassen and Nevada) joined on Tuesday. Eleven counties are now in the orange tier and just three counties are in the least restrictive yellow Tier 4: Alpine, Mariposa and Modoc.

But Yolo, according to Ghaly, is one of “a number of counties (that) did enough to control transmission that they’re moving towards a change in tier.”

Key to whether the county can make that change may be just how many students and staff returning to UC Davis test positive for the coronavirus.

The university began testing all students moving into campus housing last week and will continue to do so this week before moving on to students in off-campus housing as well as university employees. UC Davis plans to test everyone at least weekly after that.

UC Davis officials have warned the amount of screening being done in the beginning of the fall quarter, including on students flying in from around the state and country, will almost certainly lead to an increase in case numbers.

Officials in San Diego County, which has been in the red tier the last couple of weeks, saw such an increase after hundreds of students at San Diego State University tested positive for the virus. Fearing the county might be pulled back to the purple tier, San Diego County officials asked the state to remove college students from the county’s case metrics, a move the state refused. However, San Diego remained in the red tier on Tuesday.

“We included the San Diego State University numbers we received in all of our calculations,” Ghaly said Tuesday. “There were no concessions made on their data.”

Ghaly noted the unique issues faced in college campus environments and the threat increased transmission there can pose to the greater community.

“We’ve seen a number of young people become infected as college campuses reopen… not just because we’re testing more, but because of the environment on some of our college campuses,” he said.

Some of those college students, Ghaly added, “do end up becoming sick enough to be hospitalized.”

But more importantly, he said, “is their ability to spread to vulnerable Californians, older family members, maybe mom and dad, aunt and uncle, grandma and grandpa, but really throughout their communities.”

The good news, Ghaly said, is that spread of the virus has slowed in California, allowing more counties to resume more activities. However, he said, “despite seeing this steady downward trajectory, we cannot drop our guard.”

Many states are seeing increases in COVID-19 cases, he noted, and a second wave of the pandemic is starting in Europe, “with some European countries returning to stricter stay-at-home orders.”

Locally, Yolo County has averaged fewer than 10 new cases per day in the last week, down from an average of 18 the week before, and well below the average of 30 or more daily cases earlier this summer.

The city of Winters has reported 119 cases of the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began, but just one new case in the last week.

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