Yolo County sliding closer to purple tier

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Yolo County could find itself back in the purple tier next week as daily new cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise.

When the state Department of Public Health updates county data on Wednesday (a day later than usual because of the election), Yolo County’s adjusted new daily case rate will have risen to 7.3 per 100,000 residents, according to the county’s new health officer, Dr. Aimee Sisson.

That exceeds the metric for the red tier, where the county has been since late September and which allowed multiple businesses to reopen indoors with limited capacity.

The state blueprint for reopening features four tiers based on the risk of COVID-19 transmission, with purple as the top tier where virus transmission is most widespread and business activities most restricted. Yolo County spent multiple weeks in the purple tier before moving to red on Sept. 29.

“While Yolo’s metrics land in the purple tier at this time,” Sisson told county supervisors on Tuesday, “we will remain in the red tier for the coming week.

“Next week, if our metrics once again fall in the purple tier, we may have to move backward into the purple tier.”

However, she said, the state last week changed its process for moving counties into more restrictive tiers. Previously, if a county’s metrics fell within a more restrictive tier for two weeks in a row, it would be moved to that tier.

Now, Sisson said, before moving the county, the state will look at the most recent 10 days of data and if there are “objective signs of improvement,” that county would enter an observation period and would remain in the less restrictive tier for another week.

The bottom line for Yolo County: If on Nov. 10, the county still meets the purple tier metrics and there have been no signs of improvement, the county will be moved back to purple and restaurants, gyms, places of worship and other businesses will have 72 hours to close indoor operations.

The data the state will be using for tier updates on Wednesday is based on the week of Oct. 18-24 when the county reported 119 new cases of COVID-19, Sisson said.

Fourteen of those cases, she said, or 12 percent of the total, were from the outbreak at the Alderson Convalescent Hospital in Woodland. But Sisson said she does not expect cases at Alderson to continue to drive up the county’s daily case rate as the outbreak there has ebbed. Rather, she said, it is cases in the general public that have been increasing recently.

“That is not just Yolo County,” said Sisson. “Just about every county in the region is seeing increases in cases.”

Going forward, she said, “as this virus spreads, particularly as the weather gets cooler and more people are spending time indoors where we have a higher risk of aerosol transmission, I think there is potential for seeing cases continuing to increase.”

In fact, she said, “I would not be surprised to see the cases in the general public continue to increase over the next several weeks.”

County staff plan to issue a press release Wednesday that will describe the process going forward and try to provide businesses more clarity on what to expect in the next couple of weeks.

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