While she did not want to confirm yet that San Joaquin County would be relegated to the state’s purple tier next week, Dr. Maggie Park said on Thursday that was the feeling among her epidemiologists.
“Next Tuesday, there will probably be an announcement about a different tier,” Park said during a Facebook Live segment with Stockton Strong. “This past Tuesday, we were over the threshold. It’s looking like we’re going to be over that perhaps by next Tuesday, and we’ll still be in the purple tier.”
Park, the county’s Public Health Officer, said the county has already been credited one week of being in the purple tier since its new case rate metric increased to 8.3 new cases per day per 100,000 residents last week.
The 8.3 is an adjusted rate, as the state is asking the county to test some 272 residents for COVID-19 a day. San Joaquin County has been penalized for only testing about 219 a day, Park said.
The county needs to reduce its new daily case rate to less than 7 per 100,000 by Tuesday in order to stay in the red tier, she said.
If an announcement is made Tuesday, many businesses and industries will be given three days to either cease indoor operations or reduce capacity to 25%, Park said.
“If we do go back into the purple, it means businesses will have to revert back to purple tier rules,” she said. “We’re trying to revamp and surge testing upward as much as we can. It’s through testing that we might be able to get our volume up and not suffer penalties to our case rates. Then we can determine who is positive for COVID and isolate them.”
In addition to increased case rates, Park said the rates of transmission was very concerning. The county had 28 people hospitalized with COVID on Nov. 3, and that number increased to 63 by Nov. 10.
Park’s warning comes as the county reports 500 deaths from COVID-19 and 23,224 total cases since the pandemic began. There are currently 1,111 active COVID-19 cases in the county, she said.
Sacramento County was relegated to the purple tier this week, and by Friday, businesses including restaurants and wineries, gyms and fitness centers, and places of worship were required to return to outdoor business and services only.
All retail, libraries and shopping centers were required to reduce indoor capacity to 25%.
San Joaquin County will face similar regulations if moved to the lower tier next week, Park said.
There are currently 12 counties in the purple tier, including Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Tulare and Madera.
Other counties in the red tier in danger of being moved to purple include Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno, Kings, Kern. A total of 22 counties are currently in the red tier.
Six counties are in the yellow, or minimal transmission tier, including San Francisco, Mariposa, Calaveras, Alpine, Sierra and Humboldt.
The remaining 14 counties in the orange tier include Marin, Alameda, Santa Clara, Napa, El Dorado and Tuolumne.
Late Thursday, the Lodi Unified School District issued a statement about returning to in-person instruction next week.
“We are aware that our county may revert back to the purple tier next week, based on the criteria outlined in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” Superintendent Cathy Nichols Washer said. “According to the tentative agreement between LUSD and the Lodi Education Association, students will be on all-distance learning if the county is in the purple tier.”
The district will provide an update to the community during the board of education’s Nov. 17 meeting, Washer said.
The district was hoping to have students in the special day classes return to campus Nov. 19 in a hybrid capacity, with elementary students and some middle schools returning Nov. 30.
Park and the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency are again urging residents to continue wearing masks, keep a strict hand washing and hygiene regimen, stay home as much as possible, and get tested.
“I think we can do it,” Park said. “I think this might be a wake up call, and it’s a sign we can’t let our guard down. We don’t move from into the red or orange or yellow tier just because we want to. We all have to work together to make sure we get there.”