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By Shawn Raymundo

Orange County next week is likely to move down a tier, to a lower-risk level, on the state’s new tiered monitoring system to track coronavirus cases, county officials announced on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

According to a press release from the Orange County Health Care Agency, County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau reportedly got confirmation from the state health department on Monday, Aug. 31, that the county “is on track to enter into the red tier” on Sept. 8.

OC Health also noted that as long as the county maintains its metrics and moves to the red tier, all K-12 schools could be eligible for reopening in-person classes as early as Sept. 22.

Graphic: California Department of Public Health

The move down from the purple (widespread) tier—the highest-risk level—to the red (substantial) tier hinges on whether the county can maintain its current metrics on new cases and test positivity rate.

To qualify for the red tier, a county must have between four to seven new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 and a test positivity rate between 5% and 8%. Currently, Orange County has 5.6 new cases and a 5% test positivity rate.

The announcement on the county’s anticipated downgrading to a lower tier follows remarks Gov. Gavin Newsom gave on Friday, Aug. 28, when he unveiled the new monitoring system, which replaces the previous watch list that had identified counties experiencing rises in cases and hospitalizations.

During that announcement, Newsom indicated that counties that had just recently come off the watch list, yet found themselves in the highest-risk level—Orange County being one of them—were likely to move down a tier over the coming days.

“With the new criteria, we captured a couple (of counties) that were just coming off that (watch list). They’re likely to come out very, very shortly,” Newsom had explained this past Friday.

The rollout of the new system, referred to as the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” had come less than a week after the county had been removed from the watch list.

The county was added to the watch list back in early June amid a surge in cases that put in place renewed restrictions on several economic sectors. On Sunday, Aug. 23, the county was able to come off the list as case and hospitalization rates improved to acceptable levels.

As of Aug. 31, some business sectors within counties under the purple tier had been allowed to reopen with modifications, according to the state. Those sectors include all retail, shopping centers—at 25% maximum capacity—and hair salons and barbershops for indoor operations.


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