Orange County is on track to graduate to a less-restrictive COVID-19 tier next week, according to county officials.
Orange County recorded one week of improved metrics and must improve or maintain its numbers for an additional week before reaching the red tier’s less prohibitive set of guidelines.
“Before Orange County can move to the red tier, we must meet certain benchmarks set by the state regarding daily case rate, positivity rate, and health equity rate for two consecutive weeks, which we’re on track to meet,” Supervisor Andrew Do said in a press release. “Thanks to the diligence of our residents and business operators, we’re on the cusp of moving to the red tier, but we must remember to not let our guard down and continue adhering to local health guidance.”
When Orange County enters the red tier, restaurants will be allowed to have indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, gyms will be able to open at 10 percent capacity, museums, zoos, and aquariums will be able to open at 25 percent capacity, and more.
According to Blueprint for a Safer Economy guidelines released by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, Orange County has hit key metrics that will allow it to reopen to the red tier level on March 17 at the earliest, if it can maintain its metrics.
Counties that hit the red tier metrics are normally required to hold their COVID-19 case rates below the qualifying metric for weeks, but Orange County doesn’t have to wait as long due to getting credit for its health equity rate and positivity rate having already been in the orange tier, said Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
The county’s case rate per 100,000 was hovering slightly above 7, which is the threshold to move to the red tier for that category. Counties need to have all three metrics below their thresholds to make it into the red tier, or any subsequent tier.
Once Orange County hits 2 million vaccinations for the state’s Healthy Places index, its metric requirements will loosen, and it will be permitted up to 10 cases per 100,000.
So far, it has have given about 1.7 million vaccinations.
“Even if our case count spikes up and it goes to 8, we’re still going to be OK in the red tier,” Bartlett said. “It really solidifies things for us not having to bounce back to the purple tier, even if our case rate per 100,000 goes up.”
It’s a big deal for the county, which has been struggling to make it out of the purple tier for months, Bartlett said.
“It’s a huge relief for the county and a significant milestone, because it means that with all the vaccinations that are taking place, we’re actually turning the corner relative to addressing the issues of COVID-19,” she said. “So by going from purple to the red tier, we’re going to be able to open up so much more of our local economy.”
If the county retains its downward trend, it could reach the even less-restrictive orange tier within weeks, Bartlett said.
“If we can get our case rate per hundred thousand down to orange-tier level, within three weeks after March 17, if we hold steady, we’re going to be able to move to the orange tier,” she said. “It could be a very quick movement from red tier to orange tier.”
John Kabateck, California State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), told The Epoch Times that the move is good news for struggling businesses.
“We’re very encouraged to witness more and more of California’s communities opening up their doors for small business to thrive and succeed once again,” Kabateck said.
Kabateck said he believes some of the progress is due to more residents being vaccinated against the virus.
“Although there are still some challenges here in California, all in all, we’re encouraged that policymakers are doing their part to recognize that if a small business thrives, our public services thrive, because they’re the ones who subsidize health care, education, fixing our broken streets, with their tax dollars,” he said.
In terms of “changing to red tier, we’re glad about that, we’re hopeful that things will remain safe, and we still are encouraging every small business owner to take the important measures to keep their businesses clean, safe, and healthy throughout this process so that we can make our way through the woods. But we also believe that there’s not a moment too soon that we should be getting Main Street reopened, customers coming through the door, and men and women working once again.”
Contact Drew Van Voorhis at Drew.VanVoorhis@epochtimesca.com