By David M. Greenwald
Twice before Yolo County has been locked down—once in the spring when the initial pandemic wave hit, once over the summer when there was a new surge of cases, and now since November when we had by far the larger surge of cases and deaths. Deaths in the country pushed from just over 200,000 in the fall to passing half a million this week, but over the last month new cases have come way down.
Nationally what had been over 200,000 new cases a day, is now in the 60,000 to 75,000 range. And now, for Yolo County, we have come back into the red for the first time since November 17. Will we stay? That’s a big question and a big concern.
“Moving into the red tier is an indication that COVID-19 cases are declining, but it does not mean that coronavirus has gone away,” said Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson.
She warned, “We cannot let down our guard. Reopening must be done cautiously to avoid a surge in cases. I urge residents to continue taking precautions to keep themselves, their loved ones, and the rest of the Yolo County community safe. Wearing masks, distancing, not gathering indoors, and getting vaccinated when it is your turn remain as important as ever.”
Yolo County was placed in the most restrictive widespread, or purple, tier on November 17 and stayed in the purple tier through the state’s stay-at-home order for the Greater Sacramento Region.
The state’s blueprint tracks three metrics: the seven-day adjusted case rate, the seven-day testing positivity rate and the health equity metric. For the week ending February 22, Yolo County’s rate for adjusted cases was 5.6, testing positivity was 1.6%, and for health equity it was 5.2%. To move into the red or substantial tier, counties must meet a daily case rate of between 4-7%, a positivity rate of between 5-8% and a health equity rate of between 5.3-8% for two consecutive weeks after being in the purple tier for at least three weeks.
Yolo County must be in the red tier for at least three weeks and meet the moderate, or orange, tier’s metrics for two consecutive weeks, before officially moving into the orange tier. Counties can also move backward into more restrictive tiers if their metrics worsen for two consecutive weeks. Additionally, if a county’s case rate and positivity rate fall into two different tiers, the county remains in the stricter tier.
“I am glad that we are finally able to re-enter the red tier,” said Chair of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors Jim Provenza. “This will benefit gyms, restaurants, youth sports and many others. I would like to caution Yolo County residents to continue observing safe practices; such as distancing, wearing face covering and staying away from large gatherings; so that we can avoid another surge in cases and a possible return to the purple tier.”
There do seem to be changes. For one thing, while the vaccine rollout has been painfully slow at times, it is happening.
There does seem to be less resistance to masking up.
One of the big issues has been re-opening schools. Governor Newsom is under extreme pressure, especially with a looming recall, to re-open.
The Bee reports: “Newsom for weeks has pushed lawmakers to draft a deal on reopening schools quickly, without much success. A plan introduced in the Legislature last week would open certain grades by April, depending on case rates, but Newsom said the timetable was too slow.”
They note: “Failing to broker a deal that puts kids back in classrooms could further incite his detractors, who are already using the issue to push a recall movement.”
Locally DJUSD has protocols in place for re-opening, and with the county’s provision being that the county must be in the red tier for five days and the schools must follow the State’s Reopening Framework.
DJUSD has set four conditions that all experts agree upon: masking for all, social distancing, ventilation and air filtration, and on-site testing at least once a week. Teachers have called for the same four conditions.
The red tier requirement could happen by early March, and the county and state have added teachers to the priority list.
Some of the important changes are that fitness centers can open inside but at 10 percent capacity. Restaurants can open indoors with 25% max occupancy or 100 people, whichever is fewer, but only members of the same household may share a table. And personal care services can open inside with modifications.
What I worry about is that with people able to eat inside restaurants again, they will become complacent and the infection rate will tick back up.
Yolo County warns: “Everyone has a role to play in keeping our communities safe and healthy, including wearing a face covering, physical distancing and not gathering with others outside their household. Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions should continue to stay at home as much as possible. Lower spread of COVID-19 means that more businesses and industries can reopen and revitalize our local economy.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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