Commentary: Yolo Goes Back into the Red – Can It Stay This Time?

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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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Miller

    Restaurants can open indoors with 25% max occupancy or 100 people,

    I’m gonna wait until dying is less likely than the flu, thank you.  I haven’t exactly seen a consistent program of testing ventilation systems, and not trusting breathing indoor air at this time where people unmask to eat, talk, drink.

    only members of the same household may share a table.

    Oh ha ha ha – pu-leeeeeeeez.  Does anyone buy this happened during purple phase, or even “deep purple” ?  Someone told me G Street last weekend was crowds on unmasked people crowded under the tents mingling freely and many drinking.  Described it as ‘scary’.  I’m fine with opening outdoor dining, but let’s not pretend this fallacy people are ‘sitting only with members of their household’.  It’s a free for all.

    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.

    I just talked to someone very familiar with South Africa, and he said they stopped using one of the vaccines there because it wasn’t working on their new strain (which I won’t name so I won’t be accused of racism).  I don’t have confirmation of this (not that hearing it in social media or news media is confirmation these days) but that is a scary thought.  Also plays to the new ‘vaccine musical chairs’ where people are making appointments and rejecting certain brands if they get there and the one they’ve heard doesn’t work as well is about to go into their arm – and they make a new appointment and repeat until they get the one they want.  Apparently this is a ‘thing’ in L.A. especially.

    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.”

    Good luck with that, Yolo County.

    For me, I’ve considered this a war, humans vs. virus, since last March.  I’m not going lax and raising the ‘I’m sick of this, I want my life back’ white flag because the enemy, a sort of invisible sniper lurking on rooftops, is only around trying to kill and maim us at the levels they were a few months ago.  Others of you frolic and play and say the bullets aren’t going to hit you – and you are statistically correct.  If only it were only about you:  war, what war?  What, me war-ry?

  2. Tia Will

    As will come as no surprise, I am deeply concerned about loosening restrictions at a time when we are just beginning to vaccinate our population.

    My biggest concerns are restaurants, gyms, and high schools. Restaurants for the reasons covered by Alan. Gyms because of the interactions between those present in an environment which virtually guarantees deep breathing with mask removal for hydration…and conversation. And high schools because both my high school teacher daughter and sports trainer son do not believe compliance is achievable per their direct observation of how their students behave. And because we have two experiences to date of experiencing surges after premature openings.

    Vaccination of significant numbers will lessen these risks, but we are not there yet. I am concerned we are again making the same mistake we have so obviously, by the numbers, made before. As Alan stated, we are in a war with the virus, not with each other. We should be using our entire arsenal of weaponry against it, not just relying on the latest addition.

    I will stress as has Dr. Sisson and CDC Director Dr. Walensky, the ongoing need for outside activities, limited numbers, distancing, masking, sanitation as well as getting vaccinated when it is your turn.

    1. Bill Marshall

      I hear your concerns… if we follow science, including CDC and Dr Sisson’s guidance, I have none…

      Particularly their guidance on conditionally re-opening in-person schools… Dr Sisson has recommended limiting it for now, as to pre-HS…

    2. Keith Y Echols

      Yeah…I still don’t feel the need to eat at an indoor restaurant….even though I look forward to being able to go out again and try new restaurants.

      On the other hand, I will start shopping at Costco again.   I stopped doing that when the last surge hit in early December.

      I’m going to put my kids back into “safe” organized outdoor sports activities (we those activities stopped back in late November).

      We all manage the risks to best suit our individual circumstances, understanding of the facts and feelings.

      1. Alan Miller

        Note:  there are also options like InstaCart now available in Davis with several stores available, and outdoor pickup options at some stores such as at the COOP.

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