Sonoma County could qualify next week for least restrictive reopening tier | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors
With steadily declining coronavirus transmission, Sonoma County is on the verge of advancing to the least restrictive part of the state’s reopening plan and lifting more community restrictions in May.
Local health officials said Wednesday the county’s key COVID-19 metrics had dipped into the range to qualify for the yellow tier of the four-stage reopening road map the state unveiled in late August.
The county’s qualification to move from the orange to yellow tier could come as early as Tuesday, the day the state conducts its weekly assessment of the 58 counties’ progress tamping down the virus. After that, if new daily infections and the level of overall positive coronavirus tests remain in check, the county could officially advance to the yellow tier on May 12.
Meanwhile, neighboring Mendocino County on Wednesday became one of only four counties statewide to reach the yellow tier.
Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said curtailing spread of the virus has been largely due to the ongoing vaccination campaign. More than half of the county’s nearly 500,000 residents have received at least one shot. And of these people, 185,650, or 45% of the population 16 or older, have been fully vaccinated.
“As we continue to vaccinate more and more people in the community, we’re going to have less and less cases,” Mase said.
Reaching the yellow reopening stage would allow the county to reopen more broadly and expand business operations and public activities.
For example, bars not serving food could reopen indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Wineries, breweries and distilleries where no meals are served could jump to 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer. Restaurants would remain at 50% indoor capacity.
Gyms, fitness centers and dance studios can move to 50% capacity inside, and they’d be allowed to reopen hot tubs, indoor pools, steam rooms and saunas.
Museums would be able to expand to full capacity, while movie theaters could use half of their space. Churches and other places of worship could continue indoors with recommended use of the space at 50%.
Private outdoor gatherings, with public health safety precautions in place, can increase from 50 to 100 people. Indoor gatherings are strongly discouraged, but would be allowed at 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
In many instances, the state’s guidelines for the yellow tier permit businesses to boost their indoor capacity to 75%, if all patrons show proof of being fully vaccinated or a recent negative virus test.
Sonoma County health officials said the local adjusted daily coronavirus case rate has been falling rapidly. Between April 6 and April 19, the rate fell from 4.4 to 2 new cases per 100,000 people.
On Wednesday, the county’s average adjusted case rate was 2 per 100,000 people, while the overall test positivity, the share of virus tests positive countywide, was 1%. And the test positivity rate in disadvantaged communities was 1.2%.
All three metrics meet the state’s benchmarks for the yellow tier. Counties must remain in a tier for at least 3 weeks before advancing to a less restrictive tier.
By June 15, however, California intends to ditch the color-coded tiers and fully reopen the state.
Kathryn Pack, health program manager for the county’s epidemiology team, said while there are fewer new COVID-19 cases overall, large and small private gatherings are playing a more prominent role in new infections. Gatherings now account for 20% of all new cases, she said.
By comparison, that’s a higher portion of infections related to gatherings than it was during the Thanksgiving holiday, according to county data.
“We’re starting to see among our cases more instances of people traveling, either going to baby showers and other kinds of events and get-togethers,” Pack said. “I think that people are starting to let their guard down.”
That’s not affecting senior care homes, which before residents and staff were inoculated in recent months were the deadly epicenter of the pandemic. At the county’s skilled nursing and assisted living centers, 95% of residents have been fully vaccinated. That’s the reason why there hasn’t been a new coronavirus case detected among senior care home residents since March 5, and no resident has died of COVID-19 complications since since Feb. 16, Pack said.
Across the county, the most recent COVID-19 fatality occurred on April 14 when an unidentified man between 50 and 64 died, boosting the death toll since the pandemic started in March 2020 to 312. The man had at least one underlying health condition, local officials said.
Trevor Mockel, spokesman for Mendocino County, also credited that county’s vaccination push with driving down virus transmission.
Dr. Andrew Coren, the county’s public health officer, stressed the need for continued vigilance, particularly in light of the emergence of more troublesome virus variants in California and increased transmission in other states.
Local success against the virus could falter, if people do not continue to wear masks in public and private gatherings, Coren said.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or email@example.com. On Twitter @pressreno.