San Diego County would be in most restrictive tier in state’s former COVID reopening system

Coronavirus

If California were still using its tier-based blueprint for lifting coronavirus restrictions, San Diego County and 16 others would now be in the most restrictive purple tier.

On June 15, California lifted most of its restrictions and got rid of its color-coded tier system, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which had been first introduced in August 2020 after a summer surge in cases.

If that reopening blueprint were still in effect, much of the state’s population would still be facing many closures and restrictions right now, including no indoor dining. That’s thanks to a recent increase in cases — largely among the unvaccinated.

The state’s color-coded tier system originally classified counties under the purple tier when the seven-day average daily COVID-19 case rate reached seven cases per every 100,000 people. Later, in March 2021, when vaccines started to become available, the rules were revised to classify the purple tier for counties with a seven-day average daily case rate of 10 per 100,000 people. (Case positivity rate and equitable distribution of vaccines played a role in the tier ranking as well.)

Right now, the seven-day rolling averages for many counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, have surpassed that 10 per 100,000 case rate, as originally reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

According to the state’s Department of Public Health, the virus is spreading at a 7-day average daily rate of 6.3 cases per 100,000 people among the unvaccinated, but at a rate of 1.1 per 100,000 people among the vaccinated, the Mercury News reported. Those figures by county were not available.

The test positivity rate in San Diego County — the state’s second most populous behind L.A. County — was 3.9% as of the county’s most recent report published July 14. The county’s next report on local pandemic figures is expected to be released Wednesday.

In L.A. County, officials have reported a more than 10-fold increase in its positivity rate since all sectors were allowed to fully reopen June 15.

The alarming increase in cases led county public health officials last week to reinstate a mask mandate, requiring residents to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

“We’ve all forgotten about the tier system because we wanted to,” Dr. John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley, told the Mercury News. “We’re not in a very good place compared to where we were a month ago.”

Officials in San Diego County have not reinstated the mandate on face coverings despite the shift elsewhere.

“The County of San Diego reminds the public it will continue to following the California Department of Health guidance on masking,” the county said in a pair of tweets last week, “and urges those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.”

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