Uptick is case numbers keeps county in red tier

EL CENTRO — The state announced Tuesday Imperial County will stay in the red tier for at least another two weeks after its numbers increased this past week in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

A week ago the county met the metrics to move into the orange tier, but it needed to hold those numbers for a second week to move to the less restrictive tier.

This means indoor dining at restaurants and church services, for example, will have to remain at 25 percent capacity or 100 people whichever is fewer. Fitness centers will still be capped at 10 percent instead of the 25 percent in the orange tier.

Of the three metrics required to move into the moderate level, the county met two of them.

To move to orange, counties must, for two consecutive weeks, maintain a positive test rate of 2 to 4.9 percent, a health equity quartile test positivity rate of less than 5.2 percent, and an adjusted daily case rate of no greater than 3.9 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Although still low enough to qualify for the orange tier, the county’s seven-day positively rate increased from 1.9 percent to 3.2 percent over the past week. The same is true for its health equity rate, which at 4.3 percent is still below the 5.2 percent required.

The deal-breaker for the county was its average number of new cases per day per 100,000 residents. That figure jumped from 3 to 5.4 over the week, well above the threshold of 3.9 required.

The county has vaccinated or partly vaccinated one-third of its population with more than 60,000 doses.

While Imperial County was the first Southern California to move into the red tier three weeks ago, both Los Angeles and Orange counties will move into the moderate or orange tier today.

County Health Officer Steven Munday said there are reasons why the county failed to meet the metrics to move into the moderate level for two consecutive weeks. Those reasons include being moved into the red tier three weeks ago.

“It is not surprising to see cases increase as more businesses and services open in Imperial County,” Munday said. “This is why it is so important that everyone continues taking protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like using face covers and social distancing.”

In an ICPHD press release Munday said this is a reminder that although the county has seen significant improvement, COVID-19 continues to circulate and positive cases are still occurring.

“We can’t let our guard down,” he said. “We must continue to take the steps necessary to reduce the spread of the virus, particularly as spring break and Easter approaches.”

He added the last thing anyone in the county wants to have happen is the spike in cases that was experienced during last year’s holiday season.

Other states have reported seeing surges, but Munday said he does not know if that will happen in the county.

“It’s too early to know if there will be a surge in our community,” he said.

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