EL CENTRO — Imperial County’s hopes of moving to a less restrictive tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy is being hampered by the increasing COVID-19 positive numbers in the last few weeks.
Every Tuesday the state releases updated numbers on where each county stands, and while some nearby counties have seen their numbers improve enough to move to a less restrictive tier, Imperial County is going in the opposite direction.
As of Tuesday afternoon, according to the state’s latest statistics, the county’s positive test percentage rose from 4.9 percent to 9.1 percent, well above the 8 percent needed to advance from purple to red under the governor’s color-tiered plan.
In addition, the average daily number of new cases per 100,000 residents, when using the state figures, rose from 8.2 last week to 12 on Tuesday, well above the threshold of seven per 100,000.
Imperial County Public Health Director Janette Angulo told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday she thinks the increase is due to the public becoming less careful as local restrictions have been loosened.
She and county Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday also want all county residents, with or without symptoms to get tested. She added in the last week more people were being tested at the last available OptumServe site in Brawley. That site is scheduled to close Nov. 30.
Imperial County Supervisor Chairman Luis Plancarte said he was a little concerned about the “slight uptick” of positive cases.
“There is no vaccine yet, and (fewer restrictions) plays a role of what people do in the community,” Angulo said.
Even if the numbers of positive cases were to significantly improve, that would not mean the county would be moving to another tier.
Supervisor Ryan Kelley asked Angulo where the county was on the 14-day window counties must maintain before moving to a less restrictive tier. She told him the number remains at zero.
The good news is the county’s health equity metric of 4.6 percent is within the state’s tolerances. The health equity metric is a measure that ensures there is an inequitable distribution of positive cases within certain areas of the county.
Angulo said another way Imperial County could move to what is called the red tier is if it had a positive rate of less than 5 percent, was meeting the health equity metric and could show the number of cases per 100,000 is declining even if the metric of seven cases per 100,000 hasn’t been met.
Angulo explained why the county numbers are higher than what the state is reporting. The state does not include in its numbers inmates in prison or hospital patients. The county includes those numbers.
Angulo announced only one school has taken advantage of the waiver to resume in-person instruction for kindergarten to sixth grade. The waiver for Sacred Heart School, which is located in Brawley, has been approved, she said.