EL CENTRO — After several weeks of declining COVID-19 cases that resulted in Imperial County progressing to the red tier and being tantalizingly close to graduating to the orange tier, the trend is headed in a direction that could eventually land the county back in purple.
While the state’s official numbers will not be released until this afternoon the case figures tabulated by the county have increased significantly.
What is helping the county right now is the state increasing the number of new cases allowed per day for every 100,000 population from seven to 10 to be eligible for the red tier.
According to the numbers, the rate has increased in a little more than two weeks has risen from about three to Monday’s average of 7.31.
The county’s positive test rate, according to the county’s metrics, is 12.7 percent, well above the 8 percent needed to stay in the red metric. The state’s number usually comes in a bit lower than the county’s.
The 151 cases of residents currently suffering from the illness is an increase of about 100 from a few weeks ago.
According to the county health department’s numbers, close to 94,000 of the 181,000 population have some form of protection against COVID-19, not taking into account those who were asymptomatic or others who did not report the illness.
But COVID-19 cases are rising even while close to 70,000 people have been partially or fully vaccinated and another 24,450 residents have recovered from the virus.
ICPHD Public Information Officer Maria Peinado said there is a distinction between doses administered and being fully vaccinated.
Peinado said she did not have the data to answer whether the vaccines are having any impact on the COVID-19 numbers, but she did acknowledge in an email that “the recent trend demonstrates that it could impede the county’s progress forward into the less restrictive tiers, even as more residents are getting vaccinated.”
She said it is important that all individuals continue to practice prevention measures such as social distancing, wearing a face cover and frequent handwashing to prevent COVID-19.
“We encourage all individuals who are eligible to receive the vaccine, to get vaccinated as soon as it is their turn,” she wrote.
All residents 16 and over will be eligible to sign up for the vaccine doses in nine days, and those who are at least 50 years of age are eligible now.
Imperial County Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar said part of the problem is that as the county continues to reduce restrictions a larger portion of the population is out and about.
“It’s literally a race to get as many people vaccinated and create herd immunity as quickly as possible (to avoid) spikes in our community,” he said.
Last weekend’s Easter holiday may also bring increased numbers, he said.
“I’m cautiously optimistic the numbers will hold steady, but there is an inherent risk they will rise,” he said.
Escobar said residents need to continue to practice social distancing, wear face coverings and wash their hands.
“It’s on us to curb the spread,” he said.