COVID-19 Update - Imperial Valley Press

EL CENTRO — As Imperial County struggles to meet the Blueprint for a Safer Economy metrics to allow it to move from the purple to the less restrictive red tier it is encouraging everyone in the county to get tested.

Although more than 71,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Imperial County since the start of the pandemic, the Public Health Department has observed fewer people are getting tested now.

County Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting encouraged everyone to get tested. 

The county needs to meet two metrics in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy to move to the red level.

The seven-day average positivity rate must be 8 percent or lower, and there can be no more than seven new cases daily for every 100,000 people living in a county.

For Imperial County with a population of about 180,000 people that would be fewer than 13 total cases on any given day. As of Friday, the county was sitting at 9.4 percent and 11.7 new cases per 100,000 people per day.

The question becomes whether the metrics are working at cross purposes. For instance, logic would seem to dictate that increasing the number of daily tests may increase the rate of negative tests sufficiently to drive down the percentage below 8, but it could reveal enough new positives to push up the number of cases daily about the accepted threshold.

Public Health Information Officer Maria Peinado said that only would be true if the additional testing shows any persons who test positive.

So, the hope appears to be no one who decides to get tested will come up positive.

Imperial County Board Supervisor Ryan Kelley said additional testing would result in more positive cases. He also added a lot of the people getting tested have COVID-19 symptoms.

Peinado said the Public Health Department knows of people who have been tested multiple times for the coronavirus.

She said the positive rate will be high if the number of positive tests is too high, or if the number of total tests is too low.

A higher percentage positive suggests higher transmission and that there are likely more people with coronavirus in the community who haven’t been tested yet.

Peinado said additional testing is important not only to lower the positivity rate but also to see if there is an increase or surge.

There’s also a question regarding what numbers are real, as the county and state seem to be operating with different data.

While the county placed the average daily number of positive cases at 11.7, the state’s most recent report set the number at 8.2. Meanwhile, the state listed the county’s seven-day percentage of positive tests at only 4.9 percent.

Peinado said to move into the red metric the numbers from the state would be the ones used.

But those two metrics are not the only things the county would need to achieve to move out of the purple stage.

The county, in the state’s health equity metric, would also have to ensure the test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods, as defined as being in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index census tracts, do not significantly lag behind its overall county test positivity rate.

Staff Writer Michael Maresh can be reached at mmaresh@ivpressonline.com.

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