EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Public Health Department has contacted the state to begin a discussion about being granted a variance that would allow the county to progress to the advanced Stage 2 in its COVID-19 recovery plan.
This followed news that the county’s seven-day positive test average had finally dropped below the 8 percent necessary to seek an attestation that would allow schools, barbershops, dine-in restaurants and similar operations to reopen.
As of Wednesday afternoon the county’s seven-day positive test rate was 7.64 percent.
“Imperial has seen a great decline,” Public Health Director Janette Angulo said.
On Tuesday, ICPHD officials asked state health department to allow the county to move into the beginning stage (low risk) of Stage 2. This request was done before the county met the 8 percent benchmark.
Public Health Director Janette Angulo said this request, which is not a variance, is pending.
Because the county is currently on the state’s monitoring list, Angulo said some business openings, if the county is allowed to move into Stage 2, might be limited to outside service.
Angulo said the county as of Wednesday evening is still officially in Stage 1, but added great progress has been made in the last three to four weeks.
She said there are three distinct processes the county will work with as it looks into starting the process of reopening.
The first process is the low risk Stage 2 request the ICDH made to the state on Tuesday, but she reiterated a response is still pending.
The second process would be an attestation after meeting the metrics.
“Because all metrics had been met we will enter a variance report,” she said. The county health officer would also have to file a health report with the state.
The issue gets complicated because the county is on the state’s monitoring list, and it needs to be off the list for 14 days.
Imperial is one of 37 California counties that is on the list, and if it is removed from the monitor list there could be more sectors reopening, she said.
If a variance is approved, the county’s health order would have to be changed by County Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday.
County CEO Tony Rouhotas Jr. thanked the community for being vigilant, but told them not to make any mistake in thinking COVID is in the past.
He said if the county is allowed to move into either Stage 2, residents still need to be vigilant and safe to ensure the county is not pushed back into the first stage.
Responding to a question on a possible attestation, Angulo said the health department initiated a conversation with the state since they are now eligible to do so.
Angulo said she could not answer the question of which businesses would be allowed to reopen in beginning stage 2 since Munday would have to write the new report.
She also said that as the county moves forward in the recovery process, officials will be mindful on what they learned from other locations that might have opened too soon.