Recent metrics put county’s orange status in jeopardy

Imperial County’s recent COVID metrics could eventually push it out of orange into a more restrictive health tier. PHOTO MICHAEL MARESH

EL CENTRO — Although vaccine doses have increased to more than 82,000 in Imperial County, COVID-19 positive case numbers are continuing to climb.

The metric numbers that were released by the state Tuesday revealed that Imperial County for the first of two consecutive weeks no longer met two of the metrics in the past week to remain in the orange tier.

Does that mean the county is headed back to the red tier or even the purple one?

Not necessarily. Imperial County Public Health Director Janette Angulo said there is a lot of information that determines that decision.

She said if a county’s adjusted case rate and test positivity falls within a more restrictive tier for two consecutive weekly periods, the state will review the most recent 10 days of data, including hospitalization data.

If the California Department of Public Health then determines there are objective signs of stability or improvement the county may remain in the current tier.

If the county’s most recent 10 days data does not show objective signs of stability or improvement the county must revert to the more restrictive tier.

The guidelines also state that at any time, state and county public health officials can work together to determine targeted interventions or countywide modifications necessary to address impacted hospital capacity and drivers of disease transmission, as needed, including movement across more than one tier. For example, that could be from orange to purple.

Key considerations will also include the rate of increase in new cases and test positivity, more recent data, more public health capacity and other epidemiological factors, Angulo said.

ICPHD does not know why local cases have continued to rise while neighboring counties, which also have reopened, are seeing a decline in COVID-19 infections.

“Although the specifics of other jurisdictions are unknown, what we can share is that Imperial County has opened up more services so more exposures are occurring, said County Public Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday. “In addition, we could also be experiencing the results of activity during spring break.”

According to the ICPHD dashboard, more than 82,000 county residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine. In addition, there are more than 25,000 people who have had COVID-19, recovered and might have some form of immunity.

Angulo said the 82,000 plus doses do not represent individual people, and according to its latest data that’s on the local vaccine dashboard, 25.34 percent (48,556) of the entire county is partially vaccinated and 17.48 percent (33,506) are fully vaccinated, making up 43 percent for all county residents.

She said the immune response, including duration of immunity, is not yet understood.

Based on what is known from other viruses, including common human coronaviruses, some reinfections are expected. Ongoing COVID-19 studies will help establish the frequency and severity of reinfection and who might be at higher risk for reinfection, she said.

“At this time, people should be vaccinated regardless of whether they already had COVID-19,” she wrote. “That’s because experts, again, do not yet know how long a person is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.

“Because there are still many unknowns and to continue down the path to achieve herd immunity, the best is for as many to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

According to census numbers, 36 percent of Imperial County’s population is under the age of 18, and only those 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Taking away the number of kids who are not eligible for a vaccine yet, more than 50 percent of the adult population may have or had some form of immunity. However, there are many residents who have had both the virus and the vaccine.

According to the latest data from the state, the county’s daily case rate increased from 5.4 per 100,000 residents to an adjusted case rate of 9.2 this past week.

The county normally would have to lower this rate to 5.9 or less to stay in the orange tier, but the 9.2 is still below the 10 needed for the red tier.

The county’s health equity case rate also increased from 4.5 percent to 6.1 percent. The orange tier calls for less than a 5.3 percent rate.

The county’s seven-day positive rate of 4.3 percent remains low enough for the orange tier

Angulo acknowledged at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday that the county’s orange tier status could be in jeopardy.

During her weekly report, she pointed to the 242 active positive cases from slightly more than the 50 about a month ago. April 5, she said, has been the worst recent date with 76 new positive cases.

On Wednesday, ICPHD reported active cases had dropped by 20 to a total of 222.

Staff Writer Michael Maresh can be reached at or 760-337-3440.

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