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County Exploring Ways To Move To Orange Tier

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors received updates Tuesday, Oct. 6 related to the COVID-19 pandemic in San Joaquin County.

Dr. Maggie Park, San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, updated the Board on the number of COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations in San Joaquin County. Dr. Park said there are currently 20,731 total COVID-19 cases and 471 deaths in the County. She said that there are currently 31 COVID-19 patients in the hospital with 11 in the ICU, noting that the numbers are significantly coming down and have allowed the County to move into the State’s red tier status.

Dr. Park explained that under the State’s new tiered system, which is based on a County’s rate of new cases and the testing positivity rate, that San Joaquin County moved into the red tier on Sept. 29 indicating “substantial” transmission of COVID-19 in the County. This is due to the fact that the County now has less than seven new cases per 100,000 per day being identified at 6.8, and less than eight percent of tests being positive at 4.7 percent. As of Oct. 7, those metrics were even lower, with 6.4 new cases per 100,000 per day and a positivity rate of 4.2 percent.

Per the State’s new guidelines, at a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks before moving to a less restrictive tier, and Dr. Park said that signs are looking good that the County will move to the orange tier in the coming weeks. She noted that San Joaquin is currently in the orange tier for testing positivity (4.2 percent), but still remains in the red tier for adjusted case rates (6.4 percent).

“Great progress is certainly being made by San Joaquin County residents which is demonstrated by our vastly reduced numbers,” Dr. Park said. “Our increased testing has truly made a difference in our tier status and I continue to encourage residents to continue testing whether or not they have symptoms and continue wearing a mask, social distancing, limiting gatherings and washing hands. It is the only way we can get businesses, schools and activities reopened and get our lives and livelihoods back on track.”

Dr. Park also discussed the new Health Equity guidelines which were released by the State Department of Public Health last week. In addition to meeting State criteria for rate of new cases and testing positivity rates throughout the entire population, counties must now meet those same standards for their lowest socioeconomic quartiles of the Health Places Index, in order to move to the next tier. Throughout the State and in San Joaquin County, those groups include Hispanic/Latino, African American/Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaskan Native communities who may not have the same access to vital services such as adequate health care, food, housing, transportation and other life-sustaining measures.

Dr. Park noted that the County is well aware of these communities and specific neighborhoods and have been working long-term to assist these residents, prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that according to the State, these communities must meet a test positivity rate of 5.2 percent to have the County move to the orange tier and in San Joaquin County we are currently very close to meeting that metric at 5.9 percent. Dr. Park said they are working in neighborhoods where these communities traditionally reside in order to further reduce the testing positivity rates by doing the following: protecting essential workers with increased PPE; isolating people who have tested positive for COVID-19 with programs like Housing for the Harvest; wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands; promoting existing test sites; increasing testing for essential workers and at-risk individuals; and exploring new testing options to make testing easier and quicker.

Chief Deputy County Administrator, Sandra Regalo, gave the Board an update on the County’s $133 million allotment in federal CARES Act funding to cover costs during the period of March 1, 2020 through Dec. 30, 2020, for necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19. Any dollars not spent before Dec. 30, 2020 must be returned to the federal Department of the Treasury.

In addition, the County will receive an additional $17.8 million as a sub-recipient from the State, for a total of $150.8 million in Federal and State CARES Act funding.