California Gov. Newsom said at a Monday press briefing some counties will fall back into more restrictive tiers tomorrow because of rising coronavirus rates in the last three weeks.
The state’s 14-day coronavirus positivity rate was 3.7% as of Sunday. On Oct. 19, it was 2.5%.
“The last three weeks, we’ve started to see the average number of people with COVID go up, but also the positivity rate,” he said.
The governor said Mono, Kings, Alpine and Shasta counties are some counties where cases are going up.
“I anticipate without previewing too much detail…we’ll see some counties move backward, not forward,” Newsom said. “That’s exactly why we designed the tier status in the way we did, was about being more and less restrictive, not based on political whim, but based on the data, based on local conditions in the 58 counties across California.”
Every Tuesday the state updates which counties are moving forward or backward in the reopening structure that sorts counties into four tiers — “purple” (widespread), “red” (substantial), “orange” (moderate) or “yellow” (minimal) — that measure the spread of COVID-19 and dictate what types of businesses and activities are allowed to open.
The structure allows counties to be more restrictive and move more slowly than the state in its reopening if they wish.
When the state launched the new reopening structure nearly three months ago, 38 of the state’s 58 counties were in the purple tier. On Monday, only 10 counties were in the most restrictive purple tier, 20 in red, 19 in orange and nine in yellow.
COVID-19 infections are exploding across the United States and the total number of cases reported since the start of the pandemic surpassed 10 million Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
While some California counties such as Shasta have seen recent outbreaks, the state has largely escaped the fall surge sweeping the nation. But Newsom warned that if residents don’t follow health orders with vigilance, especially as the weather cools and people are tempted to move activities inside, this recent uptick could turn into a severe wave.
“California’s 3.7% positivity rate may sound great compared to most other states right now, but less than a month ago we were at 2.5%,” he said. “We’re starting to see people take down their guards.”
Newsom said there’s some early indication from contact-tracing data that people mixing and socializing on Halloween may be in part responsible for the rise in cases.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly added that private home gatherings are most consistently mentioned by contact tracers as a major source of transmission.