Newsom ends stay-at-home order

Paul Myers

Counties revert back to Blueprint for a Safer Economy color-coded schema after Newsom announced an end to the state’s stay-at-home order that took effect in December in light of a surge in COVID-19 cases

TULARE COUNTY – Despite the raucous rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in California, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted his stay-at-home order on Monday relenting on the regulatory burden on small businesses.

“All regions in the state of California…effective immediately are no longer in the stay-at-home order, and will move back into the blue print for a safer economy [system],” Newsom said during his press conference on Monday.

The removal of the order reverts counties to the color-coded schema that was in place for the fall and early winter before the holiday surge. Many counties in the state, and more specifically in the San Joaquin Valley region fall deeply into the state’s most restrictive Purple Tier. As of Monday, Jan. 25 the county is miles away from meeting the metrics needed to break into the next Red Tier.

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Physicians and health care providers at the COS Visalia Campus administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, just one day prior to the county encouraging people to not use 2-1-1 for appointments.Phot by Jermaine Johnson II

Tulare County’s new cases per day, per 100,000 people on Jan. 26 was 66.6. The positive test rate in the county stands at 16.2%. In order for the county to move out of the Purple Tier they would have to bring their new cases per day, per 100,000 people down to 7.0, and their positivity rate down to 8.0%.

Hospitalizations on the other hand are trending downward. Since Jan. 19 there were 201 hospitalizations, but as of Jan. 25 there were 151. According to the county’s dashboard 34.5% of ICU beds are available, and 42% of ventilators are available. These downward trending metrics indicates a positive change in the four-week ICU capacity projection.

As of Jan. 21 ICU bed capacity in the San Joaquin Valley region was 1.3%. The key metric that set the stay-at-home- order in place was the 15% ICU bed availability threshold. Now that the four-week ICU bed capacity projection is expected to rise above 15% Newsom decided to lift the order.

“We are not out of the woods. We are seeing a flattening of the curve. Everything that should be up, is up, and everything that should be down, is down,” Newsom said.

For business

Much of the county’s affected businesses were not necessarily impacted by the stay-at-home order because many of them openly flouted the rules and guidance.

Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz said in a presentation on Jan. 12 at the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting that evidence has been provided that businesses were openly defying regulations.

“Public health is receiving numerous reports of businesses that really are now just completely ignoring much of the guidance, including open bars and in-door dining and large hosted gatherings,” Lutz said. “These types of activities do have a direct correlation to how fast we’re able to start to bring our case rates back down.”

Still, within the Purple Tier service sector and retail businesses can operate with reasonable accommodations. Hair salons and barbershops can now open indoors with modifications such as mask wearing. All retail can be open to indoor shopping with masks and at 25% capacity to allow for social distancing. Shopping centers such as malls, destination centers and swap meets can open indoors with masks, at 25% capacity but must close off their common areas and food courts.

Restaurants who largely continued with outdoor dining—if not in-door dining—can now resume outdoor dining under the Purple Tier, without fear of state retribution.

Waiting on doses

Health and Human Services held two vaccination events last week at College of the Sequoias’ Visalia campus and Porterville College. Lutz said they nearly administered 1,000 vaccinations at each site. But supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine has been a major hindrance. The county’s current policy is to hand out as many doses as possible to those 65 years of age and older and workers in the Phase 1A tier and Phase 1B tier.

Tulare County Board of Supervisors chairwoman, Amy Shuklian, said last week that the state handed down half of what they were expecting earlier this month. She added that she expects that to be a trend in the future.

Lutz said the problem with supply has been a slow manufacturing process. He said that between discussions with the state and President Joe Biden’s administration, even if they pushed out a stock pile of the vaccine it still would not be enough to vaccinate the community as quickly as they want.

“We don’t expect the supply to get much better until we have some of the new vaccines, like the AstraZeneca, like the Johnson and Johnson coming online and approved in the US,” Lutz said on The Paper Trail Podcast, published Friday, Jan. 22.

Lutz added that if there were enough supply to give all residents, there would be an escalated sense of urgency by the county and other agencies.

“I think if we suddenly had that much supply, I think we would all work to move heaven on earth to get our community vaccinated, because that is our hope of normalcy,” Lutz said. “It would take some logistical coordination. But our goal is [to not] be sitting on any excess supply”

Without enough vaccine on hand, and unsure when the county will be resupplied with sufficient dosage, the 2-1-1 hotline to schedule vaccinations, had to be shutdown. The county announced last week that 2-1-1 was “overwhelmed” and encouraged residents to complete the counties COVID Vaccination Interest form for future appointments. Residents who are eligible can sign up here: tinyurl.com/vaccines411.

The county press release that announced the shutdown of the 2-1-1 service stated clearly that vaccine supply remains “limited” and were unable to fulfill vaccinations for everyone who is elligible. Although, for those who have already received their first dose should expect a direct outreach by the county.

“Tulare County Public Health will contact you directly by phone or email to schedule your second dose appointment. The second dose of vaccine must be the same vaccine manufacturer as your first dose,” the press release stated. “For Pfizer, the second dose is to be given 21 days following the first dose. For Moderna, the second dose is to be given 28 days following the first dose.”

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