Demand for testing down, vaccinations rise

HHSA director Tim Lutz says more people need COVID-19 tests to bring county out of Purple Tier, expects more vaccine this week

TULARE COUNTY – New COVID-19 cases per day in Tulare County are down to 16 as of Monday. The county hasn’t seen that number since Nov. 10, just before the massive winter surge of cases. Unfortunately, that is not the only metric standing between Tulare County and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy’s red tier.

Tulare County’s seven-day average positive test rate per 100,000 people is 8.4% and needs to be 8% or less. The county’s adjusted seven-day average new cases per 100,000 people is 24.8, and needs to be less than seven. And the county’s health equity positivity metric is 11%, and needs to be 8% or less. All three metrics need to meet the state’s metrics to climb out of the Purple Tier.

Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency director Tim Lutz said the key to the red tier is testing. He said that demand for testing has been down in the county but also statewide which makes it difficult for the county to bring down their adjusted seven-day average new cases.

To explain the metric Lutz said the state takes a snapshot of counties every week to see how many tests they have done and then compare them to the state average. If the county is below the statewide average, the state applies an adjustment factor actually increases what the county’s case rate is. Lutz said that if residents want to bring the adjusted case rate down then the best thing to do is get tested often.

“For me and my family, we just kind of have our regular cycle. We’ll go get tests and get the appointments,” Lutz said. “We have more locations. We have our optimum sites, but we also have our often serve bus that goes to different communities.”

Lutz said that test results have come back within 36 to 48 hours. And much of that time is simply spent in transit. A hard break away from the week or longer wait times that plagues testing clinics and labs over the summer.

Residents all over the county have been contacted about when to set up their vaccination appointment. Part of the progress on vaccines is an increase in supply. Lutz said the federal government has increased some of their production. This week the county is expected to receive 10,000 doses where in previous weeks they were seeing only 3,000.

The county is bringing on Curative, a COVID-19 testing and health services company to help run the county’s point of distribution (POD) sites. Lutz said the county hopes to be able to do 420 vaccination per day at their Dinuba and Porterville locations. Then OptumServe, which the county has been using for testing and vaccinations, will work out of two other locations.

“Between those four locations, that’s going to be an additional 6,300 doses per week to the county that does not come out of our current allocation. So that’s a huge, huge jump for us,” Lutz said.

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