Local News

County Looks Toward Yellow Tier in COVID-19 Recovery

Fullerton has lost 295 of its 142,824 residents, 93 of them in Skilled Nursing Facilities, to COVID-19 since the pandemic began over a year ago. Despite an upswing in cases in many other states across the country, California has managed to maintain comparatively low numbers of cases and deaths from the virus. Health officials continue to warn of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and urge the public not to drop our collective guard against it.

Orange County Healthcare Agency (HCA) has announced that two of its “Testing Super Sites” will close on April 30. Although the OC Fair & Event Center and the Anaheim Convention Center remain sites for vaccinations, testing will no longer take place there. Instead, “HCA will continue to make testing more accessible at no cost through designated neighborhood sites and continue to offer at-home options that may be ordered online.”

Saliva and nasal swap kits may be ordered online at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing. There is no cost for the tests, and return shipping is pre-paid. The website also shows a list of on-site testing locations throughout OC.

HCA Director and County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau said in a press release: “When COVID-19 testing was first developed more than one year ago, availability was limited and many residents had to wait to experience symptoms before qualifying. While we’re pleased that the county of Orange was able to stand up these Super Sites to meet initial community need, we have a robust network in place today that makes no-cost testing easily accessible.”

The testing site shutdowns come as the county might possibly soon move from the Orange (“Moderate”) to the Yellow (“Minimal”) Tier of the State of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Such a move would allow greater numbers of people to gather socially. Indoor performances and sports events would still be limited to in-state patrons, require the familiar social distancing, and max out a half capacity, with proof of testing or a vaccine. Outdoor live events and amusement parks would be able to increase capacity with the current restrictions, but none to full capacity. Hotels, gyms, and restaurants—three sectors significantly affected by pandemic restrictions, could all similarly increase capacity of patrons, but none higher than 50%.

Four-fifths of California’s population is now living in Orange Tier counties.  The remainder of the State’s counties are still in the Red Tier, with a few already in the Yellow Tier. No counties are still in the Purple (“Widespread”) Tier. California hopes to entirely open its economy by June 15 if enough (equitably distributed) vaccine supplies are available and if “stable and low” levels of hospitalizations can be reached. Gov. Newsom has referred to this condition as the “Green Tier,” although that color designation does not appear on the State’s current framework. The recent pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has some worried that the State will not be able to meet the June goal, but State officials remain confident that adequate supplies of other vaccines are available.

Currently, the County’s COVID-19 Case Rate per 100,000 residents is 3.0, with an identical Adjusted Case Rate (the statewide rate is 4.8). OC’s 7-day average Positivity Rate is 1.6% (statewide rate is 1.8%), and Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate is 1.8%. The Health Equity Quartile measures the positivity rate across social sectors in order to ensure that a county doesn’t achieve low rates in some areas while leaving others with high rates. The California Department of Public Health measures Intensive Care Unit capacity regionally. Southern California, one of the five regions, currently has an ICU capacity of 33.33%, which is projected to increase by 3 percentage points. Statewide, ICU capacity has been rising steadily since mid-January.

Vaccinations are now open to anyone over the age of 15, closing a two-week window that held the age to 50 and over (excluding those with medical conditions and in certain professions). OC has, so far, administered at least one vaccine dose to 1.3 million residents and have fully vaccinated over 750,000, accounting for nearly 1/4 of the County’s population. The County has contracted with non-profits who work with neighborhood organizations to reach residents in some of the hardest hit areas who are also least likely to know about vaccine availability and/or be able to schedule and keep an appointment to get one, often because of language barriers or work schedules. As more of the general population becomes eligible for vaccines, concerns persist that these vulnerable populations will be left behind.

An OC resident receives a vaccine at a mobile POD clinic on April 11.

The Orange County Healthcare Agency recommends “continued adherence to non-medical public health mitigation measures such as wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth, washing hands frequently with soap and water, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and practicing physical distancing from those outside your household, will help limit the impact of variants circulating in Southern California, particularly as more indoor activities open and expand operations.”

Residents who have not yet been administered a vaccine against COVID-19 may register at www.Othena.com, also available as a mobile device app. Once registered, which is a simple operation, a resident is placed on a list and notified when their turn to schedule an appointment arrives. COVID-19 vaccinations should be offered free of charge.

For the latest eligibility guidelines, visit coronavirus.egovoc.com/covid-19-vaccination-distribution. Those needing assistance with Othena may call the county of Orange’s COVID-19 Hotline 7 days a week from 8am to 5pm at (714) 834-2000.

For the latest COVID-19 information, visit www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus, or follow the HCA on Facebook (@ochealthinfo) and Twitter (@ochealth).

1 reply »

  1. The pandemic has changed our lives very much, we all really lost a lot during the pandemic, but the saddest thing is the lives of our loved ones, whom we could not save, and this is sad. All these terrible numbers that the pandemic took away is very scary. I am very glad that there is already a vaccine and we will soon be able to live a normal life again, the main thing is to get vaccinated for everyone and we will really start living! Thanks for the news!