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9 California counties, including Solano and Butte, move to less-restrictive COVID-19 tiers

Six counties moved from purple to red, two moved from red to orange and nd one county moved from orange to yellow. Placer County was expected to move, but didn't

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Nine California counties are moving to less restrictive coronavirus tiers as the state continues to make progress in its fight against the virus.

Six counties — Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Imperial, Santa Cruz, and Solano — are moving from the purple to the red tier. Two counties — Mariposa and Plumas — are moving from the red to the orange tier. And Alpine County is moving from the orange to the yellow tier. The new tiers and criteria go into effect at midnight on Mar. 10.

Placer County, which was thought to be joining the red tier this week, failed to meet the criteria to advance from purple -- having an adjusted case rate of 7.7 per 100,000 residents. Placer County will now have to wait until at least Mar. 23 for its next chance to move into the red tier.

Placer County Board of Supervisors Chair Robert Weygandt issued the following statement after learning the county was staying in the purple tier:

“Infections in Placer, California and the U.S. have been falling since the first of the year. In Placer, the rollout of vaccinations has gone extremely well. The specific reason for lockdowns was to ensure we didn’t overwhelm medical capacity. It’s important to continue tracking trends, but with the horrible damage caused by restrictions, it’s also very important to normalize as quickly as possible. It’s horribly disappointing that the State has decided to keep Placer in the purple tier when it is clear we are nowhere near meeting capacity in our hospitals.”

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), in order to move to a less restrictive tier, a county must meet the case rate and test positivity thresholds for that tier for the prior two consecutive weeks. In addition, the county's Health Equity Quartile HPI census tracts must also meet the specified test positivity threshold for the less restrictive tier during those same weeks, the CDPH said. Those thresholds are as follows:

  • For counties entering the red tier, their Health Equity Quartile HPI census tracts' test positivity must also be ≤8%.
  • For counties entering the orange tier, their Health Equity Quartile HPI census tracts' test positivity must be within 5% of the orange tier threshold, or ≤5.2%.
  • For counties entering the yellow tier, their Health Equity Quartile HPI census tracts must be within 10% of the yellow tier threshold, or ≤2.1%.

The state is also in the process of distributing 40% of all vaccine doses for the state's most vulnerable neighborhoods. That includes some 400 ZIP codes, with about 8 million people eligible for shots. 

According to health officials, once 2 million vaccine doses are given out in those neighborhoods the state will make it easier for counties to move through reopening tiers that dictate what businesses can be open.

The state's decision to distribute vaccines to those zip codes is based on the "healthy places index," a  database that ranks things like family income, education level, access to public transportation, air quality, and more.

Administrators estimate that California will reach the 2 million vaccination mark in about a week or two.

Local county officials are reacting to the news of the latest tier updates. 

Health officials in Solano County, which includes cities such as Dixon, Fairfield, Vacaville, and Vallejo, were thrilled to learn they moved into the red tier.

“The declining number of cases is great news for our community as a whole, with local businesses now able to expand operations,” Dr. Bela T. Matyas said in a press release. “However, it is still critical for everyone to continue to practice health and safety measures. Let us all continue to do our part to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 infection—wear a mask, practice physical distancing, limit gatherings with others outside of the household, and get vaccinated when the vaccine is available for you.”

Tap here to read more from Solano County.

Butte County officials have yet to release an official statement on the county's move to the red tier. The Butte County Public Health Department did, however, release a small acknowledgment on Twitter.

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