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San Joaquin County hopeful for red tier status in make-or-break week

As one of the last three counties in the state still in the purple tier, San Joaquin County is hopeful for its shot at red tier status.

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. — San Joaquin County is going into its make-or-break week as it takes its second shot at moving into the less restrictive red tier.

It's a familiar position for the county. March 15 was the say the county was originally projected to move into the red tier -- which would allow a partial reopening of some businesses -- but COVID-19 case increases pushed back the county's move.

"I think all of our residents are ready for it. All of our businesses are ready for it," said Tiffany Heyer, spokesperson for San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services. "They were expecting it a couple of weeks ago, and unfortunately, we just missed the mark. So, this week, we're really looking forward to it and really hoping all of our efforts over the last couple weeks worked...."

Heyer said that the county's testing positivity and health equity positivity rate could help them push through into the red tier, even if their case rate is a little higher than they'd like. They just have to hold or improve those figures or start over, meaning reach red tier metrics again and hold them for another two weeks.

RELATED: How to get a COVID-19 vaccine in San Joaquin County

As of April 1, the county holds a dubious distinction of being one of only three counties in California left in the purple tier. It's a situation that Heyer said is connected to getting support into communities that were hard hit by the pandemic over the past year.

Last week, Daniel Kim, a county spokesperson for public health, told ABC10 that gatherings and case increases were also one of the reasons for the delayed movement through the tiers.

Heyer said the county's been following the state's guidelines, but they've been "stuck" in the state's most restrictive tier for the past few weeks.

"We’ve followed the state guidance from the beginning, we have followed the metrics, we have followed the guidelines and we have stuck to what the state has asked us to do," Heyer said. "And now still, unfortunately, following all of that guidance, we’re stuck. The numbers are keeping us where we are.”

Those numbers include adjustments to case rates. While the county's testing put them at 10.0 daily cases per 100,000, the state adjustment put them slightly above that to 10.2 due to testing levels. A 10.0 for the county's case rate would have put all of their metrics in the red tier or higher.

“It’s very tiny things that are getting us there, and it’s frustrating for the community. It’s frustrating for us that are trying to help us get to that tier, so we continue to follow and we continue to do what’s being asked of us and we’re continuing to push as many vaccines out there as possible," Heyer said.

RELATED: Opening of new mass vaccination hub at Stockton Arena delayed due to vaccine supply

Heyer's advice for anyone wanting to move through the tier system is fairly simple: wear a mask, social distance, avoid gatherings, and get tested.

"This is a community effort. It’s not one person. It’s not anything in particular. It’s everybody coming together to make those changes and to take those precautions to help us move forward,” she said.

Going into the holiday weekend, she's asking people to take precautions. While the county is hopeful for a move into the red tier, she said any case increases or impacts to the metrics could impact the county in the following week and potentially start moving them back toward the purple tier. 

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