About 11 days ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced what he called “simpler, more stringent” guidelines for counties to reopen. It was certainly more stringent, placing 87% of the state’s population in the most restrictive tier. The requirements for moving off that tier were also much more difficult. But for some, the system is not proving simpler.
Case rates and test positivity rates were announced to be the metrics that would determine movement within the tiers, rather than the complicated formula California had previously employed.
NEW: California is launching a Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
Your county will be assigned a color based on:
– Case rate
– Positivity rate
Your color determines how businesses can operate in your county.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 28, 2020
Marin County was expecting to come off the purple tier on Tuesday. County officials had been in communication with the state and all seemed well. Until it wasn’t.
From the statement issued on Tuesday by Marin County officials:
On September 4, in consultation with California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Marin County announced plans to move to Tier 2, or red status. On the evening of September 7, CDPH notified the County of Marin of the status reversal. The decision comes after the state reanalyzed its data and applied a new method for determining a county’s position on the four-tiered monitoring framework. The new approach includes a different timeframe for calculating a county’s case rate and a new adjustment for counties testing more than the State average, which CDPH plans to introduce this week.
This comes after a week of confusion over the new guidelines, and a little over a month since a massive delay in 300,000 coronavirus test results resulted in key Newsom administration officials stepping down.
When asked about the unannounced move, Newsom said that “nothing fundamentally as it relates to our tiered status has changed. Quite the contrary. This is the iterative process with 58 counties.”
He then punted the question to California’s Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly.
“So we did have a conversation with Marin County over the weekend,” said Ghaly. “In fact, when we did the official run yesterday with Marin County data…the anticipated move to red is really being held back.”
“We did have conversations with local health officials in Marin in respect to the data,” continued Ghaly, “and agreed to continue to look at the data and if an adjustment is warranted in the next days to weeks, we will make that and move the county.”
That part about making an adjustment in the next days or weeks is odd, given that Ghaly has repeatedly said that changes in tiering now would only be made on Tuesdays, when movements from one tier to another are announced.
Ghaly was quick to refute that it was a data issue like the one that previously held up hundreds of thousands of tests.
“This is not a data-collection issue,” said Ghaly. “It is really looking at when the data is run, when the data is pulled and understanding how the metric is calculated and working with counties to make sure we are all on the same page.”
One crucial aspect of Newsom’s plan announced recently was that, instead of 14 days with measurements below the mandated levels to move from one tier to another, it will now take 21 days.
But on Tuesday, Ghaly repeatedly said things like, as Amador, Orange, Placer, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara moved from purple to red tiers, that they were allowed to because, “They have maintained the appropriate average for more than 2 weeks.” Those two announcements seem in direct contradiction.
Newsom repeated several times the thought that, “It’s an iterative process that we engage with our minds not made up.”
He said the state is “open-ended in our approach. Getting closer to determining when and how to open up.”
Those statements seem not only confusing, but at odds with “simple and stringent.”
In terms of daily numbers, the state reported just 2,676 new cases on Tuesday and 32 new deaths. COVID-related hospitalizations were up slightly, while related ICU use was slightly down.
On a lighter note, Newsom also introduced a new PSA produced in partnership with the Skoll Foundation, Sesame Street and Participant. Have a look here:
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