The California Department of Public Health today announced that 2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to Californians in some of the state’s hardest-hit communities, increasing immunity where the state’s transmission rates and disease burden have been the highest during the pandemic. With this equity metric met, and because vaccines slow the spread of disease and serious illness, the previously announced update to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy to account for progress with vaccine administration goes into effect.
That update lowers the thresholds for movement through the states color-coded reopening tiers.
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Those new thresholds will allow 13 counties to move to a less restrictive tier, from Purple (widespread) to Red (substantial): Amador, Colusa, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Mono, Orange, Placer, San Benito, San Bernardino, Siskiyou, Sonoma and Tuolumne. Twenty-one counties will remain in the Purple (widespread) Tier, 33 will be in the Red (substantial) Tier, three remain in the Orange (moderate) Tier and one remains in the Yellow (minimal) Tier. These changes will take effect on Sunday, March 14.
Those regions account for about 15 million of the state’s 40 million residents, a not insignificant sum.
The Red tier of the state’s reopening plan allows for movie theaters, museum, zoos, aquariums and indoor dining to reopen to 25% capacity. Theme parks and outdoor live performances such as concerts and sports events can welcome attendees to 15% capacity.
Los Angeles County Health officials announced on Friday that the changes in the local tiering will take effect on Monday, instead of the Sunday timing the state announced. See a breakdown of which theater chains are reopening here.
On Tuesday, the state expects Sacramento, San Diego and 11 additional counties (Kings, Lake, Monterey, Riverside, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Ventura and Yuba) to shift from Purple to Red based on current data and projections. These tier adjustments will be assigned on Tuesday and take effect on Wednesday. If those counties join the ones announced today in the red tier, that will put 25 million of the state 40 million residents in the Red tier.
There is potential for additional counties to move tiers next week based on next week’s Blueprint tier assessment and assignment. Numbers are compiled and then adjusted based on a number of factors determined by the state. Going forward, the Purple tier threshold is greater than 10 cases per 100,000 people.
“California is doubling down on its mission to keep equity a top priority as we continue to get COVID-19 doses into the arms of all Californians as safely and quickly as possible,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency. “Focusing on the individuals who have been hardest hit by this pandemic is the right thing to do and also ensures we are having the greatest impact in reducing transmission, protecting our health care delivery system and saving lives.”
On March 4, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state had set aside 40 percent of vaccine doses for the hardest-hit communities and established an equity metric to increase vaccinations in those communities. Doing so recognizes that the pandemic did not affect California communities equally. Forty percent of COVID cases and deaths have occurred in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index, which provides overall scores and data that predict life expectancy and compares community conditions that shape health across the state.
“While we have reached a milestone today, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to help ensure we can put an end to this pandemic,” said Tomás Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. “We must all do our part by getting vaccinated as soon as it’s our turn and continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing to keep our communities safe.”