Orange County will remain in the Purple Tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, as it waits for a slight drop in COVID-19 metrics, namely case rates, in order to meet California Department of Public Health criteria to move into the less restrictive Red Tier.

In doing so, the county must maintain those rates, or lower, for two weeks to move into the Red Tier, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, Director of the Orange County Health Agency.

“With the equity and the overall county positivity rate we are now in the Red Tier numbers for about four days, and we are just waiting for our case rate drop to the Red Tier. Once we have all three measures in the Red Tier and we maintain that for two weeks, then we will transition to the Red Tier,” Chau explained at the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

However, Chau said Orange County would become the first county in California to welcome back high school sports this Friday, Feb. 26:

“Because of our adjusted case rate is below 14, currently today at 11.1, this Friday, under the high-contact youth sports guidance, our children will be able to play the outdoor high-contact sports – football, rugby etc. – effective this Friday, so that’s good news.”

In a presentation to the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 22, Chau explained that the county would be waiting on all three case metrics to meet criteria in order to officially move forward.

“Positivity rate for the entire county is at 5.2 percent today, our case rate per 100 is actually at 10.9 percent, but because we are testing a little bit below the state average, it’s got bumped up to 11.1 [percent]. But as you remember, even that number has dropped dramatically within the last month or so,” Chau said.

On Monday, Feb. 22, Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Irvine-based Orange County Business Council, said she expected to hear an announcement from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, as the state has met positivity rate thresholds that should be enough to meet Red Tier standards.

“With California at 3 percent positivity, we should all be out of Purple Tier now and opening up,” Dunn wrote in an email to Irvine Weekly. “States with far higher positivity rates are all open.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, OCHCA reported 250 new COVID-19 cases, with zero reported deaths. The HCA COVID-19 Task Force has vaccinated more than 500,000 people in Orange County, while the city of Irvine set up a mobile vaccination site at the Lakeview Senior Center.

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