Orange County remains rooted in the red tier of the state’s pandemic tracking system, but with slight gains reported Tuesday, Nov, 10, in all three metrics closely watched by the state health department.

The county righted its course this week, after two weeks of rising COVID-19 case rates in late October and early November put it on a path back toward the most-restrictive purple tier.

Orange County’s rate of new cases fell to 5.6 cases per day per 100,000 residents from 6 cases per 100,000 last week.

Testing positivity – the share of swab tests coming back positive – this week inched down to 3.3% from 3.6% last week.

Health equity – the share of positive tests in hard-hit areas where residents have less health care access – also dipped this week: to 5.5% from 5.7% last week.

Though not a metric used to determine tier status, coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Orange County have crept up, settling at 224 patients by Tuesday.

This week, Orange County became a red tier enclave in Southern California as neighboring San Diego County slipped back into the purple tier amid rising weekly case rates. Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties also are in the purple tier, which restricts which businesses and public sectors can reopen, forcing some to operate outside only and limiting capacity inside for others.

Counties must remain in their tier for at least three weeks and qualify in all three metrics for the next tier for two weeks to advance.

State health officials announce metric updates and county tier assignments each Tuesday – this system was enacted in late August.

Going back to the purple tier for “widespread” risk would mean again closing restaurant dining rooms, indoor gyms, movie theaters and houses of worship, as well as limiting the indoor capacity at other businesses and public places.

State health guidelines don’t require schools that have resumed in-person instruction to shut down again, but shifting back to the purple tier would mean districts that haven’t reopened classrooms would have to wait until the county spent two weeks in the red tier again.

Several large school districts in Orange County, such as Santa Ana Unified, have held off reopening classrooms so far.

During a news conference Tuesday, state health officials refrained from labeling the rising number of cases statewide a “surge,” but expressed concern that “COVID fatigue” is leading many to flout pandemic guidelines, particularly as families begin to plan holiday celebrations.

“We know that this is hard work, but we must do more,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “The virus is not over just because we’re tired of it.”


By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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