After six months of a strict lockdown due to COVID-19, Fresno County is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
The state announced Tuesday that Fresno County has met the metrics required to move from the purple tier – the most restrictive category – to the red tier – the second most restrictive category in the state’s four-tier blueprint to reopening.
If Fresno County meets the same criteria over the following week, the county will officially move into the red tier on Sep. 29.
To move into the red tier, the state requires counties to have a COVID-19 positivity rate under 8% and have less than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents.
According to the state’s report, Fresno County has a 4.8% positivity rate over the last week and 6.3 new cases per 100,000 residents.
“Hopefully next week we’ll also receive the same good news, and that will allow us to proceed in that gradual reopening,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County Interim Health Officer, Tuesday.
If the numbers continue on this path over the next week and Fresno County moves into the red tier on Sep. 29, several sectors will be able to increase or open for indoor operations. Restaurants will be allowed to open for 25 percent capacity, although bars will still be required to remain closed.
A full list of what sectors can reopen in the different tiers can be found here.
Schools will also be able to fully reopen once Fresno County has officially been in the red tier for two weeks. If the county’s coronavirus numbers continue to head in the right direction, the earliest schools would gain permission to reopen would be Oct. 6.
In the meantime, however, Vohra said the state has approved six waivers for Fresno County elementary schools to reopen for in-person instruction immediately.
Tuesday also saw a change to the guidance for nail salons. The state has now included salons in the purple tier, meaning all of them in Fresno County are allowed to now reopen.
Although the state does not consider hospitalization data in its four-tier system, Fresno County currently has 89 hospitalized coronavirus-positive patients, the lowest since June 23 and only 28% of a high of 313 on July 30. Of that total, the county ICUs report 28 coronavirus-positive patients.
County dishes out CARES Act funds
On Tuesday, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved to allocate $3 million of CARES Act funds to 14 cities to aid their coronavirus response efforts.
The allocation is designed to help the smaller cities in the county develop programs unique to their own needs.
The 14 cities that are awarded the money are Clovis, Coalinga, Firebaugh, Fowler, Huron, Kerman, Kingsburg, Mendota, Orange Cove, Parlier, Reedley, San Joaquin, Sanger and Selma.
Those cities have already received CARES Act funding through a $500 million allocation from the state, the county said, but the amounts were disproportionately smaller than what cities with over 500,000 people received.
“Many smaller cities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 because of the types of households and workforces in those communities, resulting in disproportionately higher caseloads than in the Fresno-Clovis metropolitan area,” the county said in a statement. “As these cities face COVID-19 issues, their budgets have been significantly impacted.
“While this allocation does not offset the entire disparity, it is an attempt to reduce that disparity to assist our smaller cities beyond what the County of Fresno has already done in these communities.”