COVID-19 · Fresno

Fresno Co. staves off purple tier scare, retains red status

Amid another scare, more intensive COVID-19 restrictions are not imminent for Fresno County. 

The California Department of Public Health announced its updated COVID-19 tier assignments for the state’s COVID-19 reopening blueprint, and Fresno County placed solidly in the red tier one week after posting in the purple, more restrictive, tier. 

Had Fresno County’s COVID-19 metrics fallen in the purple tier Tuesday – which would have been the second week in a row – the county would have been required to return to purple, which it only left one month ago. 

“Every week we really are just seeing what the balance of the statistics will show for us,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County Interim Health Officer. “This week we really were worried, because last week one of our metrics was in the purple tier. And the rules of the blueprint are if you are in the purple tier for two weeks in a row in one of your metrics, then you will go into the purple. That didn’t happen. We skated through, I think, and thanks to everyone who’s really trying to contribute to safety out there.”

Fresno County now is not at risk of moving back to the purple tier for at least another two weeks. 

The new daily case rate per 100,000 people has been the problem for Fresno County. To stay in the red tier, the state requires that counties post a case rate between 4-7. 

Last week, the state reported that Fresno County’s case rate was adjusted to 7.3. The actual case rate was 7.0, but the state moved it up as a way of penalizing Fresno County for having a COVID-19 testing count below the state average. 

Fresno County posted a case rate of 6.6, but since the county is still not reaching the state average for testing, the state adjusted the case rate to 6.7. Although Fresno County was penalized once again, the hit was not bad enough to push the metric into the purple tier. 

“Every week because we’re sort of on the border between red and purple, we do have to be just prepared that the state will come back and say, ‘You have a purple metric,’ or ‘You’re at risk for going into a more restrictive tier,'” Vohra said.

The state also reported that Fresno County’s coronavirus positivity rate is 5% and the health equity metric – which measures the positivity rate in socioeconomic-challenged areas – is 6.8%. 

The red tier requires a positivity rate between 5-8 percent and a health equity metric between 5.3-8%. A high health equity metric cannot push Fresno County back to purple, per state rules. 

“Right now we’re doing well, but, again, every week is a new week,” Vohra said. “We still need to continue to be on our guard.”

A return to purple would have shut down all indoor operations at restaurants, pushing them back outside once again, as well as decreasing the capacity allowed in retail stores and shutting down all churches and other places of worship. 

The data that the state used to determine the tier assignments Tuesday comes from the week ending Oct. 17. 

Status around the Valley

  • Merced County: Red
  • Madera County: Purple
  • Fresno County: Red
  • Kings County: Red
  • Tulare County: Purple
  • Kern County: Red
Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.