Just two weeks after moving into the red tier in the state’s coronavirus reopening blueprint, Fresno County is facing a nightmare scenario of a forced transition back into the purple – and most restrictive – tier.
Last Tuesday, the state released its weekly metrics, showing Fresno County’s coronavirus positivity rate to be 5.3% and the case rate per 100,000 people to be 7.2.
Unfortunately for Fresno County, the requirement for the red tier is to have a case rate less than 7, meaning if the state reports similar numbers on Oct. 13, the county will slide back into the purple tier.
County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra discussed the risk that the county is facing in moving back a tier last Tuesday, and echoed the same sentiments on Friday.
When asked what the chances are that Fresno County moves back into the purple tier, Vohra didn’t mince words on Friday.
“I think they’re high,” Vohra said. “I’m very concerned. I think we are right at that border.”
One issue affecting Fresno County’s case rate is the number of tests being processed in the county. According to the state, the county’s case rate is actually 7, but that number is adjusted up to 7.2 because Fresno County is processing a testing volume below the state median.
Vohra is calling for more people to get tested and signed a health officer order Friday that requires all healthcare facilities to provide timely access to testing. If Fresno County can conduct more tests than the state median, the case rate will be adjusted down and work in the county’s favor when it comes to the tier assignment.
“One thing that people can do is go ahead and get tested,” Vohra said. “Obviously we want to know what the truth is, and if we’re in the purple, we’re in the purple, and we really need to do what it takes to really reduce transmission and not just gain the numbers. But on the other hand remember that if we don’t do enough testing, then they actually adjust our case rate upwards.”
However, even if Fresno County increases its testing over the next few days, it will have no bearing on Tuesday’s reported case rate, because the state will base the metrics that it reports from the week ending Oct. 3.
In other words, what’s done is done. Fresno County’s fate has already been sealed and is at the mercy of the state’s report.
“We all need to work together and come up with solutions where we can expand and improve our testing rates,” Vohra said. “But beyond that we may just be at that border between red and purple, and we’re slipping back to purple which is a big step back for us. But we need to work hard to try to get back into red and stay in red, and that just means everyone needs to be mindful of the safety issues as well as doing all of the testing on that end.”