Fresno County’s prospects to stay in the state’s red tier of the COVID-19 reopening blueprint do not look good.
The California Department of Public Health released its updated county metrics Tuesday, revealing that Fresno County is averaging 7.9 new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and has a positivity rate of 5.5%.
Because the number of coronavirus tests that Fresno County has processed for the week ending on Oct. 31 – the week that the state is basing the latest metrics from – the county’s case rate is adjusted up to 8.3.
Fresno County’s health equity metric – which measures the positivity rate of what the state considers to be the most disadvantaged neighborhoods – is 8.3%.
The case rate is the largest challenge the county is currently facing. To stay in the red tier, Fresno County would need a case rate under 7. Since the county is above that standard this week, another week above 7 will plunge the county back into the purple tier.
A move back to purple would shut down all indoor operations at restaurants, limit various retail stores to 25% capacity and close down all places of worship.
Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said Tuesday that he feels a return to the purple tier is imminent next week.
“On the one hand, it’s disappointing,” Vohra said. “On the other hand, it’s not very surprising, because we’ve seen the numbers tick up just over the last 5-7 days. I think we’re going to be told that we’re going to be in purple next week. I really do.”
If Fresno County returns to purple, the county will have to post red tier metrics for two consecutive weeks to return to red. That means Fresno County would be celebrating Thanksgiving while being in the purple tier.
“Honestly, speaking very frankly, I think we’re going to have a purple Thanksgiving,” Vohra said. “I think we’ll be in the purple zone of the blueprint by the time Thanksgiving holiday time comes around. It’s too early to tell how Christmas will look, but we know that when multiple households get together, that’s a perfect storm – especially while you’re eating because you’re not wearing a mask.”
Vohra advises that people keep any gatherings small, short and spread out in an effort to minimize new infections.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced Monday that the COVID-19 vaccine that it is developing has been 90% effective.
Vohra said he talked with the California Department of Public Health Tuesday, and the state is working on its program to deploy a COVID-19 vaccination whenever the Food and Drug Administration approves it, which may come as early as December.
There will be formal analysis of the Pfizer vaccine released at the end of November, which will be vetted by an independent group at a national level as well as by the state before the CDPH delivers it, Vohra said.
Vohra said he does not know how many doses Fresno County will receive, but the county will identify the people who should receive the vaccine first.
“The general conventional wisdom is that people that are at high risk of mortality – such as the frail and the elderly and those with comorbidities, and those at high risk of passing it on to many other people such as those in health care, public service, first responders – those are the groups of people that will probably be eligible to receive that first wave of vaccination,” Vohra said.
Fresno County is currently pursuing storage space to hold the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at a temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, and Vohra said the county currently only has one freezer that would work.