California is slowly opening up in response to reduced COVID-19 incidence rates, but here in the Central Valley, we have reason to be cautious.
Fresno, Tulare, Madera, Merced and Kings counties continue to have high levels of COVID-19 community, according to new measurements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You can see on our map below that much of the valley remains in the “red” zone.
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Previously, the CDC transmission categories “high”, “substantial”, “moderate” and “low” were based on case rates and positivity rates. Now, the new measurements also take into account hospital numbers when measuring the impact of COVID-19 and coverage requirements for communities.
Fresno County has the highest rate of COVID-19 inpatient bed use (percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients) in all of California.
Nearly 21% of hospital beds in Fresno, Mandera and Tulare counties are occupied by patients with COVID-19 – the highest rate among all counties in the state. In fourth place is County Tulare, with 20.3%.
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COVID rates and incidence rates in The Valley are also among the highest in California.
These new measurements come as most of the country prepares for what it hopes to be a post-pandemic world.
Earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that masks would no longer be required in schools from mid-March and rejected the requirement for a mask for unvaccinated people indoors – although he said it was still “highly recommended.”
Similar policies have been adopted by Oregon and Washington and other states on both the East and West Coasts.
For more instructions on the precautions to take at each level, see CDC.
About the new CDC measurements
Counties with more than 200 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days will be categorized as “high” if new weekly admissions to COVID-19 hospitals per 100,000 people are higher than 10 or if the proportion of inpatients employed by patients with COVID-19 in the last seven days is more than 10%. Otherwise, the prefecture will be categorized at the “middle” level. Counties with a weekly incidence rate of more than 200 can not be moved to the “low” category.
For counties with less than 200 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, the rates of admission to weekly hospitalization over 20 and the percentage of staffed beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 will be at the “high” level.
For the “intermediate” level, hospital admission rates should be between 10 and 20 and bed use between 10% and 15%. The “low” level concerns counties with less than 10 weekly new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 people and less than 10% of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Indoor coverage is recommended for prefectures at a “high” level.
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