Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a revised plan intended to manage the reopening of the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan imposes risk-based criteria on tightening and loosening COVID-19 allowable activities and expands the length of time between changes to assess how any movement affects the trajectory of the disease.

“This Blueprint is statewide, stringent and slow,” Newsom said. “We have made notable progress over recent weeks, but the disease is still too widespread across the state. COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, and we all need to adapt. We need to live differently. And we need to minimize exposure for our health, for our families and for our communities.”

Based on recent COVID-19-related data, each county was assigned one of four colored tiers indicating the prevalence of the virus in the county. Counties could be assigned either: purple (widespread), red (substantial), orange (moderate) or yellow (minimal). The color indicates the activities that are allowable in the county.

Assignment of the color coding relies on two health metrics including the number of cases per 100,000 residents and percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive. Counties will also be required to show they are targeting resources and making the greatest efforts to prevent and fight COVID-19 in communities and with individuals with the highest risk, and demonstrate improvements in outcomes.

Counties must remain in every tier but purple for a minimum of 21 days before being eligible to move into the next tier. Each Tuesday, California will update each county’s data for the previous week and make corresponding changes to tiers. In order to move into a less restrictive tier, a county must meet that tier’s criteria for two straight weeks.

With the exception of Napa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, the remainder of the Bay Area counties were assigned the most restrictive purple tier when the initial assessment was completed Aug. 29. In Contra Costa County, the number of new cases per 100,000 residents per day was determined to be 8.3 while the positivity rates for COVID-19 testing was 5.3%. For the county to be upgraded to a red status, the number of daily cases per 100,000 residents would have to be between 4 and 7, and the positivity rate would need to remain between 5% to 8%.

In East County, the Labor Day holiday brought some indications that the pandemic was easing after residents endured a spike in confirmed infections, hospitalizations and deaths that started after Memorial Day and lasted all summer.

“Based on what we are able to see, we can be cautiously optimistic that there is a gradual downward trend in county cases, testing positivity rates and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, county health officer. “We need everyone to understand this is a reason to keep up what we are doing and not let down our guards.”

As residents approached the Memorial Day holiday, there appeared to be justification for a cautious optimism over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Infection rates, deaths and hospitalizations — the metrics that indicate the spread of the novel coronavirus in the county — were all improving from peaks that occurred in the early weeks of the pandemic. But almost immediately following the unofficial start of summer, those metrics began to deteriorate, and a spike that would last until Labor Day began to develop.

By Memorial Day, the number of hospitalized patients tumbled. Up to that point, the number of COVID-19 patients in Contra Costa County hospitals had peaked at 44 on April 13. On May 20, just before Memorial Day, that number had fallen to a low of just nine.

Starting June 1, hospitalizations started to climb and didn’t stop until they peaked at 110 on July 30. For the entire month of August, the number of hospitalizations remained stagnant, hovering between 89 and 104. It wasn’t until Sept. 2 that hospitalizations began to drop. There were 64 patients hospitalized on Labor Day, the lowest level since early July.

While the death toll from the pandemic stood at 36 on Memorial Day, the number of deaths occurring in the county had also slowed. There were, in fact, no deaths reported for the week ending May 30, the only calendar week to report no deaths since the first deaths occurred in the county on March 22.

The death toll from the pandemic grew by five times over the course of the summer to its current count of 187 deaths. The peak occurred during the week ending Aug.1 when 21 were reported. For the week ending Sept. 5, there were 11 deaths, compared to an average of 10 per week over the summer.

During the week ending May 30, the weekly growth rate of new COVID-19 cases dropped to low point 9.5%, and a total of 126 cases were added that week. On Memorial Day, CCHS reported a total of 1,353 cases. On Labor Day, that number had grown nearly 11 times to 14,412. On a percentage basis, the weekly growth rate peaked at 24.7% during the week ending July 25. For the current week, the growth rate has plummeted to 5.7%.

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