Solano County: good, bad and in-between news on COVID-19

Solano County to stay in red COVID-19 tier for now.  Area heading into the right direction, according to public health administrator

A stadium worker holds up a sign for people to wear face masks before a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros in Oakland. Several counties in Northern California could be moving into the orange tier this week. (Jeff Chiu-Associated Press)
A stadium worker holds up a sign for people to wear face masks before a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros in Oakland. Several counties in Northern California could be moving into the orange tier this week. (Jeff Chiu-Associated Press)
Vallejo Times-Herald, by Thomas Gase, April 6, 2021

There’s good, bad an in-between news. On Tuesday, Solano County received some of the later.

Although COVID-19 guidelines were loosened and 80 percent of California’s population are in the orange tier after Tuesday’s reassignment, Solano County will be remaining in the red tier (substantial) for now, according to Solano County Public Health Administrator Jayleen Richards.

Solano has been in the red tier since March 10, but only a week ago, Richards said that there was a slight chance that the county actually could move backward into a more restrictive purple tier due to some alarming data.

“We are pleased to be trending in the right direction, but we’re going to stay in the red tier for now,” Richards said. “We’re glad we’re not moving backward to the purple tier.”

Officials have said they will loosen the criteria for advancing to the orange and yellow stages of the reopening plan once California distributes 4 million vaccine doses to residents of more than 400 ZIP codes considered most at-risk from the pandemic. Those ZIP codes scored in the bottom 25 percent of the Healthy Places Index, which ranks areas based on several socioeconomic factors, from education levels to transportation options.

As of Monday afternoon, California had administered 3.96 million doses to residents in the target ZIP codes, and nearly 20 million shots overall. The state is administering about 350,000 doses per day on average, putting it on pace to hit the 4 million-dose goal Tuesday.

Under the new criteria, counties with daily adjusted case rates of less than 6 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents could advance to the orange tier — up from the previous threshold of 4. The benchmark for the yellow tier, the least-restrictive in California’s reopening protocols, would rise from a daily adjusted case rate of 1 per 100,000 residents, to 2 per 100,000.

Solano has seen 31,401 COVID-19 cases, 297 of which are active. There has been 203 deaths and a 5.4 7-day positivity rate per 100,000, although the state site (which has differed from the county site) lists this number at 2.9. Under the new guidelines, the county would be able to move up to the orange tier, but Richards said that in order to go to the next tier, Solano must continue to pass the old guidelines for two consecutive weeks.

The 15 counties moving from red to orange on Tuesday were Napa, Contra Costa, Sonoma, Siskiyou, Humboldt, Mendocino, El Dorado, San Benito, Monterey, Tulare, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Imperial.

However, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday that he plans to reopen all of California on June 15, roughly nine weeks from now. This is based on two conditions — one, as long as vaccinations are widely available and two, the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals remains low.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said officials will discontinue the complex county-by-county system of capacity limits and other restrictions, known as the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” that has governed businesses since last summer.

Instead, California would allow restaurants, bars, stores, movie theaters, museums and practically all other businesses statewide to resume operations without capacity limits both indoors and outside, Ghaly told reporters in a news briefing Tuesday morning.

Some pandemic-era rules would remain in place, namely California’s requirement for people to wear face coverings. Ghaly said there is no time frame for when the state could drop the mask mandate.

“It really means that everyday activities will be allowed and businesses can reopen with common-sense risk reduction measures,” Ghaly said of the June 15 changes. “We can go to movies and the beach and to see families.”

Richards told the Times-Herald that she is confident the June 15 date would work for the reopening of the state.

“In mid April the 16 and older crowd will be able to be vacccinated so that means it will have been two months since the the entire eligible population could get vaccinated,” Richards said. “However, there is still a lot of work to do though, especially in the hard to reach populations and zip codes.”

Richards said that of the 400 high-risk zip codes mentioned by Newsom, at least four of them are in Solano County, although she wasn’t sure of the exact ones when speaking with the Times-Herald.

Richards said the weekly shipments of COVID-19 vaccination doses has not gone down in the last two weeks but it hasn’t increased either. This week she said there are only second doses planned for a Solano County Fairgrounds event.

“We have the capacity in Solano County to do so much more,” Richards said. “We can do thousands in a weekend and we’re hoping for more doses so we can do that.”

Bay Area News Group writer Nico Savidge contributed to this story.