COVID-19: CA reverts Riverside County to purple tier, re-imposes restrictions

“The return to the purple tier will adversely impact small businesses like restaurants and gyms which were able to provide indoor services in the red tier after having business operations restricted for several months throughout the course of the pandemic,” stated Riverside County on Oct. 20.

On Oct. 20, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reverted Riverside County from the red tier (“substantial”) back to the most restrictive (purple, “widespread”) tier in accordance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” COVID-19 risk level guidelines.

“The return to the purple tier will adversely impact small businesses like restaurants and gyms which were able to provide indoor services in the red tier after having business operations restricted for several months throughout the course of the pandemic,” stated Riverside County. “The state’s decision to move Riverside County back to the purple tier ends the week-long adjudication process that Riverside County requested with the state last week. Riverside County will need to remain in the purple tier for at least three weeks and meet the red tier metrics for two of those weeks before returning to the red tier.”

All told, California’s four-tier system includes tier one, “widespread” (purple); tier two, “substantial” (red); tier three, “moderate” (orange); and tier four, “minimal” (yellow).

Under the purple tier, places of worship/cultural ceremonies also revert back to outdoor operations only; bars – where no meals are provided – remain closed.

As further noted by Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser, schools (K-6) who were approved to open under the red tier and respective waiver application process may stay open; however, schools that did not open must stay closed unless an according waiver application is submitted and approved by Kaiser and CDPH.

“Every county in California is assigned to a tier based on its test positivity and adjusted case rate. At a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least (three) weeks before moving forward,” notes the State of California’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” data website. “Data is reviewed weekly and tiers are updated on Tuesdays. To move forward, a county must meet the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks. If a county’s metrics worsen for two consecutive weeks, it will be assigned a more restrictive tier. Public health officials are constantly monitoring data and can step in if necessary.”

Per Riverside University Health System – Public Health (RUHS-PH), Blythe’s COVID-19 data as of Oct. 20 shows a cumulative confirmed case count of 405 with 384 recovered and 4 deaths.

Zip code COVID-19 case data for 92225, as of Oct. 20, shows 489 cases, 452 of which have recovered.

Both figures exclude COVID-19 data from the area jail and CDCR (California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation) prisons.

“Riverside County’s metrics include a 5.2 positivity rate and 9.1 case rate. While the positivity rate is within the red tier range, the case rate – cases per 100,000 people – is within the purple tier. Riverside County’s case rate is also worsened by the state’s upwards adjustment for not reaching the statewide median of PCR swab tests,” stated Riverside County on Oct. 20. “More Riverside County residents are getting tested for the virus at approximately 195 people a day per 100,00 residents, up from 139 in early September. The statewide testing median is 239 people a day per 100,000 residents.”

Locally, in September, Blythe officials campaigned for a COVID-19 risk level guidelines’ variance or exemption from Newsom in an effort to re-open the community.

As previously reported, California 28th District State Senator Melissa Melendez formally submitted a letter to Newsom on Sept. 14 requesting revision to the tiered re-opening guidelines and highlighted Blythe as one of the rural communities facing significant economic hardships.

Further, Blythe Mayor Dale Reynolds has also voiced support for a local variance or exemption to the current COVID-19 climate restrictions.

“(Blythe) should be yellow,” opined Reynolds at a Sept. 9 public roundtable discussion on COVID-19 related assistance and resources. “And yellow is wide open, if anybody asks.”

Additionally, a letter from Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius to Riverside County’s governor liaison also underlined the effort.

At the Riverside County Board of Supervisors’ Oct. 20 meeting, Perez iterated the importance of the city taking in Palo Verde Valley’s public health officials’ input/feedback on the matter to balance both mitigating the outlook of the area economy as well as the overall public safety concerns of the community amid COVID-19.

“Their concern is the issue of capacity when it comes to bed-space. It’s a small hospital; obviously, it’s a very rural area. And so, they’re concerned about ‘re-opening,’ if you will. And that’s what members of the city council want to do – is ensuring that somehow there’s also enough capacity at that hospital. So, what’s that balance? And I asked them; that they have to meet and discuss that. The city wants me to write a letter of support for a variance which, we’ve already tried that – and you already know where potentially that will go, which is probably nowhere,” stated Perez. “But I think it’s important though that our hospital team out there, as well as our city leaders, actually connect with each other and have that conversation to see what potentially that may look like, if there is that type of effort.”

(Note: For more information – including the current county status of various activities and sectors under the state’s tiered system – visit: covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy)

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