Uptick in COVID-19 case rate keeps Orange County in ‘red tier’; 33 deaths a one-day high

A shopper pushes a stroller past a store in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County won’t be moving up to the next tier under California’s coronavirus reopening rules for at least two more weeks after the average new daily COVID-19 case rate climbed.

Dr. Clayton Chau, the Orange County Health Care Agency director, said during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday that the county was on track last week to move to the next tier, but the latest data on new infections will keep the county in Tier 2 — the “red tier” — denoting substantial transmission of the illness. The tier is the second-most restrictive in the state’s reopening guidelines.

Just a day after recording no deaths, the county agency also reported a new high of 33 fatalities Tuesday, for a total of 1,249 COVID-19 deaths in Orange County. It was the highest one-day total since 32 deaths were reported on Aug. 6. In addition, 109 new cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the overall tally to 53,557.


The agency reported that the county’s new adjusted case rate was 4.4 cases per 100,000 residents, while its average testing positivity rate remained at 3.1%.

The county moved into Tier 2 of the state’s four-tiered, color-coded reopening system on Sept. 8.

California counties need to show seven or fewer new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents each day for two weeks to see some restrictions lifted. That’s a high bar for some.

To advance to the next tier, which indicates moderate transmission of the virus, the county will need to keep its new case rate below 3.9 per 100,000 and its testing positivity rate below 4.9% for two consecutive weeks.

Counties are required to stay in a tier for a minimum of three weeks before moving into the next one.

“We did have a few days of uptick in numbers — small, but significant to affect our tier system. And those numbers, we believe, is the effect of the Labor Day weekend,” Chau said. “We did have a couple days of high numbers for the week of Sept. 13 to 19, and that’s what kept our numbers to be in the red tier this week.”

Nguyen writes for Times Community News.