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Orange County ranked as ‘widespread’ as Gov. Newsom releases new guidelines on reopening California

Richard Hernandes, from right to left, his girlfriend, Jazmin Domingo, his brothers, Seth Patlan, and Joseph Hamassian
Richard Hernandes, from right, his girlfriend, Jazmin Domingo, his brothers, Seth Patlan, and Joseph Hamassian, wait for a table at a restaurant along Main Street in Huntington Beach on Aug. 12.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County left California’s coronavirus watch list on Sunday, but the state has released new, sweeping guidelines that may change how long the county has to wait before it can begin the process to reopen.

Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a new plan for reopening the state and its economy on Friday that uses a four-tier system, in which counties must prove that they can continue stemming the transmission of the COVID-19 virus which has taken the lives of 956 Orange County residents and over 12,000 people statewide.

Orange County is currently classified in the first tier with transmission rates identified as “widespread.”

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported Friday that it has a 14-day case rate of 82.4 for every 100,000 residents and 5.2% seven-day testing positivity rate. The statistics reported Friday by the county agency do not reflect the new parameters.

Friday was the sixth day the county was off of the state’s watch list.

Orange County has to remain off for 14 consecutive days in order to receive the green light to reopen all schools for in-person learning, and Sunday would mark the halfway point.

The state said if a county is assigned to the first tier — as Orange County has been — but met criteria for a less restrictive tier the prior week, the county only needs to meet the criteria for a less restrictive tier for one more week to move to the second tier.

The tiers and their requirements are as follows:

  • Tier 1, widespread transmission: Most nonessential, indoor businesses will remain closed. Counties in this tier have more than seven new cases per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus test positivity rate of 8% and above.
  • Tier 2, substantial transmission: Some nonessential, indoor businesses are closed. Counties in this tier are between four to seven cases per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus test positivity rate of 5% to 8%.
  • Tier 3, moderate transmission: Some indoor businesses operations are open with modifications. Counties in this tier have one to 3.9 new cases for every 100,000 residents per day and have a test positivity rate of 2% to 4.9%.
  • Tier 4, minimal transmission: Most indoor business operations are open with modifications. Counties in this tier have less than one case for every 100,000 residents per day and have a test positivity rate of less than 2%.

For all subsequent assessments, counties will need to remain on a tier for a minimum of three weeks and must meet benchmarks for two consecutive weeks before they will be able to progress to the next tier. Counties can only progress one tier at a time, even if they may qualify for a more advanced tier. The state agency said that as of Friday each county is assigned to a tier based on an adjusted case rate and test positivity from the prior two reporting periods.

The tier statuses will be effective Aug. 31.

A working night in the life of four nurses, who have a military background, at Placentia-Linda Hospital’s emergency room unit.

Dr. Clayton Chau, the county health officer, said on Twitter that the state confirmed that if the county numbers continue trending positively, it will be able to reopen schools for in-person instruction as early as Sept. 8.

The county agency also reported another 323 new cases on Friday, in addition to nine new deaths, which include three skilled nursing facility residents, two assisted living facility residents and four county residents not living in a facility.

The county reported 7,093 new tests, bringing the total to 624,004. The number of current hospitalized cases is 351, 98 of which are in intensive care units.

About 40,277 have recovered to date.

Here are the latest cumulative coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths for select cities in Orange County:

  • Santa Ana: 9,247 cases; 232 deaths
  • Anaheim: 8,204 cases; 218 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 2,174 cases; 60 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 1,641 cases; 20 deaths
  • Irvine: 1,447 cases; 12 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 1,038 cases; 19 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 469 cases; nine deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 176 cases; less than five deaths

Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:

  • 0 to 17: 3,235 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 7,090 cases; three deaths
  • 25 to 34: 10,455 cases; 13 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 7,709 cases; 29 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 7,738 cases; 82 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 5,772 cases; 134 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 2,850 cases; 192 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 1,633 cases; 207 deaths
  • 85 and older: 1,270 cases; 295 deaths

Updated figures are posted daily at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc. For information on getting tested, visit occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing.

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