L.A. County would be in most restrictive purple tier now if California were still using COVID reopening system

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If California were still using its tier-based blueprint for lifting coronavirus restrictions, Los Angeles County and 16 others would now be in the most restrictive purple tier.

On June 15, California lifted most of its restrictions and got rid of its color-coded tier system, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which was first introduced in August 2020 after a summer surge in cases.

If that reopening blueprint were still in effect, much of the state’s population would still be facing many closures and restrictions right now, including no indoor dining. That’s thanks to a recent increase in cases — largely among the unvaccinated.

The state’s color-coded tier system originally classified counties under the purple tier when the seven-day average daily COVID-19 case rate reached seven cases per every 100,000 people. Later, in March 2021, when vaccines started to become available, the rules were revised to classify the purple tier for counties with a seven-day average daily case rate of 10 per 100,000 people. (Case positivity rate and equitable distribution of vaccines played a role in the tier ranking as well.)

Right now, the seven-day rolling averages for many counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, have surpassed that 10 per 100,000 case rate, as originally reported by the San Jose Mercury News. The seven-day average daily case rate in L.A. County was 13.5 per 100,000 as of Tuesday.

According to the state’s Department of Public Health, the virus is spreading at a 7-day average daily rate of 6.3 cases per 100,000 people among the unvaccinated, but at a rate of 1.1 per 100,000 people among the vaccinated, the Mercury News reported. Those figures by county were not available.

The test positivity rate in L.A. County — the state’s and the nation’s most populous — has gone from 0.4% on June 15 to 4.8% as of Tuesday. That’s a more than 10-fold increase since all sectors were allowed to fully reopen June 15, health officials reported Monday.

L.A. County has also seen a “significant increase” of COVID-19 hospitalizations each day, health officials said. There are now more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases per week, a pace that has not been reached since March, when the county was recovering from a devastating winter surge.

On Tuesday, the county reported 1,821 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths. That brings the total amount of positive cases across all areas of L.A. County to more than 1.2 million, with a total of 24,587 deaths.

The alarming increase in cases led county public health officials last week to reinstate a mask mandate, requiring residents to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

“We’ve all forgotten about the tier system because we wanted to,” Dr. John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley, told the Mercury News. “We’re not in a very good place compared to where we were a month ago.”

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