Orange County removed from state’s COVID-19 monitoring list

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Orange County was removed from the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list Sunday, starting a 14-day countdown for schools to reopen.

If the county maintains a coronavirus case rate below 100 cases per 100,000 residents for the next two weeks, among other requirements, schools in the county could be allowed to reopen for in-classroom instruction. The decision to reopen would ultimately lie with school districts.

Responding to a surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom in mid-July announced only schools in counties off the state’s coronavirus watchlist for two weeks straight will be allowed to reopen for in-person learning.

There are now 35 counties on California’s watchlist, accounting for the majority of the state’s population. Those counties, which include Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino, were ordered to close indoor operations at fitness centers, places of worship, hair salons and other locations in July.

Even when a county is removed from the monitoring list, indoor operations have to stay shuttered until the state health officer authorizes a reopening.

O.C. was added to the watchlist in June, after a surge in coronavirus infections led to a spike in hospitalizations.

As of Saturday, Orange County’s seven-day testing positivity rate stood at 5.4% — well below the state’s required 8% — and it meets the state’s indicators for slowing the spread of COVID-19, including for the number of daily coronavirus tests performed, daily hospitalizations, hospital capacity and its supplies of intensive care unit beds and ventilators.

The 14-day coronavirus case rate per 100,000 O.C. residents stands at 90.2.

The county reported a total of 45,801 coronavirus cases and 896 deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of Saturday.

O.C. met all the criteria required for being taken off the state’s COVID-19 watchlist earlier this week, but had to maintain the numbers for three consecutive days before being removed, local health officials said.

“We received confirmation from the state that Aug. 19, which was yesterday, was the first day that Orange County is below all of the state data monitoring thresholds,” Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s acting health director, said in a news conference earlier this week.

However, the state’s guidelines are expected to change Monday. Newsom has announced a new set of criteria will be released, but it’s unclear how the new standards will differ, or whether they will be more stringent.

“The state is actively reassessing the July 13 order in light of evolving scientific evidence regarding disease transmission and the risk of transmission in different settings and will provide updates in the coming week,” the California Department of Public Health said Sunday.

San Diego County had also been removed from the watchlist earlier this week.

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