LA County does not qualify for less-restrictive ‘yellow’ tier in COVID-19 blueprint

Los Angeles County’s weeks-long decline in new COVID-19 case rates stalled today with the release of updated state figures, confirming the county will be unable to advance to the less-restrictive yellow tier of the economic reopening blueprint for three weeks or more.

The state’s weekly update of county-by-county figures put Los Angeles County’s seven-day average daily rate of new COVID-19 infections at 3.1 per 100,000 residents, the same level as last week.

The number leaves the county firmly entrenched in the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs business and recreational restrictions during the pandemic. The county officially entered the orange tier last week.

Advancing to the yellow tier—which would allow a further loosening of capacity restrictions at most businesses—originally required counties to have an average daily new case rate of less than 1 per 100,000 residents. That threshold, however, was eased Tuesday to less than 2 per 100,000 residents, thanks to the state meeting the goal of 4 million COVID vaccine doses administered in low-income communities hard hit by the pandemic.

At 3.1 new cases per 100,000 residents, Los Angeles County is still well short of the yellow tier level.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday she did not expect the county to reach the yellow-tier level this week. She reiterated the point Tuesday morning while addressing the county Board of Supervisors.

She also said she anticipated a leveling off of the county’s rate of new cases, despite several weeks of significant drops, telling the board the metrics likely “will not change significantly this week or next.”

To advance to the yellow tier, the county’s case rate would have to fall below 2 per 100,000 residents and remain there for two consecutive weeks. That means the earliest Los Angeles County could now qualify for a move would be three weeks—or four weeks if Ferrer’s prediction about next week’s numbers is accurate.

The state updates the county-by-county statistics every Tuesday.

But movement within the tier system is expected to become moot by summer. State health officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that they will scrap the Blueprint for a Safer Economy on June 15, lifting all of its restrictions and eliminating the tier system—assuming continued supply of vaccines and no spikes in COVID hospitalizations, particularly among people who have been vaccinated.

The move is predicated largely on the vaccine supply, which has been slowly increasing in the state and county. Los Angeles County this week was allocated nearly 400,000 doses, its highest level to date. That figure doesn’t include thousands more doses allocated directly to some providers in the county, such as pharmacies, large health care providers and the federally operated vaccination site at Cal State Los Angeles.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, gets its own allocation of vaccine supply. The city so far has been allocated close to 260,000 doses of the vaccine.

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