Monterey County moves into least restrictive yellow tier

Monterey County on Wednesday will move into the state’s yellow tier, which means fewer restrictions on the number of customers allowed into businesses, public events and even live music concerts.

The county achieved the yellow tier status, also called the “minimum” tier, based on the latest county data on COVID-19 cases, said Karen Smith, the public information officer for the Monterey County Health Department.

Increasing vaccination rates have helped the county achieve that status. Presently, the county has received nearly 560,000 doses and the proportion of people aged 12 and older receiving at least one vaccine is hitting 62%.

Among the loosening restrictions is the number of people allowed in social, informal gatherings. In the prior orange tier, only 50 people were able to gather outdoors and just 25% of indoor capacities. Now, 100 people are able to gather outdoors and the capacity has jumped to 50%

The number of people allowed in private events such as wedding receptions and conferences while in the orange tier stood at 100. Now, 200 people are allowed. If the event is held indoors, then 200 people is also the cap, but each person will need to provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus.

And for people itching to get out to live events, those restrictions have also been tempered. For venues holding up to 1,500 people, the number allowed in has moved from 15% in the orange tier to 25% in the yellow tier. However, if guests are tested or show proof of full vaccinations, the number doubles to 50%.

Detailed information on the tiers and their restrictions is available at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Beyond-Blueprint-Framework.aspx.

But with the loosening of restrictions, Smith cautions that the public needs to remain vigilant.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said, “but it’s the first time we’ve seen the light and it’s not an oncoming freight train.”

The timing of the move into the yellow corresponds with the state setting June 15 as the time when the economy can resume full activities with only a few exceptions. Last week the California Department of Public Health issued a statement called “Beyond the Blueprint for Industry and Business Sectors.”

The June 15 date will return the state to much like it was before the pandemic hit. Restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters and other day-to-day activities will be open as normal with no capacity limits, the state health department said.

Some restrictions will remain for what the state calls “mega” events that seat more than 5,000 people indoors and more than 10,000 outdoors. More information on those restrictions is available at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/COVID-19/What-Will-June-15-Look-Like.pdf.

There are three key metrics used to determine status levels with the state’s Blueprint for a Healthy Economy. The first is case rates — the number of positive tests per day per 100,000. The county’s case rate is now at 1.0, well below the state requirement of less than 2.0 to move into the yellow, Smith said, and a far cry from the number of cases during the height of the pandemic.

The second determining factor is the positivity rate. Smith explained that the metric is determined by the number of positive tests. The county’s rate is 0.6, which means that if you test 100 people, less than one will test positive.

Lastly is the “health equity” number, which in Monterey County is 0.8. That is a state data point that looks at the number of infections in ZIP codes that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The county’s 0.8 is also good enough to move into the yellow tier.

Even after the restrictions are fully lifted, Smith said the lessons learned during the pandemic, such as washing hands, wearing masks and other safety measures, should become second nature to prevent not only COVID-19, but for other infectious diseases as well.

Contributed by local news sources

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