Small counties might reopen sooner

Nevada County has a new target to hit in order to reach the orange tier following changes to the state’s reopening blueprint this week.

According to state data released Tuesday, the county’s positivity rate fell to 3.1% from 4.8% the previous week and from 8.1 new cases per day to 7.1.

For the county to move into the orange tier, it would normally need to have a positivity rate under 5% and a case rate of fewer than six new cases per day for two consecutive weeks.

But now new changes specific to small counties allow them to use the total number of cases in a week as a metric if their positivity rate meets the threshold to move into a less restrictive tier but their case rate doesn’t meet requirements.

The changes are meant to recognize that a small number of new cases could drastically swing the case rate for small counties and to “avoid disincentivizing increased testing.”

For the last three months the county’s positivity rate has met the criteria to move into a less restrictive tier but has been held back by its higher case rate.

The changes mean the county would need to maintain its positivity rate and have 27 or fewer cases for two consecutive weeks to reach the orange tier. Its vaccine administration would also have to be within 5% of the statewide average vaccination coverage to move tiers.

According to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, the county reported 31 cases Monday, which included cases over the weekend. Last week 68 cases were reported, although the state and county dashboard do not count cases using the same timing.

The last time the county reported 27 or fewer cases in a week was in early November.

In the orange tier industries like card rooms, gyms, wineries, breweries and distilleries could expand to operating at 25% capacity.

Restaurants and theaters would be able to operate indoors at 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer, and bars that don’t serve meals would be allowed to reopen for service outdoors, with modifications.

The entire state reopening blueprint and many COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be done away with June 15, if vaccinations remain available and hospitalization rates are stable and low.

John Orona is a Staff Writer for The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. To contact him, email or call 530-477-4229.

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