After two weeks of being in the state’s most restrictive tier in the virus ranking system, the county has maintained a week of criteria necessary for being moved to the red less restrictive tier, County Manager Mike Callagy said Wednesday.
To be moved from the purple tier to the red, the county must report having fewer than seven new daily cases per 100,000 residents and maintain a positive test rate below 8% for two weeks. With one week down, data from Sept. 6 through Sept. 12 would have to be in that range as well to allow for additional businesses to expand operations.
“It’s already in the books. We’re just now waiting and we’ll know next Tuesday what we did Sept. 6 to Sept. 12,” said Callagy. “A lot’s at stake there. We’re hoping for the best. We feel that we’re on the right path.”
If the state’s next data report, released from the state every Tuesday, shows that the county maintained red tier criteria of two weeks, movie theaters, gyms, places of worship and personal care facilities would be permitted to open indoors. Retailers and malls would also be allowed to expand capacity to 50%.
“Even if we get to the red we want to continue to stay in that red and move towards further opening as the numbers dictate. … Even if we do move to the red, we have to stay vigilant,” said Callagy, noting counties are required to stay in the red tier for at least two weeks before schools countywide are permitted to reopen.
While Callagy showed optimism for the good news, he noted the county was forced to close testing sites on Sept. 12 and Sept. 14 due to poor air quality caused by wildfires. To make up for both days, a testing site will be opened on Saturday at the San Mateo County Event Center. Up to 2,000 individuals will be tested and 1,100 people have made appointments, as of Wednesday.
An average of 1,800 tests are administered daily throughout the county, 80% of which are performed by private care providers, said County Health Deputy Chief Srija Srinivasan. Callagy announced the county is working on expanding free testing up to 750 additional tests administered per day by standing up a static site accessible five to six days a week.
“We’re going to open up a lot of lanes and we hope to get 1,000 people through that testing process,” said Callagy. “We feel very good about this. We feel the supply chains are intact now as far as getting the testing kits out there. We also feel that the turnaround is such that with more labs coming into service we can get those turnaround times to where we need to be.”
Officials hope to be able to test minors at the site who are currently unable to be tested through Verily, the program organized in partnership by the state and medical company Project Baseline. The county would also continue to organize rotating sites as well as targeted testing in clustered areas such as apartment buildings or neighborhood blocks.
“We’re not testing just to test. We think testing is good. … With 30 or 40% asymptomatic, we need to make sure that [members of the public] know if they are a carrier or potential carrier of COVID-19,” said Callagy.
He noted counties testing over the state’s testing average receive a credit toward its average positivity rate. As of Tuesday, 157,278 tests had been performed in the county with 9,264 individuals testing positive for the respiratory disease. A total of 142 residents have died from COVID-related illnesses, mostly white individuals 80 years old or older.
Currently, there are 36 confirmed and 16 suspected cases of coronavirus in hospitals, 20 who are in the ICU. County officials remain concerned for those in the Latino community and young adults in the 20 to 29 age group and 30 to 39 age group, who make up the greatest number of infections.
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