Depending on metrics, Sonoma County could move into the red tier next week

By Katherine Minkiewicz, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, March 11, 2021

cal covid map

All data and tier assignments are based on results from week ending February 27, 2021. (Source:

Sonoma County missed being a candidate for moving into the red tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy by 0.1%, according to Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins, and now county health officials say the county may be able to move into the red and out of the most restrictive purple tier by next week, depending on county metrics.

“We are very close to moving out of the purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Our adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 residents is now down to 8.2%, we needed it to be at 7% to move into the red tier this week,” said Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase.

The county’s overall testing positivity rate is 3.1% and the testing positivity rate in the lowest quartile of the healthy places index is 5.3%.

“If we had got to 5.2% we would move into the red tier next Tuesday to reopen more of our economy and schools. The state is making a much-needed adjustment to how counties can move into the less restrictive red tier,” Mase said. “California’s approach to modifying the Blueprint for a Safer Economy is anchored not just in the level of overall vaccinations across California, but with a particular focus in vaccinating individuals living in the state’s vaccine equity quartile community, that is the lowest 25% of the healthy places index quartile, and that will be the critical indicator then for moving forward.”

Why is the state homing in on this metric? Because the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted these aforementioned communities.

“And we are painfully aware of that here in Sonoma County,” Mase said.

Once 2 million vaccine doses have been administered to people living in the vaccine equity quartile, then the upper number of cases per 100,000 for the red tier will increase from 7 to 10.

“In other words, as long as our adjusted case rate is under 10 per 100,000 per day, which it has been for the last two weeks, we will be able to move into the red tier,” Mase explained.

Mase said the government expects the state will finish administering these 2 million vaccines by this Friday and in this scenario, the state would reevaluate Sonoma County’s data from March 9 and would award the county with a one-week credit toward the red tier.

“That means the county could formally enter the red tier very soon after that, in fact the transition to the red tier could happen even sooner than the predicted Tuesday, March 16,” Mase said. “We’ll keep you posted on exactly what’s going to happen as it unfolds, it’s just not exactly clear at this time what day we could move into the red tier, but we’re very very close.”

The red tier would allow for partial indoor dining and gyms and the expansion of other services with modifications.

Vaccine progress

In terms of vaccine progress, to date the county has administered 162,672 vaccine doses. Nearly 28% of county residents have received their first does and about 12% are fully vaccinated.

“The big question is how much vaccine we’ll receive over the next week from the state,” said Dr. Urmila Shende, the county’s vaccine chief officer.

The county has been administering up to 40,000 shots a week according to District 2 Supervisor David Rabbitt and as Shende mentioned, the main issue has always been vaccine supply.

“This week alone we got 7,700 doses, but 1,700 of those were the Johnson & Johnson doses, which we were grateful for, but to be honest we were looking to see Johnson & Johnson augment our Pfizer and Moderna, but instead it was in lieu of Pfizer and Moderna. That forced us to again concentrate on making sure that we have enough vaccine for second doses as opposed to getting out in front of the first doses,” Rabbitt said.

Shende said several of the Johnson & Johnson doses — which is simply a one-shot dose — will be given to the Sonoma County Office of Education in order to vaccinate teachers.

County confirms Barbie Robinson’s departure

During the Wednesday COVID-19 community briefing, Hopkins also discussed the departure of the county’s director of health services.

“Yes, it is true that our director of health services, Barbie Robinson, soon will be leaving us to become the public health director for Harris County, Texas, the largest county in the state of Texas. While this is a loss for our county and for our community, we also recognize that this is a tremendous career opportunity for Barbie and also allows her to be closer to family and so we are very excited for her and wish her the best,” Hopkins said.

Robinson will stay with the county until mid-May and Hopkins emphasized that Robinson’s departure will have no interruption in vaccine roll out and COVID response.

This article was produced by Sonoma West Times & News, the hometown newspaper of Sebastopol and west county since 1889. See more news at