Despite creeping case numbers, county poised to hit orange tier this week

By Heather Bailey, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, April 6, 2021

covid

It was mostly good news this week in the county’s April 5 COVID-19 briefing: vaccination allocations are about to increase, and the county is poised to slip into the orange tier. However, there are still a few points of concern going forward, primarily the slight rise in case rates for the first time in weeks.

Vaccine allocations

The first piece of good news is that after county supervisors expressed their discontent via letter to state officials over the stagnant and falling vaccine allocations to the county, they received good news that they had been heard and their concerns agreed with.

“I reached out to Yolanda Richardson who is essentially the czar for the supply side, and had a good conversation with her,” said Supervisor James Gore.

Following this meeting, according to Gore, the county will now receive 17,000 doses of vaccine next week and an additional 1,500 Johnson & Johnson doses specifically earmarked for “the hardest to reach.”

Case metrics

According to Dr. Sundari Mase, the county health officer, the current adjusted case rate is 4.3 per 100,000 which is a light uptick from last week’s numbers.

“Any increase is a troubling finding,” Mase said. “It could signal a further wave of cases.”

At present, case rates must be under four to shift into the orange tier, but the state has also announced that threshold will change when it hits a vaccination milestone.

“As soon as four million doses have been given in the lowest Healthy Places Index quartile — and since they have reached 3.96 million and they believed they’ll reach that milestone tomorrow (April 6) — when that happens the threshold drops to six cases per 100,000 for the orange tier.”

Given that, Sonoma County expects to be in the orange tier by April 7.

Dr. Kismet Baldwin did share that five patients locally have been diagnosed with some of the new COVID variants currently a cause of concern. According to Baldwin, there have been two cases of the so-called UK variant, two cases of one of two “Western States/California” variants and one case of the other “Western States/California Variant.”

“We have not found an epidemiological link between those people,” Baldwin said. “No relationships between those people have been identified.”

Vaccination levels

According the county health’s vaccine czar Dr. Urmila Shende, the county has delivered 313,102 doses of vaccine, with 84,000 people receiving a first dose and being partially vaccinated. Thirty percent of the county is now fully vaccinated, and 50% of those who are eligible have received a first dose.

The county’s Ken Tasseff showed of graphs which depicted that is performing well in comparison to other, similarly-sized counties in terms of vaccines given. He also called the milestone of 50% of those eligible having received at least one dose as “huge.”

“We’re making great progress but have more work to do to achieve herd immunity,” Shende said. “We have to continue to be careful to prevent a surge.”

It’s not over

Throughout the briefing, Mase and others made sure to point out that while we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic is not over, especially as the nation has seen an 8% increase in cases in just the last week and areas of the east coast and Midwest have been seeing a “fourth wave” of cases.

“In the meantime, now is not the time to lower our guard,” Mase said. “We need to continue to practice all mitigation measures that have gotten us so far in last month. We need to wear our masks and continue getting tested so can see where the virus might be spreading.

“By doing your duty and following mitigation measures and getting tested, you’re doing your part to not have that surge and stay in orange and avoid outbreaks,” Mase continued. “I can’t say it enough times. If you have not been tested lately, please do. We have worked hard this past year to mitigate COVID and we’re on the cusp of reopening, but we’re not there yet. It would be tragic to undo all our work now.”

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