Merced County moves into 'red tier' of California's reopening system

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A rise in Fresno County's COVID-19 new case rate had health officials concerned about a possible return to the more restrictive 'Purple' tier.

But Merced County has been able to bring its infection numbers down for two straight weeks and start to reopen some businesses.

North Valley residents made solid improvement in reducing the spread of the virus.

Merced County saw 6.7 new cases per 100,000 people and just 3.9% of tests came back positive.

As a result, the state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced, "Three new counties are moving from purple to red. That's Merced, Ventura and Yuba."

Merced County's move to the less restrictive 'Red Tier' meant businesses will be able to bring some customers back inside.

Fresno County moved into the 'Red Tier' last week and since then, restaurants and movie theaters were allowed to bring people back indoors at 25% capacity.

This week, though, Fresno County showed 7.2 new cases per 100,000 people, which lands in the purple tier.

Fresno County Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said, "This is somewhat concerning because as you know, the blueprint mandates that we continue to have testing either at or above the state average or else they will adjust our case rate upward, which is something we don't like to see."

Another reading in the purple tier next week in either the case rate or the positivity rate would result in Fresno County falling back into the purple tier.

Dr. Vohra continued, "Which no one wants. That would be tremendously disruptive. We would have to ask to close indoor operations again and we certainly don't want to go in that direction again."

Tulare, Kings, and Madera Counties all remained in the COVID-19 purple tier while Mariposa County was in the least restrictive Yellow tier.
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