COVID-19 updates: Fresno County remains in 'red tier,' Kings County also moves to 'red tier,' 'Madera Co. remains in 'purple tier'

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County got good news Tuesday when the state's tier assignments came out and showed the county still in the red tier with an unadjusted rate of 6.0 new cases per 100,000 residents.

But the number reported for tier assignment has never matched data from the California Health and Human Services database, where the state tracks coronavirus cases.

An Action News analysis showed the number of new cases per 100,000 residents for the week ending October 3 would've been 9.1, qualifying the county for the purple tier instead of red, just as it has every week since the state started using the new case rate as a metric for reopening.

"Unfortunately, it's really difficult to try to quantify where we are at any given moment because the numbers do change," said Fresno County supervisor Nathan Magsig.

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Magsig is glad the county stayed in red this week, but he's among the people questioning the data.

The county's health officer, Dr. Rais Vohra, told Action News just about every health officer, and every county epidemiologist, has noted numbers that don't match the state's.

The bottom line is: Even though counties should basically already know what tier they'll be in next week, the inconsistent numbers make it impossible to really know.

Fresno city council member Nelson Esparza says the lack of transparency is very concerning for businesses trying to make plans and for constituents trying to protect their family's health.

"If we are being led to believe we're in the red tier, that may give folks a false sense of confidence of what it is safe to do," Esparza said.
The state hasn't responded to our requests to explain the discrepancy this week. There's also some question about whether they use the right metrics.

Magsig says the state should watch hospitalization rates.
"I think that needs to be the most important metric that we look at," he said. "Clearly, we need to protect the most vulnerable. We need to make sure hospitals have the capacity and they have appropriate personal protective equipment."

The number of Fresno County hospital beds taken up by COVID-19 patients is about one-third where it was a couple of months ago, but public health officials emphasize that hospitalizations and deaths are both lagging indicators which won't identify a problem until after it's possibly too late.

For now, Fresno County businesses and schools can make plans for at least the next couple of weeks because the county can't fall back into purple next week, even if the numbers are bad.

They just can't know which way the numbers are going until the state makes its next announcement next Tuesday.

Schools will be eligible to bring back students for in-person learning if the county remains in the tier for two weeks.

Meanwhile, Merced County moved to the "red tier" last week. Madera and Tulare counties are currently in the "purple tier," and Mariposa County is in the "yellow tier."

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With the restrictions currently in place, many Madera County businesses have moved their services outdoors.



With the restrictions currently in place, many Madera County businesses have moved their services outdoors, while gyms, like Fit Republic, have had to stay closed altogether.

Employees at the Sugar Pine smoke house in Madera are serving the few customers they can outdoors while tables inside sit empty.

While the county's positivity rate is low, there hasn't been enough people tested to meet the state's criteria.

Health department officials plan to ramp up the number of testing sites, and have some that will allow patients to get a flu shot and a COVID-19 test at the same time.

Effective immediately -- businesses in Kings county can officially open their doors and operate at 25 percent.

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Effective immediately -- businesses in Kings county can officially open their doors and operate at 25 percent.



The counties in the red tier must remain in that tier for at least three weeks before moving forward.

RELATED: Map shows which counties can, can't reopen under Newsom's new 4-tier system

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