Public health officials told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday they’re aiming to have the county move into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state’s reopening plan by April 7.
It’s the earliest Contra Costa can reopen further, according to state guidelines, which mandate remaining three weeks at the same rate or lower of reported infections before progressing. It’s been nine days since the county progressed from the most restrictive purple tier into the red tier.
As of Monday, 734 people have died in Contra Costa from COVID-19.
County health director Anna Roth told the board vaccinations are going so well, her department has lowered the age the current age threshold to 50.
“Now that’s moving out to another 300,000 people, and we feel confident that we now have the supply coming in to be able to start vaccinating those people,” Roth said.
Vaccine distribution has ramped up dramatically enough for the county to move its goal of administering a million doses by Fourth of July to a million by Memorial Day.
Roth said the county has vaccinated 96 percent of eligible residents 75 and over and more than 80 percent of people 65 and over. Among people with priority health conditions, the county has already vaccinated nearly 100,000 people 50 to 64 years old.
She also announced a new mass vaccination site will open March 30 at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Concord.
“We hope that this will be a drive-thru site, and we’ll be starting with a couple thousands of vaccines a day there, hoping to ramp up to get anywhere from 11,000 to 15,000 vaccinations a week,” Roth said. “That will be dependent on how much vaccine will be moving into our community.”
County health officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said the county can get to the orange tier three ways. The first is dropping the case rate in underserved communities below 2 percent for two straight weeks. It’s currently 4.2 percent.
The second can come if case rates per 100,000 residents drops below 4 per day for two weeks. It’s currently at 5.8.
The third path to orange is if the state administers 4 million vaccines among its underserved communities, which could allow the state to raise its threshold for counties to move into the orange. That number is currently 2.8 million. Then the state could move the overall threshold from 4 to 5.9 for two consecutive weeks.
Farnitano also said Contra Costa has seen two cases of the U.K. variant. The California, or West Coast, variant is now showing up in more than 50 percent of new cases statewide. Though a few cases of other “variants of concern,” like ones from South Africa and Brazil, have appeared in California, none so far have showed up in Contra Costa.
“We really are in this race of getting enough vaccine in arms to interrupt the spread, and a race between these variants spreading, and people letting their guard down too quickly,” he said.
Roth said people signing up for vaccinations through the county should receive a response with a day or two.
“We aren’t slowing down; this isn’t a time to stop,” she said. “We are still facing a lot of work ahead.”
Residents can sign up at multiple websites, including the county health site (www.cchealth.org) and the state’s MyTurn page (www.myturn.ca.gov).