While the past system identified counties with high rates of infections and hospitalizations, the new one is based on a county’s rate of new cases per 100,000 residents per day (based on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag) and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests.
Additional Information About Schools And The System Change
Q. If a school opens while its county is rated red, then the county moves back up to purple, does it have to close?
A. No. Schools that open while their county is rated red, but then move back up to purple may remain open but must increase Covid-19 testing for staff. According to reopening guidance released July 17, “schools should begin testing staff, or increase the frequency of staff testing but are not required to close” if cases or positivity rates increase countywide.
The state recommends that all schools that are open for in-person instruction test staff once every two months, or 25% of staff every two weeks. A school in a county that moves back into the purple tier should exceed this.
All schools are required to close when at least 5% of staff and students test positive for Covid-19 within 14 days. School districts must close if one-quarter of schools in the districts are closed due to Covid-19 cases. Schools can usually reopen within 14 days after campuses have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, public health contact tracing is completed and the county public health department has given its approval.
Q. Can elementary schools in counties rated purple apply for waivers to open in person?
A. Yes. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Service, said on Aug. 28 that schools in counties with daily case rates of 7 to 14 per 100,000 residents can apply for elementary school waivers for students in grades K-6. Schools and districts must consult with employee unions, parents, and the community before applying for the waiver, which must be approved by the county public health department in consultation with the state Department of Public Health.
Q. Why did the state change its county monitoring system?
A. The state decided to simplify its previous complex county monitoring system by reducing the number of metrics it was calculating (from six to two metrics) and, instead, creating a four-tiered system. Also, it will change the status of counties every seven days instead of daily. All of this is intended to create a more predictable, easily understandable way to determine when businesses and schools can reopen, Governor Newsom said, when he introduced the new system on August 28th.
The previous county monitoring list also included data related to the total number of tests administered daily, the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19, the number of patients admitted to intensive care units due to Covid-19, and the number of respirators available. But Ghaly said those are “lagging indicators” and the state wanted to focus on the earliest indicators that show what is happening currently in communities, so they chose case rates.
Focusing on test positivity rates also allows the state to remind the public about the ways to avoid becoming infected, he said, such as by washing hands frequently, wearing masks, maintaining physical distances of 6 feet, and avoiding mixing with people outside of households, when possible.
However, both Ghaly and Newsom said the state can take an “emergency break” from reopenings if hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions begin to overwhelm county healthcare systems.
For their current status, click on the map below to select different areas.