The Tulare County Board of Supervisors made it clear during their meeting on Tuesday they didn't want schools that have applied for waivers to wait any longer than they should to provide in-person instruction for all students up to sixth grade.
Their push to allow the schools to open sooner for grades K-6 came during the weekly presentation from Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz on the status of COVID-19 in the county.
Board members Dennis Townsend and Kuyler Crocker sought clarification on if the current standard for schools that have applied for waivers to open for grades K-6 was a county or state standard.
The standard set by the county as of Tuesday is for Tulare County to be under the threshold of 14 cases per 100,000 residents over a 7-day period for at least two weeks. The county would meet that threshold by the end of next week.
But Lutz and Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County Public Health Officer, admitted that standard was set by the county and the state standard allows for those schools to open up now for grades K-6. The state would still need to review the information for those schools to open for up to sixth grade.
The board made it clear it didn't want the county standard to be more restrictive than the state standard. When Townsend asked Haught if she could provide on Tuesday the information to the state that would allow schools to open for grades K-6, Haught said that she would.
Tulare County has approved waivers for St. Anne's School and Zion Lutheran School to provide in-person instruction for grades K-2. St. Anne's re-opened for those grades on Monday.
Saucelito School's waiver to provide in-person instruction for grades K-2 has also been approved by the county, but that waiver is still being reviewed by the state. Lutz also he expected many more public schools in the county to apply for waivers to provide in-person instruction for up to sixth grade. As of Tuesday, 11 schools in the county had applied for waivers.
As far as the case rate, that number dipped slightly again from 10.7 per 100,000 to 10.5 per 100,000 on Tuesday.
Lutz said that data along with other data continue to show Tulare County is heading in the right direction.
“Overall the trends are showing the progress we want to see,” Lutz said. “We're starting to see the positive direction that we need to see in our key metrics.”
About the case rate, Lutz said, “that's where we're seeing that clear decline, noting the case rate was once at 26 per 100,000 and is now down to mid-June levels.
Lutz estimated the county could move from the most restrictive category – purple — to the next least restrictive category — red — by November. But there's hope the county could move into the red category sooner if the trend continues.
Tulare County's case rate would need to fall to 7 per 100,000 and its positive test rate would need to fall to 8 percent for it to move into the red category. As of Tuesday the health department reported the county is close to the testing standard at 8.7 percent. “If that trend continues we're getting close to be able to get into the red zone,” Lutz said.
But Lutz stressed next week will be a key week as it will be two weeks after Labor Day weekend. To encourage residents to stay diligent, the health department has released videos to do just that, with one of the videos featuring Staffords Chocolate owner Rob Taylor.
In the video, Taylor urges people to continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. “We miss you,” Taylor said. “We want you back sitting at our tables.”
Lutz also said Governor Gavin Newsom was expected to announce revisions in testing standards and gatherings today. Lutz said the Governor was expected to make standards less restrictive when it came to gatherings.
He added while he still referred to it as in a preliminary stage, the state has come up with another testing standard for counties to move into their next least restrictive category. The equity measure would divide counties in to four areas. If the county's area with the highest positive test rate came within 10 percent of its area with the lowest positive test rate for six weeks, then the county could move into its next least restrictive category.
When it comes to testing, Lutz said the county does plan to provide mobile testing for the Strathmore-Lindsay area.
The health department also reported Tulare County has 42 COVID-19 Hospitalizations, which Lutz said is also back down to mid-June levels.
He said the Porterville Alternate Care Site at the Porterville Developmental Center is now closed having seen its last COVID-19 patient this past weekend. Lutz said the site can re-open within 72 hours if needed.
Lutz did report two more deaths on Tuesday due to COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Tulare County to 253. There have been 19 deaths due to COVID-19 in Tulare County in the last two weeks. The state model projects Tulare County to have 284 deaths by October 15.
Tulare County has spent $7.5 million so far in its response to COVID-19.
BY THE NUMBERS
The number of active cases in Tulare County continued to drop on Tuesday. The number of people in Tulare County who now have COVID-19 is 451, down from 463 on Monday.
The number of recoveries continues to go up. The number of people in Tulare County who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19 is 14,657, an increase of 101 over the previous day. There have been 15,361 cases in Tulare County, an increase of 91 over the previous day.
There are 596 confirmed COVID-19 patients in nursing homes in Tulare County.
There have been 2,422 cases in the Porterville area, 157 cases in Terra Bella, 206 cases in Strathmore, 636 cases in Lindsay, 44 cases in foothill-mountain communities, 134 cases in Richgrove. 28 cases in Alpaugh, 278 cases in Pixley, 87 cases in Tipton, 634 cases in Earlimart, 2,430 cases in Tulare, 1,722 cases in Dinuba, 452 cases in Farmersville, 304 cases in Exeter, 267 cases in Woodlake, 307 cases in Cutler, 565 cases in Orosi, 40 cases in Goshen, 80 cases in Traver, 14 cases in the Reedley area and 11 case in Orange Cove.
In Visalia there have been 1,947 cases in one region, 1,057 cases in another region and 1,247 cases in a third region.
There have been 68 cases reported as travel-related, 5,036 cases due to person-person contact and 10,237 cases are under investigation.
There have been 2,131 cases ages 0-17, 2,438 cases ages 18-25, 4,434 cases ages 26-40, 4,779 cases ages 41-64 and 1,572 cases ages 65 and older.
There have been 8,716 cases who have been Hispanic, 1,459 have been Caucasian, 269 have been Asian, 64 have been African American, 41 have been Native American, 285 have been multi-race and 4,527 are unknown.
There are 368 people in Tulare County under self-quarantine being monitored by public health officials.
As of Monday, Sierra View Medical Center reported it had eight COVID-19 hospitalizations and five patients suspected of having COVID-19. Sierra View has had 42 deaths due to COVID-19.
Sierra View reported three of its 10 ICU beds were in use and two of its 19 ventilators were in use. Sierra View reported it now has three employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 43 employees who have recovered. Sierra View has had a total of 313 positive tests.
Visalia's Kaweah Delta Hospital reported on Tuesday it had 31 COVID-19 hospitalizations of which four were in ICU.
With a population of about 470,000 people, Tulare County has had an overall rate of more than 3.2 cases per 100 residents or 3.2 percent.