While it was expected, it was also much anticipated as Tulare County Health and Human Services director Tim Lutz made the announcement.

“Some wonderful news on the horizon,” he said. “Tulare County will be in the orange tier tomorrow.”

So today Tulare County has no moved from the red tier to the next least restrictive tier, the orange tier. Lutz made the announcement during his weekly report on the status of COVID-19 in the county at Tuesday's Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting.

And Tulare County has also already met the threshold for the least restrictive tier, the yellow tier, when it comes to its positive test rates. Governor Gavin Newsom also announced on Tuesday the state will full reopen its economy on June 15.

Newsom said the state will be able to fully reopen its economy by then as long as there are enough vaccines and hospitalizations remain low. Californians will still need to take measures such as wearing masks but the state still plans to end its tiered system on June 15.

Lutz reported Tulare County's official case rate as released by the state on Tuesday was 3.1 per 100,000 over a 7-day period or .0031 percent. That's below the threshold of 4 per 100,000 to move into the orange tier.

Newsom also announced the state had reached 20 million vaccine doses adminstered and four million doses administered to the state's most disadvantaged areas. So counties with a case rate below 6 per 100,000 would also be able to move into the orange tier but with its case rate, Tulare County didn't need that more lenient threshold to move into the orange tier.

Lutz announced Tulare County's overall positive test rate was 1.7 percent, which is actually below the yellow tier threshold of 2 percent. The county's positive test rate for its most disadvantaged areas is 2 percent which is also below the yellow tier threshold of 2.2 percent. Tulare County will need to have a case rate of 1 per 100,000 to move into the yellow tier.

In the orange tier churches can now hold indoor services at 50 percent capacity and museums can open at 50 percent capacity. Porterville Historical Museum will open on Saturday, April 17.

Museum treasurer Susan Uptain said the initial plan was for the museum to be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. only on Saturdays for six weeks. But now that the county has moved into the orange tier, Uptain said the museum board will meet again to discuss if it wants to open on more days.

Restaurants and movie theaters can now open at 50 percent capacity at a maximum of 200 people.

Gyms can open at 25 percent capacity. Retail businesses can also now open with no capacity limits. And it's time to put on those bowling shoes as activities such as bowling are now allowed in Tulare County.

Beginning on April 15, large public and private gatherings, concerts, theater performances and live sports indoors will be allowed in the state with restrictions depending on what tier a county is in.

While the tiered system will be removed for various business sectors, Lutz said it's anticipated the state will still keep a tiered system for large private and public gatherings, concerts, live sports and theater performances. Still the state's announcement should bring a “greater sense of normalcy,” Lutz said.

And Lutz also noted the one factor that could hinder progress and that's the more infectious variants that have been found in the state and in Tulare County. On Friday the health department announced two UK variants and one South Africa variant was found in Tulare County. Lutz announced on Tuesday another UK variant was found in the county over the weekend.

Lutz said due to the variants surges are happening again in the midwest and East Coast. “Thus far we're not seeing that in California,” he said.

But he added “it serves as a reminder to us that COVID is still with us. We still need to be vigilant.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Lutz said the overall number of cases increased by 297 over the last two weeks. The number of overall cases increased by 50 over the previous day. Since March 11, 2020 there have been 49,179 cases in Tulare County.

Tulare County's R number which measures the rate of spread of the virus remained stable at .76. The county has been in the “likely decreasing” category for some time, meaning the increase in the rate of the virus is expected to be lower than it's current rate of increase. The number .76 represents the average number of people would would be infected by one infected person.

Lutz reported one more death on Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths in Tulare County due to COVID-19 to 814.

The state has a different method of measuring deaths and cases. The state has Tulare County with 818 deaths and with a lower number of cases at 48,356.

Sierra View Medical Center has had 162 deaths due to COVID-19.

On Monday Sierra View reported it had one COVID-19 patient and three patients suspected of having COVID-19. Sierra View reported four of its 10 ICU beds were in use. Sierra View reported three of its 19 ventilators were in use.

Sierra View reported it now has one employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. There have been 173 employees who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19. Sierra View has had a total of 1,201 positive tests.

With a population of about 477,000 people Tulare County has had an overall case rate of 10.3 percent.

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