Athletes in Tulare County can now break out the balls, bats and gloves just in time for spring.

Tulare County now meets the recently announced state guidelines to offer expanded sports opportunities on the youth, high school and adult recreation levels.

Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz announced on Tuesday the county's official case rate as released by the state was 11 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period or .0110 percent. Lutz made the announcement during his weekly report on the status of COVID-19 at Tuesday's Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The county is now under the standard of 14 cases per 100,000 that allows it to expand sports that can be offered. So sports such as baseball and softball with far less restrictions can now be held in Tulare County.

Sports such as football, soccer and water polo can also be also be offered, but with far more restrictions. Those restrictions include requiring all athletes 13 and older being tested and those test results being known 24 hours before a contest.

There are also restrictions on what contests can be held. No tournaments can be held as only single games between two teams can be contested. Teams can also travel no more than 120 miles for a contest. And no other groups such as cheerleaders or bands are allowed at contests such as football games.

School districts will also have to work out how such issues as the logistics of offer a fall sport and a spring sport that has the same coach simultaneously.

Tulare County's guidance for holding sports can be found here: https://covid19.tularecounty.ca.gov/school-resources/school-sports-guidance-february-26-2021/

Tulare County's unofficial, preliminary case rate is 10.6 per 100,000. Another standard schools “are closely watching” is when Tulare County reduces its case rate to 7 per 100,000 to move into the red tier.

That's when schools can reopen to grades K-12 with far less restrictions. Lutz said the county is working with schools to make sure they're ready to reopen when the county moves into the red tier.

Lutz said as of Tuesday there are 54 active cases with students and nine active cases with staff in county schools.

Tulare County remains in the most restrictive tier, the purple tier, but moves ever so closer to making it into the next least restrictive tier, the red tier. The county now meets the red tier guidelines in the other two positive testing standards.

Lutz said Tulare County's overall positive test rate continues to fall and is now down to 5 percent, well below the 8 percent red tier guideline. The county's equity metric positive test rate for its most disadvantage areas has also fallen below the 8 percent threshold at 6.3 percent.

When it comes to its overall positive test rate, Tulare County is actually right on the threshold of meeting the second least restrictive tier, the orange tier, which is 5 percent.

The “most lagging indicator” of the status of COVID-19 remains deaths, Lutz said. Lutz said the number of deaths increased by 35 over the last week.

The number of deaths increased by five on Tuesday over the previous day. There have been 766 deaths in Tulare County due to COVID-19. Sierra View Medical Center has had 154 deaths due to COVID-19.

Lutz explained there will still be some lag time when it comes to the county reported COVID-19 deaths. “We don't want to deaths which weren't COVID related,” he said.

Tulare County has data on 758 deaths of which 572 were ages 65 and older, 170 were ages 41-64 and 15 were ages 26-40. One child in Tulare County has died due to complications with COVID-19. There have been 187 deaths related to nursing homes and 569 deaths not related to nursing homes.

He also said when it comes to the county's R number which measures how fast the rate of the spread of the virus is there could be a “plateau.” Tulare County's R number remains at .7 in the “likely decreasing” category.

That means the county's rate of spread of the virus is expected to increase at a lower level than its current rate of increase. The number .7 represents the average number of people who would be infected by one infected person.

BY THE NUMBERS

Since March 11 there have been 48,086 cases in Tulare County. The number of overall cases has increased by 406 over the last week. The number of overall case increased by 73 over one day on Tuesday.

There was another sizeable increase in recoveries on Tuesday. The number of recoveries increased by 93 over the previous number reported. There are now 46,615 people in Tulare County who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

The number of active cases also continued to go down, by 25 from the previous number reported. There are now 705 people in Tulare County who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Since March 11 there have been 9,729 cases in the Porterville area, 43 cases in foothill-mountain communities, 151 cases in Springville, 619 cases in Strathmore, 695 cases in Terra Bella, 1,777 cases in Lindsay, 8,539 cases in Tulare, 4,094 cases in Dinuba, 324 cases in Richgrove, 78 cases in Alpaugh, 360 cases in Tipton, 779 cases in Pixley, 1,429 cases in Earlimart, 1,140 cases in Farmersville, 1,024 cases in Exeter, 52 cases in Three Rivers, 886 cases in Woodlake, 737 cases in Cutler, 1,429 cases in Orosi, 89 cases in Goshen, 248 cases in Traver, 58 cases in the Reedley area, 21 cases in Orange Cove and 492 cases in Ivanhoe.

In Visalia there have been 5,247 cases in one region, 3,459 cases in another region and 4,138 cases in a third region.

There have been 7,140 cases ages 0-17, 7,474 cases ages 18-25, 13,509 cases ages 26-40, 14,949 cases ages 41-64 and 4,988 cases ages 65 and older.

There have been 26,679 cases who have been Hispanic, 6,670 have been Caucasian, 955 have been Asian, 336 have been African American, 313 have been Native American, 1,589 have been multi-race and 11,544 are unknown.

There are 223 people in Tulare County under self-quarantine being monitored by public health officials.

On Monday Sierra View reported it had 14 COVID-19 patients and nine patients suspected of having COVID-19. Sierra View reported four of its 10 ICU beds were in use. Sierra View reported five of its 22 ventilators were in use.

Sierra View reported it now has no employees who have tested positive for COVID-19. Sierra View reported 172 employees have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19 of which six were hospitalized. Sierra View has had a total of 1,129 positive tests.

With a population of about 470,000 people Tulare County has had an overall case rate of nearly 10.1 percent.

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