Tulare County is suffering from “COVID fatigue,” but that has to be overcome if the county wants to move into the red tier.
That was the message presented by Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz during his weekly update on the status of COVID-19 in the county at Tuesday's Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Lutz said testing — particularly testing of asymptomatic individuals — remains key for Tulare County to move from the most restrictive tier — purple — to the next least restrictive tier red. He said with more testing, the county's adjusted case rate could eventually meet the threshold of 7 per 100,000 over a 7-day period.
Tulare County's adjusted case rate according to the state is 8.3 per 100,000. But that's just a preliminary “lagged” rate and when adjusted to a “non-lagged”rate, Lutz said it was more like 9 percent.
Lutz said he understands people are suffering from “COVID fatigue” and want to gather with each other but public must continue to be diligent when it comes to wearing face coverings and social distancing if the county wants to reach the red tier.
He added when it comes to the cases the county is seeing, a large number of them are from gatherings such as birthday parties and weddings. When it comes to child care and school facilities, Lutz said there has been cases, but the county has been able to avoid a major outbreak.
Lutz said people traveling out of the area has contributed to the number of cases and that there are also cases that have resulted from religious services.
Board member Amy Shuklian asked if the cases were resulting from indoor or outdoor activities to which Lutz replied “a lot of them are operating completely with the regulations.”
In the purple tier, churches aren't supposed to meet indoors, but can hold outdoor services.
But Lutz added the county continues to have an issue with asymptomatic people spreading COVID-19, saying the county has a “high level of asymptomatic carriers giving the illness.”
And with Thanksgiving coming up, he stressed the importance of people who are gathering for the holiday to be tested, saying about COVID-19 an asymptomatic person doesn't want to “unintentionally take it to Grandma.”
Lutz said with testing and people in the county being diligent, “we can get ourselves below the 7 and into the red tier. That would be the best path forward to keep the virus in check and get us into the red tier.”
While they're costly, Shuklian also asked about self-test kits that can now be purchased. Lutz basically endorsed the self-test kits, saying it's an option for those who plan to gather. But again while the positive tests will be counted from self-test kits, there's no guarantee negative tests would be counted which could affect the county's case rate.
Tulare County continues to meet the standard for the red tier when it comes to its positive test rates and actually meets the standard to move into the next least restrictive tier after red, the orange tier in which even more sectors could open, when it comes to its overall positive test rate.
Lutz reported Tulare County's positive test rate is 4.6 percent, below the 4.9 percent threshold to be in the orange tier. Tulare County also meets the red tier standard for its equity metric positive test rate for its most disadvantaged areas at 6.6 percent.
On the first Tuesday Tulare County meets all of the standards the county must maintain those numbers for two weeks before it can move into the red tier. Restaurants can then open at 25 percent capacity, churches can open at 25 percent capacity, movie theaters can open on a limited basis and schools can reopen for grades K-12.
Board Chairman Peter Vander Poel continued to express his frustration over the state's changing standards noting Tulare County is doing better than the rest of the state in one indicator that was once thought to be vital, its R number.
Tulare County's R number is .91 while the state's is 1.02. Tulare County's R number indicates its increase in cases is “likely stable,” meaning its cases are expected to increase at their current rate. The number .91 represents the average number of people one infected person would infect.
Vander Poel also again asked if there was any talk at the state level for opening schools for grades 7-12 to which Lutz replied there was “no traction” on that subject as far as the state is concerned. Lutz added the best path forward for schools to open grades 7-12 is to make it into thered tier.
As far as local schools that have applied for waivers to reopen for grades K-6, Springville, Woodville, Hot Springs in California Hot Springs, the Porterville Unified School District and Burton School District, they're waivers are still under review as they wait to join the numerous local schools that have been cleared to reopen for grades K-6.
Lutz also reported since March 11 there has now been 17,678 cases in Tulare County. That was an increase of 88 over the previous day, which is well above the 32 per day Lutz has said the county needs to average to move into the red tier. But it should be noted Tuesday is normally the day in which the highest total of the week is reported as the count from the weekend is completed.
There are now 16,808 people in Tulare County who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19, an increase of 62 over the previous day. Since the increase of recoveries was lower than the increase of new cases, there was an increase of active cases by 26.There are now 582 people in Tulare County who have COVID-19
Lutz reported no new deaths on Tuesday, leaving the total number of deaths in Tulare County due to COVID-19 at 288. Lutz did say there were nine deaths in the last week and he expected that number to reach 300 by November. The state model projects Tulare County to have 294 deaths by November 26.
The county has data on 276 deaths of which 214 were ages 65 and older, 58 were ages 41-64 and four were under the age of 41. There have been 119 deaths related to nursing homes and 157 deaths not related to nursing homes.
Lutz also reported the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tulare County remains low at 27. As of Monday Sierra View Medical Center reported it had 13 COVID-19 hospitalizations and no patients suspected of having COVID-19.
Sierra View has had 49 deaths due to COVID-19. Sierra View reported none of its ICU beds were in use and one of its 18 ventilators were in use.
Sierra View reported it now has three employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 55 employees who have recovered. Sierra View has had a total of 384 positive tests.
BY THE NUMBERS
Since March 11, there have been 2,940 cases in the Porterville area, 182 cases in Terra Bella, 255 cases in Strathmore, 694 cases in Lindsay, 51 cases in foothill-mountain communities, 2,834 cases in Tulare, 1,900 cases in Dinuba, 139 cases in Richgrove, 28 cases in Alpaugh, 312 cases in Pixley, 103 cases in Tipton, 709 cases in Earlimart, 360 cases in Exeter, 528 cases in Farmersville, 307 cases in Woodlake, 373 cases in Cutler, 650 cases in Orosi, 45 cases in Goshen, 90 cases in Traver, 14 cases in the Reedley area and 11 cases in Orange Cove.
In Visalia there have been 2,159 cases in one region, 1,213 cases in another region and 1,453 cases in a third region.
There have been 2,504 cases ages 0-17, 2,796 cases ages 18-25, 5,097 cases ages 26-40, 5,502 cases ages 41-64 and 1,768 cases ages 65 and older.
There have been 10,174 cases who have been Hispanic, 1,726 have been Caucasian, 326 have been Asian, 82 have been African American, 57 have been Native American, 347 have been multi-race and 4,966 are unknown.
There are 381 people in Tulare County who are self-quarantine being monitored by public health officials.
With a population of nearly 470,000 people, Tulare County has a rate of 3.75 cases per 100 residents or 3.75 percent.