Some counties could move into more restrictive tiers amid COVID-19 increase

California’s rate of positive coronavirus tests has increased nearly 50 percent over the last three weeks, possibly portending the next wave of the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

The state’s 14-day positivity rate has risen from 2.5 on Oct. 19 to 3.7 Monday, according to Newsom. Likewise, the number of coronavirus patients within the state’s hospital system has risen by nearly 29 percent over the last two weeks.

Those increases also come as the state continues to ramp up its testing capacity, as California is now averaging nearly 144,000 coronavirus tests per day. While the state has fortified its stocks of personal protective equipment, ventilators and intensive care unit beds in anticipation of the pandemic’s next wave, Newsom said the recent case and hospitalization increases should be sobering for all residents of the state.

“We’re starting to see people take down their guard, take off their masks, begin to mix outside their households,” Newsom said. “We’ve seen some early indication related to Halloween. I’m very sober about that and that’s what I was elected to focus on.”

The effects of the statewide increase in new cases are expected to trickle down to the county level and affect which businesses can reopen when the state modifies its pandemic reopening tier assignments on Tuesday. A total of 10 counties are in the “purple tier,” the most restrictive section of the state’s four-tiered reopening system. The next two tiers, red and orange, include 20 and 19 counties, respectively, including much of the greater Bay Area. The least-restrictive yellow tier includes only nine counties, including San Francisco County.

Newsom said he expected to see multiple counties move into more restrictive tiers this week.

“This is exactly why we designed the tier status the way we did,” Newsom said. “It was about being more and less restrictive, not based upon political whim, but based upon the data, based upon the epidemiology, based upon the facts on the ground… the tier system is working as it was designed.”

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