WILLITS, 3/4/21 — In a statement made Tuesday Mendocino County Public Officer Dr. Andy Coren said that “red tier is getting closer,” pointing to March 16 as a possible date. However, late last night Governor Newsom announced a policy shift that will make scaling back restrictions quicker, and easier. He also said that the state would be reserving 40% of vaccines in California for low income communities — likely including Willits, Covelo, and parts of Ukiah.
This morning the county announced a single new case of COVID-19 had been confirmed yesterday, and while Coren has cautioned that this lower rate is in part due to a serious drop-off in testing numbers, it is nonetheless apparent that the scourge of the winter surge has passed and the rate of COVID infection has seriously decline across the state — at least for now.
Said Coren in his statement, “Red tier is getting closer. Remember the state has to see red tier metrics for two weeks to put us into red tier. If we see no more outbreaks or rise in cases, we may enter red tier formally as early as 3/16. However, we cannot afford to be lax in masking, social distancing, hand-washing, avoiding gatherings outside our household — since we have a small county and very few positive cases can keep us in purple longer. We won’t need a new order, but I plan to issue new guidance since there have been and I expect more changes at the state level.”
As always, the details of Newsom’s policy are somewhat arcane. Since vaccination efforts began late last year wealthier and whiter communities have grabbed up the lions-share, often bypassing communities high in so-called essential workers. In and effort to redress this inequity (and to speed dispersal of vaccines to the people who actually do essential work) the state has identified 450 low-income ZIP codes and will reserve 40% of all vaccines for people in those areas. It appears that Willits, Covelo, communities in northern Mendo, and parts of Ukiah are in this classification.
In total 8 million people reside in these areas or 20% of the state. Once a quarter of those people (2 million) are vaccinated the tier thresholds will be adjusted, with the purple tier threshold moving from 7 new cases per 100,000 people per day, up tot 10 new cases. However, Mendocino may well clear the easier threshold before the vaccination goal is accomplished.
Already about 20% of Mendocino residents have received at least one dose of vaccine against the coronavirus disease — and about 4.4% of the county’s population has tested positive for COVID. After repeated requests the county has still not offered a substantial demographic breakdown of who has received the the vaccine.
Vaccination is open to people 65+ and a variety of positions, including food workers, agricultural workers, people in the timber industry, and of course medical workers. It is unclear if this new allocation of vaccines will materialize or if it will result in a change in vaccine tiers.
Now that the worst of the surge is behind us, it’s a good moment to review the data on the past year of infections.