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San Diego County plans for earlier-than-expected promotion to red tier

REGION – A possible change to California’s COVID-19 reopening schedule could have San Diego County promoted to the less-restrictive red tier by as early as next Wednesday, according to county officials, who also are reporting 349 new infections and eight additional deaths.

California’s Department of Public Health modified the Blueprint for a Safer Economy to lead with opening activities when vaccines have been deployed to the hardest-hit communities. The modification will shift Blueprint tier thresholds to allow slightly higher case rates per 100,000 population once more inoculations have occurred in the communities suffering the most, allowing counties to move to less restrictive tiers.

The initial goal of the vaccine equity metric is to deliver a minimum of 2 million doses to the hardest-hit quarter of the state as measured by the Healthy Places Index. The state estimates it will deliver the 2 million doses to that quartile this week.

The floor for the most-restrictive purple tier will move to 10 daily cases per 100,000 population once the state hits that benchmark. As of Tuesday’s state update, San Diego County has a case rate of 8.8 per 100,000 — enough to qualify for one week of the proposed changed red tier.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he was confident the numbers would allow San Diego County to post a sub-10 case rate next Tuesday, allowing the county to enter the red tier by as early as Wednesday.

“San Diegans should be proud of the way we’ve responded,” Fletcher said, noting one year ago this week was the first reported COVID-19 case in the county. “We are making substantial progress.”

The red tier will feature a limited allowance of indoor dining, gyms, movie theaters and other businesses and services.

With Wednesday’s data, the total number of cases rose to 264,097 and the death toll edged up to 3,413.

Of 13,386 tests reported by the county Wednesday, 3% returned positive.

On Monday, vaccine eligibility will expand again, this time to people with underlying health conditions, subject to vaccine availability.

More than 14,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines arrived in the county this week, supplementing more than a million other vaccines combined between Moderna and Pfizer.

All told, 665,364 – or 24.7% of San Diego County residents over the age of 16 – have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccines and 368,402 people – or 13.7% – have been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccine shortfalls will close the Del Mar Fairgrounds vaccination super site again this weekend, and a technical error caused 1,800 vaccine appointments for this week to be rescheduled, Scripps Health announced Tuesday.

Scripps runs the Del Mar site, which will be closed Friday through Sunday due to the low number of vaccine doses that were delivered to Scripps for the week. The station is scheduled to reopen Monday.

Patients who had appointments on one of the three closed days are being rescheduled for either Thursday or early next week automatically through the MyTurn online appointment system.

Current medical guidance suggests patients can wait up to six weeks between doses of the vaccine without losing any efficacy.

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