There is one question that seemingly everyone in San Bernardino County is asking: What will it take for the county to move from the state’s Purple Tier (when COVID-19 is deemed “widespread” in a particular county) to the Red Tier (when the outbreak level has decreased to “substantial”)?
In this instance, “getting into the red” is a very positive development, since it will allow additional businesses to reopen (with modifications and limits), including personal care services, gyms, movie theaters and indoor restaurants. Schools in Red Tier counties are also permitted to provide students in-person instruction.
Per the guidelines, Purple Tier counties are those that are 1) reporting seven or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population and 2) showing a “positivity rate” (the percentage of those tested whose results are positive) of 8 percent or higher. Simply put, San Bernardino County needs to average (over a seven-day period) 153 or fewer cases per day, while maintaining a positivity rate below 8 percent.
So where does San Bernardino County stand?
“We are showing impressive gains in our numbers, especially in terms of cases,” said Corwin Porter, the county’s director of public health, in a news release on Sept. 10. “We are seeing an average of 175 cases per day, which is getting close to the number needed to move us into the Red Tier, and our positivity rate has declined from around 10 percent at the beginning of the month to 7.3 percent today. The key now is to continue this steady rate of decline since we need to maintain the right numbers for 14 straight days.”
Porter emphasized that maintaining -- let alone reducing -- these rates will require residents to continue following the guidelines that should now be very familiar to everyone.
"That means continuing to avoid gathering in groups, maintaining social distancing, and absolutely wearing a face covering whenever you’re in close proximity to a person outside your immediate household," Porter said.
Earlier this year, the county had been making similar progress against the coronavirus, but in June the number of cases suddenly surged upward after Memorial Day. Now, the rate of new cases has finally decreased, although officials are concerned about another increase following Labor Day.
The county is strongly encouraging residents to get tested for the disease -- including those who show none of the symptoms associated with COVID-19.
“We have conducted more than 50,000 tests since we began working with our new testing provider, and this increase has undoubtedly contributed to our improved positivity rate,” Porter said. “We urge those of you who have not yet been tested to do so as soon as possible. Remember: getting tested is free, painless, and does not require a doctor’s prescription. And now, all of county testing sites are accepting walk-ins, even though we still encourage setting up an appointment. So there really is no excuse for not getting tested -- and doing so will help us move into the Red Tier and reopen more schools and businesses.”
Increased testing helps identify someone with COVID-19, and triggers the county's contact tracing process so people who may have had contact with a carrier can be identified. It is especially important that anyone who has been in a social situation with persons outside their household to make the effort to get tested, Corwin said.
In Fontana, testing is held inside the Jessie Turner Center, 15556 Summit Avenue, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Appointments can be made by visiting sbcovid19.com.