County Moves Back to Purple Tier

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

November 19, 2020

The county has dropped down a notch in the fight against COVID-19 and is back in the Purple Tier—the most restrictive in the State’s ranking system.

“This is disappointing for everyone,” said County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein. “For weeks, we have seen a fast rise in cases here, across the state, and across the country. Our local hospitalization rates remain low.”

One day ahead of the traditional Tuesday announcements, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was pulling the “emergency brake” on re-openings in a press briefing. This follows a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases as well as a local one.

“With every age group, every demographic — racial, ethnic — in every part of this state, we are seeing case rates increase and positivity rates as well,” Newsom said. “It is no longer concentrated in just a handful of counties …. Counties that move back also must make industry or sectorial changes urgently. Instead of a 72-hour wait period, we want to see the application and implementation of this new tiered status occur in a 24-hour period.”

On Monday, SLO County had 712 active cases of COVID-19 and the county’s 14-day new cases averaged at around 65, the highest since the pandemic began. By contrast, in July when the county saw its second-largest surge in cases, active cases peaked at 481 and the 14-day average never rose above 46.

Of the state’s 58 counties, 41 are currently in the purple tier. California is also strengthening its face covering guidance to require individuals to wear a mask whenever outside their home, with limited exceptions.

“We are sounding the alarm,” said Governor Newsom. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet –faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer. The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes. That is why we are pulling an emergency brake in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Now is the time to do all we can – government at all levels and Californians across the state – to flatten the curve again as we have done before.”

As of Monday afternoon, State officials implemented these changes:

• Travel Advisory requiring 14 day self quarantine for visitors and returning California residentsTier assignments may occur any day of the week and may occur more than once a week when the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) determines that the most recent reliable data indicate that immediate action is needed to address COVID-19 transmission in a county.
• Counties may be moved back more than one tier if CDPH determines that the data supports more intensive intervention. Key considerations will include the rate of increase in new cases and/or test positivity, more recent data as noted below, public health capacity, and other epidemiological factors.
• In light of the extreme circumstances requiring immediate action, counties will be required to implement any sector changes the day following the tier announcement.

This is a snapshot of what moving back from substantial (red) to widespread (purple) will look like.

• Gatherings are permitted outdoors only with a max of 3 households.
• Likely retail business will need to cut their customer base by half.
• Personal Services (tattoos, hair salons, nail salons, etc.) will continue to operate as they are now.
• Fitness facilities, restaurants and museums will again be limited to outdoor activities only.
• Schools that are partially opened, or have a planned, phased, openings will be able to continue to do so, but it is strongly recommend robust testing program especially for staff.
• Schools that have already re-opened, if the county was in a less restrictive tier, do not have to close. However, if a school had not already reopened for in-person instruction, it may not reopen until the county moves back to the Substantial (Red) Tier for 14 days.
• Places of worship can meet outdoors only
• Bars and breweries that don’t serve meals will close
• Non-essential offices can conduct remote work only
For more information and current restrictions, go to

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