California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the California Department of Public Health was ending the statewide stay-at-home order because capacity in hospital intensive care units had improved in all regions.
The lifting of the stay-at-home order means counties will be returning to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and color-coded tiers that indicate which activities and businesses are open based on local case rates and test positivity. The majority of the counties, including Stanislaus, are in the strictest, or purple tier, meaning coronavirus is widespread in the community.
"Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives," said Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. "Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it's important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner."
Even though the stay-at-home order has been lifted, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan said the area continues to be in the grips of the pandemic, with cases and hospitalizations high.
"The lifting of the stay home order does not mean we are out in the clear," Vaishampayan said.
The statewide stay at home order was put in place for any region with an ICU availability rate below 15%. A couple of regions had seen improvement in the ICU capacity and had been able to end the stay at home earlier than Monday. As of Sunday, the San Joaquin Valley region had an ICU availability rate of 22.3%.
Under the purple tier, only outdoor gatherings are allowed, with a maximum of three households. Personal care services like hair salons, barbershops can operate indoors with modifications. Retail and shopping centers can open and operate with safety protocols and a 25% capacity. Places of worship can hold services outdoors; and movie theaters can show movies outdoors and family fun centers can do outdoor activities. Gyms and fitness centers can operate outside with modifications; and restaurants can offer outdoor dining. Bars and breweries that do not serve meals will have to remain closed.
The next tier down is red and signifies that spread is substantial in the community. In order to move down to the next tier, a county has to have a daily case rate of less than 40 per day and have a positivity rate under 8%. Additionally, a county has to meet those markers for two weeks straight before being moved down to the next tier.
As of Tuesday, Stanislaus County has recorded 44,852 positive COVID-19 cases and 803 deaths. The SCHSA data shows 3,276 cases are presumed active. Of those, 297 are currently in the hospital, with 69 in the ICU.
Stanislaus County continues with the COVID-19 vaccination efforts and on Tuesday opened a public clinic at the Gladys Lemmons Senior Center in Oakdale with 500 available doses. This is Stanislaus County’s third public clinic and is an addition to the clinics already operating at Modesto Center Plaza and California State University Stanislaus. Vaccines will be provided to Stanislaus County residents who are prioritized in Phase 1A and seniors aged 65 and older.
The state is hoping to increase the rate of vaccinations with some changes to the vaccine delivery system.
The vaccine distribution and operations effort will be led by Yolanda Richardson, Secretary of the Government Operations Agency, in consultation and partnership with Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the California Department of Public Health. While vaccines remain extremely limited, the goal is to build a system to equitably and efficiently administer vaccines when supply increases.
“Our state and county public health leaders have done the important groundwork to get California’s vaccination plan up and running and we are grateful to them and will continue to partner with them,” said Governor Newsom. “We have learned that to accelerate pace we need to dial up the scale of our efforts to ensure vaccine supply goes into arms as quickly as it arrives in the state. This collaboration between Secretaries Ghaly and Richardson continues our approach to lead with public health and add Secretary Richardson’s expertise in operations and with the health care delivery system which will be pivotal in implementing these improvements to get all Californians vaccinated safely and swiftly, with equity as our North Star.”
The state conducted a 10-day Vaccine Challenge and came away with three lessons that will be implemented:
— Simplifying Eligibility: In simplifying eligibility beginning mid-February, the state will implement a statewide standard under which health care workers, individuals 65+ and education and child care, emergency services and food and agriculture workers will be eligible to start making appointments to receive the vaccine, pending vaccine availability. These are the groups identified in Phase 1B, Tier 1.
Future groups will become eligible based on age. This statewide standard will move in unison across all 58 counties. This will allow the state to scale capacity up while also ensuring the vaccine goes to disproportionately impacted communities.
— Standardizing Information and Data: Leveraging California’s innovation and technology assets, the state is officially launching My Turn today, a new system for Californians to learn when they are eligible to be vaccinated, a place to make an appointment when eligible and a mechanism to easily track vaccination data. Through My Turn, individuals can sign up for a notification when they are eligible to make an appointment and schedule one when it is their turn. My Turn will also help track those who have yet to receive a second vaccine dose and need additional outreach.
Individuals can visit https://myturn.ca.gov to register for a notification immediately. Scheduling appointments beyond the pilot is expected to be available in February.
— Addressing Available Supply by Streamlining Vaccination Process: California will build a statewide vaccine administration network to speed the equitable delivery of current supply to eligible Californians. The state, through a Third-Party Administrator, will allocate vaccines directly to providers to maximize distribution efficiency. This will also give the state greater visibility into what is happening on the ground.
The vaccine provider network is expected to include public health systems, pharmacies, health systems, public hospitals, community health centers, pharmacies and pop-up and mobile sites with an immediate focus on allocation. The vaccine provider network will expand as vaccine supply grows.
While the state will drive faster administration of available vaccine supply, overall vaccine supply into California will continue to be dictated by the federal government.
Stanislaus County has so far been allocated 41,200 vaccine doses, with 19,660 going to healthcare providers and 21,540 to the public health department. The counts do not include vaccines that were provided directly to skilled nursing facilities and hospitals.