Health officials say a jump in COVID-19 youth sports cases have prevented a move to the yellow tier.
Health officials say a jump in COVID-19 youth sports cases have prevented a move to the yellow tier.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)
COVID 2021

The elusive yellow: Slight increase in case counts again keeps Santa Cruz in orange tier

The increase in infections in Santa Cruz County is small and “expected.” It is largely due to transmission of COVID-19 among youth sports teams, and some cases in schools, according to deputy health officer Dr. David Ghilarducci.

The adjusted COVID-19 case rate in Santa Cruz County is now 2.2 per 100,000 people, up from 2.1 last week. This has resulted in the county missing the cutoff to move into the state’s least restrictive “yellow” tier for the second week in a row.

The new data revealing a slight increase in COVID-19 case rates comes as public health officials loosened mask and face-covering requirements Tuesday, in keeping with state guidelines.

The slight increase in cases is largely due to transmission of COVID-19 among youth sports teams, and some cases in schools, according to deputy health officer Dr. David Ghilarducci.

What tier a county is placed in hinges on three metrics:

  • Its rate of new coronavirus cases, adjusted based on the number of tests performed;
  • The rate at which conducted tests come back positive;
  • And a health-equity metric applied to ensure that the positive test rate in poorer communities is not significantly higher than the county’s overall figure.

A county must remain in a less restrictive tier for two weeks before advancing between the tiers. Santa Cruz, considered ahead of the curve at the time, met yellow tier requirements for one week in April before this uptick in case rates began.

Now, large counties including San Francisco and Los Angeles have surpassed Santa Cruz, as they were cleared to move into the yellow tier today. The earliest that now can happen here is May 18.

California is aiming to scrap the tier framework and fully reopen its economy on June 15, as long as vaccine supply is stable and hospitalization numbers stay low, though some safety rules will remain in place.

In the meantime, however, reaching the yellow tier requires an adjusted daily new case rate of fewer than 2 per 100,000 people, overall test positivity of less than 2% and a health-equity positivity of below 2.2%.

The increase in infections in Santa Cruz County is small and “expected” according to Ghilarducci.

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“We had some cases pop up mostly in youth sports and a few school-related cases,” Ghilarducci said. “That’s kind of where our cases are coming from now.”

Ghilarducci said the increase in cases is “what we would expect when people are starting to get together again.”

The transmission is not restricted to indoor sports environments like basketball, as one of the recent outbreaks was among beach volleyball teams.

“What happens is when they have tournaments the kids travel together [and] they probably socialize,” Ghilarducci said. “This group also tends to be asymptomatic so they could be infectious without knowing it.”

The cases have been mostly evenly spread throughout the county, and small in number.

Here’s how tiers in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy compare:

Contributor: LA Times