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Santa Clara County Moves To Less Restrictive ‘Orange’ Tier

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA — Santa Clara County advanced to a less-restrictive tier of the state’s coronavirus pandemic reopening system Tuesday, enabling both counties to expand the maximum capacity of activities like indoor dining and open bars outside.

Santa Clara was among two Bay Area counties to receive state approval to lift some restrictions Tuesday. Alameda is the other.

The two counties moved from Tier 2, the red tier, to Tier 3, the orange tier, by reducing their rate of new cases per 100,000 residents per day below four.

They join San Francisco as the only Bay Area counties in Tier 3.

Santa Clara and Alameda counties also had to reduce their respective test positivity rates under 5 percent and their health equity score, which the state introduced last week, under 5.2 percent.

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody encouraged residents to continue the efforts they’ve taken in recent weeks to reduce the virus’ local spread.

“We ask that everyone continue their efforts to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in our county,” Cody said.

“Everyone must take responsibility for preventing spread so that we don’t move back to more restrictive tiers under the State’s structure.”

Santa Clara County had been in Tier 2 since Sept. 8, allowing the county to resume indoor operations at businesses like gyms, shopping malls, museums, restaurants, zoos and aquariums at limited capacities.

Alameda County had been in the red tier since Sept. 22 and had to wait a minimum of three weeks to move into a less restrictive tier, regardless of whether it met the thresholds for the orange tier for two consecutive weeks before then.

“We’ve chosen an approach that we describe as slow and stringent,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary.

“We wait for the data to come in, we try to understand how changes in the levels of mixing that’s allowable in communities actually translates into transmission before we do more,” Ghaly said.

In many cases, both counties will be able to expand the maximum capacity of indoor businesses from 25 percent to 50 percent or 200 people, whichever is fewer.

Gyms, fitness centers and hotels will also be allowed to reopen indoor pools, while gyms themselves can increase their capacity from 10 percent to 25 percent of their maximum occupancy.

Moving into the orange tier also allows multiple sectors like offices, cardrooms, bowling alleys, climbing walls and gyms, wineries and bars, breweries and distilleries at which food is not served to resume operating inside with caps on capacity.

Alameda County Interim Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss echoed Cody’s warning that local progress in fighting the coronavirus can be easily undone.

“Especially with flu season coming, if we see spikes in COVID-19 cases and a rise in hospitalizations, we will take action to limit the spread and protect public health including resuming restrictions if needed,” Moss said in a statement.

Santa Clara and Alameda counties will now need to remain in the orange

Johnson & Johnson moves to buoy investors over paused Covid vaccine trial

US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson sought Tuesday to reassure investors after its stock slumped on an announcement that it was pausing a Covid-19 vaccine trial over a sick participant.

The company is one of several working on a vaccine, but on Monday it announced the unexplained illness, closing enrollment for the 60,000-patient trial while an independent patient safety committee is convened.

The announcement sent shares tumbling 2.3 percent at the close of trading Tuesday, even as the company reported healthy third-quarter results, with sales growing 1.7 percent to $21.08 billion.

In a conference call earlier in the day, J&J’s global research head Mathai Mammen said “our plan is to continue the study” following “a temporary pause” caused by the illness.

“It’s not at all unusual for unexpected illnesses (to occur) in large studies over their duration. In some cases, serious adverse events… may have something or nothing to do with the drug or vaccine being investigated,” he said.

The Phase 3 trial had started recruiting participants in late September, with a goal of enrolling volunteers across more than 200 US and international locations, the company and the US National Institutes for Health (NIH), which is providing funding, said.

The other countries where the trials were taking place are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa.

The company’s chief financial officer Joe Wolk said it was unclear whether the participant who became ill was receiving the trial vaccine or the placebo.

“We are waiting for the independent drug safety monitoring board to do their analysis,” he said.

J&J is one of 11 organizations globally to begin a Phase 3 trial on a Covid-19 vaccine.

Washington has given the multinational about $1.45 billion in funding under Operation Warp Speed.

The vaccine is based on a single dose of a cold-causing adenovirus, modified so that it can no longer replicate, combined with a part of the new coronavirus called the spike protein that it uses to invade human cells.

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In a first, 2 counties move backward on state’s reopening plan; Ventura moves forward

Patrons ate in May at Ventura's BusyBee 50's Cafe. In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom closed all indoor dining at restaurants, but on Tuesday, Ventura County advanced in the state's reopening blueprint, allowing a return to limited indoor seating. <span class="copyright">(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Patrons ate in May at Ventura’s BusyBee 50’s Cafe. In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom closed all indoor dining at restaurants, but on Tuesday, Ventura County advanced in the state’s reopening blueprint, allowing a return to limited indoor seating. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Although a handful of counties advanced in the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan Tuesday, two moved backward — the first time since California launched its tiered system that parts of the state have regressed.

Following an increase in cases, Tehama County moved back to Tier 1, the most restrictive, and Shasta County moved back to Tier 2. The setbacks will affect business sectors that had been given the green light to reopen or expand capacity in those areas.

Shasta County, which averaged 173.7 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days, and Tehama County, with 124.3 cases per 100,000 residents during the same period, are among the five counties in the state where the most new cases are concentrated, according to The Times’ tracker.

Among the counties that moved forward was Ventura, the fourth in Southern California to advance on the state’s blueprint for reopening. It joined Merced and Yuba counties in advancing from Tier 1, also known as the purple tier, with widespread risk of the virus, to Tier 2, or the red tier, with substantial risk of the virus.

Inyo County moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3, also known as the orange tier, with moderate risk of the virus. Humboldt, Plumas, Siskiyou and Trinity counties moved from Tier 3 to Tier 4, also known as the yellow tier, with minimal risk of the virus.

Ventura County officials were prepared for the move following a decrease in positivity rate and case count. The progressive step will allow the county to expand operations and capacity at business sectors, including restaurants and shopping centers, and to partially reopen other businesses, including movie theaters, for the first time.

If the county remains in the tier for two consecutive weeks, it will be allowed to open all schools. That is true for any county that moves to Tier 2.

Ventura County is currently reporting 5.5 infections per 100,000 residents and a seven-day average positivity rate of 3.0%.

Those metrics have also dipped statewide. The seven-day average for daily infections is 3,005, and the current 14-day positivity rate is 2.7%.

“Our cases have decreased from our peak over the summer, but they have been plateauing,” acting state health officer Dr. Erica Pan said Tuesday. The state’s goal is to continue to see a steady decrease in infections in order to ensure that the projected transmission rate does not rise.

Additionally, the state’s health equity metric went into effect Tuesday.

In order to ensure that communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — including Black and Latino residents, Pacific Islanders and low-income residents — get ample attention as each county progresses, the state will examine the positivity rate of a county’s lowest quartile and compare it to the countywide

Santa Clara County Moves To Loosen Shelter Orders

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA — Santa Clara County’s top health officer issued a revised health order Monday calling the loosening of shelter-in-place orders as soon as officials get the go-ahead from the state.

Under Dr. Sara Cody’s revised health order, indoor dining and church gatherings would be permitted with significantly reduced capacity.

Santa Clara County would need to move to the “orange” tier in the state’s monitoring system for areas considered to be at a moderate risk level for the spread of the coronavirus, with testing positivity rate of 2 to 4.9 percent.

The county is currently in the “red” tier, with positive rate of 5 to 8 percent.

The loosening of shelter orders figures to provide a boost to a local economy battered by the economic effects of the pandemic since shelter orders went into effect March 17.

But it is far from a declaration that the crisis is over, Cody said in a statement.

“It is imperative that we all continue to practice the precautions that have made our COVID-19 numbers move in the right direction,” Cody said.

“The fact that you are able to do something doesn’t mean that you should. The public’s commitment, both businesses and our residents, to wearing face coverings, and maintaining social distancing and testing is what will help us move forward to the next tier in the state’s COVID-19 blueprint.”

Once the county moves to the orange tier, outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people and indoor gatherings of up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people (whichever is fewer) would be allowed.

Indoor dining up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, (whichever is fewer) would also be permitted.

“The fact that an activity is allowed does not mean it is safe,” the county’s Emergency Operations Center-Public Health Department said in a statement.

“COVID-19 continues to pose a serious risk to our residents. This is why we urge all residents to be cautious, stay home when possible, minimize interaction with anyone outside their household, maintain social distance, wear a face covering, and move activities outdoors when possible.”

This article originally appeared on the Los Gatos Patch

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