(CN) — New cases and the coronavirus’ rate of spread have dropped to some of the lowest levels of the pandemic, but California officials said Tuesday they were concerned about a spike in San Diego that could stall the reopening of the state’s second largest county.
Officials remain guardedly optimistic that California has “bent the curve” as over the last week residents tested positive for Covid-19 at the lowest rate since the state began reporting the metric. The state’s 7-day testing positivity rate — a key indicator of community spread of the virus — has sunk to 3.3%, and the 14-day trend is 3.6%.
Meanwhile the average number of new daily cases has dropped from a peak of over 8,000 in July to a 7-day average of 3,474 cases. Over the last day, counties have tested nearly 122,000 people and confirmed 2,235 new cases.
The recent improvements have allowed a total of eight counties to improve their status on the state’s new four-tiered reopening framework since it debuted over two weeks ago.
After being criticized when the state’s initial reopening in May led to a second surge, Governor Gavin Newsom said the state needed to step in with clearer, stricter guidance for counties. He defended the system as being easier for residents and counties alike, but warned the next reopening would be a more drawn-out process.
In a weekly update, California Health and Human Services chief Mark Ghaly said declining cases in Marin, Tehama and Inyo counties have allowed them to move out of the most restrictive tier and further reopening plans.
“We’re happy to see the fruits of the labor in this strategy,” Ghaly told reporters.
While much of the state is seeing improvement, including Los Angeles County — which has seen its positivity rate drop below the minimum goal of 8% set by the state — Ghaly said he’s working to help San Diego squash a spate of new infections.
According to the state’s dashboard, the average number of positive tests per 100,000 residents over the last seven days in San Diego has jumped to 7.9. If the figure doesn’t drop below 7 by next Tuesday, the county of over 3 million residents could be reassigned to the most restrictive purple level and become the first to drop a tier.
San Diego is currently in the second or “substantial” tier, which allows restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and gyms to open indoors with reduced capacity.
Ghaly said his team will work with the county this week to try and prevent the potential backward slide that would cause indoor closures and more strain on the local economy. He added that there’s no indication the spread can be attributed to the county’s partial reopening in recent weeks and instead highlighted the jump in new cases on the campus of California State University, San Diego.
“This will be a busy week for San Diego,” Ghaly said. “All of our hope is that we can put steps in place that help support San Diego County and their own work to reduce transmission and get us back on that track they were enjoying a few weeks ago.”
As of Tuesday, San Diego State had confirmed a total of 644 cases within its student population and has halted in-person classes.
In total, 30 of the state’s 58 counties remain in the lowest tier, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, San Joaquin and Fresno counties. Ghaly said a variety of the 30 counties are trending in the right direction and could progress into the second tier by next week.
Just an assortment of smaller, rural counties like Humboldt and Alpine have been placed in the two least restrictive orange and yellow tiers.
As a whole, California leads the nation in confirmed cases with over 767,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, ahead of Texas (686,000) and Florida (668,000). In terms of cases per 100,000 residents, the Golden State ranks 22nd, and 25th in deaths per 100,000.