San Joaquin County rolled back to the most restrictive "widespread" purple tier as COVID-19 infection rates nearly doubled in the county in one week.

On Monday Gov. Gavin Newsom announced San Joaquin County was one of 28 counties that moved from the "substantial" red tier backwards into the more restrictive level.

There are now 41 counties with 94.1% of the California’s population in the most restrictive tier.

San Joaquin County reported a rate of 15.2 new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 people on Monday. Last Tuesday the county reported a rate of 7.7 cases per 100,000 people. The purple tier is assigned for counties with an infection rate of more than 7 cases per 100,000 people.

The county will stay in the purple tier for a minimum of three weeks before being able to move to a less restrictive tier and must meet the criteria for the next less restrictive tier for two consecutive weeks prior to moving.

Newsom said the move back to purple is needed to check the increasing spread of COVID-19 across the state and country.

“We are sounding the alarm. 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,” Newsom said. “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.”

On Sunday California reported there were 1,019,345 cases of COVID-19 with 18,253 deaths.

Newsom’s tiered ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy’ has also been revised due to the rise in COVID-19 numbers.

Counties can move backward into a more restrictive tier after one week of increased COVID-19 activity instead waiting for two weeks.

Counties may move back more than one tier depending on the number of new cases and the positivity rate.

Counties will be required to make changes to businesses and organizations on the day following a tier change instead having 72 hours to make the changes.

Returning to the purple tier means a return to more restrictive rules on some businesses and organizations that will have to close indoor operations and reduce their capacity.

Restaurants will have to return to outdoors with modifications or take-out dining only.

Gyms and fitness centers, places of worship, family entertainment centers and movie theaters were also restricted to outdoor operations with modifications.

Retail stores can continue indoors but are restricted to a maximum of 25% of their total occupancy.

Hair salons, barber shops and nails salons can remain open indoors but have to follow the state’s industry guidance rules.

Schools that were open for in-person instruction before Monday can keep students on their campuses.

The Tracy Unified School District issued a statement on Monday afternoon saying the district would remain in distance learning with the county’s return to the purple tier adding “Tracy Unified looks forward to the day that students can return safely to their classrooms to receive live, in-person instruction from our qualified staff.”

Board of education trustees had voted on Oct. 20 to bring students back to classrooms for the start of the second semester on Jan. 4 if the county remained in the red ‘substantial’ tier.

The district will continue to offer small group instruction to kindergarten through fifth grade special day class students saying they are the most educationally vulnerable students they serve.

On Tuesday Jefferson School District released a statement saying due to the county returning to purple they will stay in distance learning until at least Jan. 4.

The district will hold a special education board meeting on Dec. 1 to review their timeline and discuss the next steps to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction.

A survey was sent out to parents regarding the possibility of returning to in-person instruction.

Along with the move back to purple Newsom announced stronger face covering guidelines, requiring people to wear facemasks whenever they are outside the their home with few exceptions.

People are not required to wear facemasks when they are:

• In a car alone or with members of their own household

• Working in an office or a room alone

• People who are eating and drinking and able to maintain a six -foot distance from people who are not members of their household

• people who are outdoors and able to maintain six-feet of distance from other people

• People obtaining a service involving the nose or face where temporary removal of a face covering is necessary

• Workers required to wear respiratory protection

• People exempted by California Department of Public Health guidelines

Children under 2-years-old and people with medical, mental health conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a face covering are exempt.

The state updated the private gatherings guidance to help slow the spread of COVID-19 with the approach of the holiday season.

Gatherings of more than three different households including the host are prohibited. Participating in multiple gatherings with different households or groups is discouraged.

The state guidance requires gatherings for counties in the purple tier must be held outdoors and strongly discourages indoor gatherings for counties in red, orange and yellow tiers.

A gathering of no more than three households is permitted in a public park or other outdoor space even if unrelated gatherings are also occurring in the same park or space. Mixing between groups gathering is not allowed.

Face coverings are required when gathering except when eating or drinking. People should remain six feet away from people outside their own household when face coverings are removed.

California, Oregon and Washington also issued travel advisories heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.

Governors of those states urged people visiting to or returning from those states to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The travel advisory also asked people to stay home in their area and avoid non-essential travel out of state and to other countries.

The Tracy Police Department hopes citizens will voluntarily comply with the new COVID-19 restrictions including indoor dining and facemask wearing.

In a statement issued on Thursday the department said “The City of Tracy is confident that through our Economic Development Team’s proactive business outreach and our public education efforts in coordination with local public health officials, our Tracy residents and businesses will continue to help fight the spread of COVID-19 by voluntarily complying with the State’s Public Health orders.”

The department said if someone in our community suspects the orders are not being complied with or has a question about them, they are encouraged to visit COVID19.ca.gov, SJReady.org, submit an inquiry via our GoRequest app or call (209) 831-6300. Inquiries and submissions will be reviewed by city staff to determine the appropriate response.

“In many cases, educating community members on the best ways to assure their safety and the safety of the community is all that is necessary. If voluntarily compliance is not achieved through these educational measures, then further investigation may be required. It is our hope that by having the public share their concerns directly online, we can help keep our public safety dispatch lines open for emergencies and more efficiently address the concerns of those we serve,” the police said.

For more information on the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” tier system visit https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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