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Where California’s counties stand in the state’s four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system as of Nov. 10. Graphic: California Department of Public Health

By Zach Cavanagh

While Orange County bucked state and national trends with slight improvements in all three COVID-19 metrics, it remained in the red “substantial” tier—the second-highest risk level of the state’s four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system—in the state’s latest update on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

The system is the main component of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy for determining in what capacity different sectors, businesses and activities can reopen safely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Nationally, the United States topped 10 million coronavirus cases over the weekend, with cases rising in 44 states, and Tuesday was the country’s seventh consecutive day with more than 100,000 new cases reported. There are also 17 states reporting record highs in hospitalizations.

In California, the 14-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases rose to 5,215.7 on Monday, Nov. 9, with two days of 7,000-plus cases over the weekend. In a state update on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom reported the statewide testing positivity rate was at 3.7%, a significant rise from the 2.5% rate on Oct. 19. In Tuesday’s tier update, the rate dipped to 3.4%.

Newsom also pointed out a 28.6% increase in state hospitalizations over the past 14 days. However, Newsom also praised the preparations the state’s health care system has made, as the state coronavirus hospitalizations represent only 4% of the system’s capacity. The state’s ICU cases also only represent 11% of the ICU beds available in the state system.

Locally, Orange County stayed in the red tier for the 10th consecutive week. There were small improvements in all three monitored metrics, but they weren’t enough to start the process of moving to the next tier.

Orange County continued to hold at red levels in two of the state’s three metrics, with 5.6 daily new cases per 100,000 residents and a 5.5% health equity positivity rate. The countywide testing positivity stayed below the orange “moderate” tier level at 3.3%

The daily case rate dropped from 6.0 cases per 100,000 last week, but stayed ahead of the 5.1 cases the week before. The health equity rate decreased from 5.7% last week and from the 6% the week before. The countywide testing positivity dipped from 3.6% last week, close to the 3.2% of the week before.

The countywide testing positivity has been at an orange level since Sept. 8, and the county came close to moving down to orange, as the daily case rate dipped to an orange level on Sept. 22. However, the daily case rate ticked back up to the red level on Sept. 29 and remained there through October.

Since being introduced on Oct. 6, the health equity rate has been at a red level. There was a significant drop to 5.6% on Oct. 20, but the rate rose again the next week. The health equity rate measures the testing positivity in the  county’s low-income and more racially diverse neighborhoods.

All of Orange County’s bordering neighbors were in the most restrictive purple “widespread” tier on Tuesday. Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties remained in the purple, and San Diego County shifted back from the red tier to the purple tier.

To move down to the orange tier, Orange County would need to have its metrics at orange levels for two consecutive weeks. If the county’s daily case rate is stable or declining but not at the next level, there would be the possibility of moving down if the testing positivity and health equity metrics meet the level for two tiers lower—that is, the yellow “minimal” risk tier levels while in the red tier.

The orange tier requires the case rate to sit between 1.0 and 3.9, the testing positivity between 2.0% and 4.9% and the health equity rate between 2.2% and 5.2%. The yellow tier, the lowest of the four tiers, requires a case rate lower than 1.0, testing positivity below 2.0% and health equity rate lower than 2.2%.

Orange County first moved from the purple “widespread” tier—the state’s highest risk tier—to the red tier on Sept 8, as soon it was eligible move down after the state had introduced the color-coded system on Aug. 28.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at

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