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By Collin Breaux

As COVID-19 metrics continue to plunge, capacity will be further increased for businesses and activities when Orange County heads into the least restrictive tier of California’s pandemic monitoring system on Wednesday.

Orange County is poised to enter the “yellow” minimal tier of the state’s four-tier, color-coded system, which variously allows or prohibits activities in a county, depending on the COVID-19 levels. The move is a long time coming from when the county was in the most restrictive widespread “purple” tier at the start of 2021.

The county met criteria for the yellow tier, which includes having less than two cases for test positivity and per 100,000 people, last week. A county generally has to stay in a more restrictive tier for a designated period of time before it can shift to a less restrictive one.

A move to the yellow tier would further increase allowed capacity at gyms, bars, restaurants, and other places people go to. The coming loosening of restrictions can be considered a trial run of sorts for the expected full state reopening on June 15, which will abolish the tier system outright.

The June 15 reopening is also when the mask mandate will be lifted for fully vaccinated people in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom said mask requirements will still be in effect for the state until then, despite recent CDC recommendations that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear them anymore in most instances. The CDC recommendations have sparked controversy over concerns from some that the lifting of requirements is premature.

The gradual reopening across the state and country comes as people continue to get vaccinated, and health and political officials urge people to get their shots if they haven’t already.

The number of COVID-19 numbers and related deaths in the tri-city area of San Clemente, Dana Point, and San Juan Capistrano (and Rancho Mission Viejo) has remained low.

The current number of total confirmed cases is 3,023 in San Clemente, 1,520 in Dana Point, 2,787 in San Juan Capistrano, and 337 in Rancho Mission Viejo. None of the three towns reported any new cases (so far) compared to yesterday. San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano have had no reported coronavirus-related deaths in the past 30 days, and Dana Point has only had 1. Rancho Mission Viejo will not report its exact death toll until it reaches 5, as it did for cases.

The number of cases in the past rough 30-day period is 56 for San Clemente, 21 for Dana Point, 30 for San Juan Capistrano, and 4 for Rancho Mission Viejo.

Orange County reported 6,145 COVID-19 tests on May 18, and has over 3.7 million cumulative tests so far. There have been 248,148 recoveries to date.

No deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Orange County on May 18. There have been 5,031 cumulative deaths in Orange County to date.

The majority of California is either in the yellow or orange “moderate” tier. There are no counties in the widespread tier, 10 in the substantial tier, 35 in the moderate tier, and 13 in the minimal tier.

Nationally, the United States has 33 million total cases and approximately 586,000 deaths in total as of Tuesday. California has approximately 3.77 million total cases and 62,700 deaths as of Tuesday. There are approximately 164 million and 3.39 million cases worldwide in total.

Approximately 274 million vaccine doses have been administered nationally, with 124 million fully vaccinated. Approximately 38.7% of California’s population is fully vaccinated, and 37.7% of the country fully vaccinated. There have been over 34 million doses administered in California.

For the entire world, approximately 1.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered, with 360 million (4.6% of the global population) fully vaccinated.

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