March 24, 2023

Riverside County officially moved from the purple tier into the red tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan Sept. 22, which allows movie theaters, restaurants and churches to begin indoor activities at 25% capacity or 100 people or fewer, whichever is lower.

Gyms and fitness centers can now open indoors at 10% capacity.

According to Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County’s public health officer, the county has been given permission to move into the red tier.

“We have received confirmation from the state — we will be entering the red tier today,” Kaiser said at the Riverside County board of supervisors meeting Sept. 22.

The red tier is the second phase of Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” a reopening plan that consists of four tiers. To cross from the purple tier, the most restrictive level, into the red, Riverside County had to have only four to seven positive COVID-19 cases a day for every 100,000 residents. The county also had to have a positivity rate of less than 8%.

The new tier also allows existing modifications to loosen. For example, bookstores can now open at 50% capacity compared to the purple tier’s 25%.

Dr. Marshare Penny, department chair of Public Health Sciences at California Baptist University, said it is important to celebrate moving into the red tier, but students should not become complacent.

“It’s really easy for us to say, ‘Oh, look, things are getting better; I don’t need to wear my mask anymore or practice hand hygiene or self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms anymore,’ when that’s completely false,” Penny said. “If anything we need to do a better job to make sure we continue in this downward trajectory of COVID cases.”

To drop into the next tier, coded as orange, Riverside county has to have 1-3.9 positive cases for every 100,000 residents for at least two consecutive weeks and a positivity rate of 2-4.9%.

Penny said it is important residents still get tested if they believe they are displaying symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

“A lot of people say, ’OK, our positivity rate is dropping, and if a bunch of us go get tested and we (come back) positive it can negatively affect our positivity rates, so let’s not get tested,’ but that is not accurate,” Penny said. “The more people who get tested, the more we can accurately prove that our positivity rates are low. Our rate is only as good as the data, and if our numbers are not as low as we hoped, we can quickly drop it by making sure anyone positive is properly treated and isolated.”

Students concerned about contracting COVID-19 during the upcoming flu season should note their symptoms, as many overlap. However, certain things are specific to COVID-19, including the possible loss of taste and smell. If students are unsure if they have the flu versus COVID-19, they should reach out to their health care provider.

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