COVID for the holidays

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Editor’s note: Yolo County narrowly avoided a stricter lockdown. Now, public health officials there and elsewhere are trying to prevent a spike during the holidays.

Unlike neighboring Sacramento County, Yolo County staved off a tighter COVID-19 lockdown this week, but just barely.

So to keep controlling coronavirus, it’s already mounting a high-profile public relations campaign for the holidays.

In Tuesday’s update from the state Department of Public Health, Yolo stayed in the red tier with an average rate of new daily cases of 6.7 per 100,000 people—just under the 7.0 limit. The county’s new case rate had exceeded the threshold the previous week, so a second week would have put it in the most restrictive purple tier until at least Dec. 1.

“Yolo County was a hair away from falling backward into the highest-risk tier. We dodged a bullet today, but our neighbor across the river did not,” tweeted West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

He also quoted Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s tweet: “I cannot say clearly enough—for God’s sake stop gathering.”

That includes extended family and friends during the holiday season that starts with Thanksgiving.

“Many residents will feel the need to reconnect for mental health, overall well being or sense of normalcy. Yolo County is aware that residents and families may choose to gather despite local and State health orders mandating physical distance,” the guidance says. “The County hopes that if residents gather, that they do so as safely as possible without jeopardizing the health and well being of loved ones, friends, and communities.”

So this week, Yolo Health & Human Services put out an extensive list of guidelines. The message: stick to smaller, shorter, outdoor gatherings; attend fewer events; keep your distance and wear masks; be safe with food and hygiene; adapt religious and cultural traditions; travel with caution; and when in doubt, stay home.

The guidelines reinforce Yolo County’s overall rules for private gatherings: no more than 16 people from no more than three households for as long as two hours outdoors only.

The guidance is in line with public health experts encouraging holiday celebrations done virtually or only with immediate family. And it tracks with what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising for Thanksgiving as a third peak of COVID-19 cases is setting record highs, filling hospitals across America and forcing Chicago, New York and other cities impose restrictions again.

UPDATE: On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the governors of Oregon and Washington issued a travel advisory, urging residents to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel and to self-quarantine for 14 days if they do cross state lines.

It’s all good advice no matter where you live.

With the spread of COVID-19 accelerating across California, a total of 11 counties moved this week to a more restrictive tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Besides Sacramento—where the rules for the highest-risk purple tier go into effect at noon FridayEl Dorado and Placer counties regressed from the orange tier to red.

After the state denied a request to stay in the orange tier, some Placer officials say they won’t enforce new limits on businesses and told them to do what’s necessary to stay open. Placer supervisors lifted the public health emergency in September, prompting its public health officer to resign.

Aimee Sisson is now the public health officer in Yolo, and she’s urging its residents to keep up safety measures. As of Nov. 11, Yolo County reported 3,612 total cases and 64 deaths.

“While we are not moving into the purple tier this week, we are seeing an uptick in the number of cases reported each day,” she said in a statement. “Staying in red does not mean we can let down our guard.”

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