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Madera County officially hits Red Tier

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Brian Ponce, left, and Nabor Castillo enjoy an order of nachos and beer while indoor dining at Sugar Pine Smokehouse on Thursday. The restaurant is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, and from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.


For the first time since California Governor Gavin Newsom introduced the tier-system for business in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, Madera County finally got out of the worst tier this week.

“We are officially in the Red Tier,” said Sara Bosse, director of Madera County Department of Public Health. “We have been in Purple since the tiers were implemented in California. There were several weeks in which we had a single week of Red Tier data before the last surge. We never had it two weeks in a row, which is required.”

Tuesday’s tier update revealed Madera County’s adjusted case rate fell to 4.8 percent, which is well below the seven percent needed to enter the Red Tier. In addition, the county positivity rate fell to 2.3 percent and the health equity posivitivy rate is a 4.5 percent, both numbers are within the Orange Tier.

With the entry into the Red Tier, Madera County is able to open a little more, including allowing indoor seating at restaurants.

“There are several activities that are expanded,” Bosse said. “The ones people are most interested in is restaurants can open inside at 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Retail can expand from 25 to 50 percent indoor capacity. Gyms can open at 10 percent capacity. Outdoor live events are something that can open at 25 percent capacity for seated events and that begins April 1.”

Because of live events opening, Madera Speedway will allow fans for the first time in a year.

“Fans will return in limited numbers for the second MAVTV-televised race of the 50th season for the one-third mile speedway,” according to a press release Wednesday.

Although Madera County entered the Red Tier, Bosse is quick to remind residents that there is still work to do in order to get businesses to open up more.

“What is more important for people to realize is we’ve been in this race against COVID,” she said. “At times, we’ve been winning and at times, COVID has been winning. The race isn’t over. We’re really hoping the spring of 2021 is the last leg in the race against COVID. Right now, what we’re running against are the COVID variants, which are more contagious. The way we’re going to do this is as people do more activities, they still need to keep in mind the fundamentals, which we are all very familiar with — social distancing, masking and vaccinating.”

Unfortunately, it’s Easter weekend with great weather. Bosse knows people will be gathering, but she hopes they will gather outside.

“Any time people can have gatherings outside, it’s safer,” she said. “If people are going to gather, keep in mind the size of the gathering and have it outside as much as possible. There’s still time for people to get tested. Then, they can have a better sense and feel more confident about their gathering.”

Bosse likes what she sees with the numbers decreasing. She still would like more people to get vaccinated, especially with eligibility opening up on April 15 to everyone

“Our contact tracing has been successful.,” she said. “We continue to see lower case rates. We like to see that as the ongoing trend and lower to get into the Orange Tier. Another thing that is a component of this is reaching out to our businesses. We’re going to reach out to the businesses to inform their employees about getting vaccinated and informing their customers about getting vaccinated. We want them to consistently get their employees tested.”

With the vaccinations opening up to more of the population, MCDPH is working on their first drive-thru vaccination event.

“We are doing very well with vaccinations,” she said. “Madera County was leading the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated. We have vaccine appointments available through MyTurn. That’s the best way. They can go to the fairgrounds site or to the Health and Social Services campus. Valley Children’s Hospital has clinics open to the general population. We’re doing our first drive-thru vaccine event at our Health and Social Services campus this Saturday. People can register for that.

“Eligibility on Thursday expands to age 50 or up. We want them to get vaccinated. On April 15, it expands to everyone 16 and up in California. Then, all of the questions about eligibility will go away. This Thursday, we want to have our residents 50 or up register and get vaccinated this weekend.”

Madera County leads the Central Valley in percentage of the population receiving at least one dose at 22.7 percent. What also helps is getting companies like Agriland to help in getting residents who wouldn’t have access to the vaccinations, vaccinated.

“We have a team of people that are working out of the health department and key partners that are hosting clinics in hubs in the rural areas targeting our farm worker population. We recognize it can be a challenge for our ag workers to access health care or get away from their schedule to get vaccinated. We’re trying to make it convenient. We’re working on a vaccine dashboard to get more data to the community.”

Bosse is encouraged by the numbers and sees them decrease. She also points out that the county must remain in the Red Tier before they can be eligible to drop to the Orange Tier.

“If our case rate can get below four for two weeks, the earliest we can get to the Orange Tier is April 20,” she said. “We have to stay in the Red Tier for three weeks. If we can get the case rate under four for two weeks, we can move on the 20th.”

Red Tier

Case rate 4-7

Test Positifity 5-8 percent

Hair salons and barber shots- Open indoors with modifications

All retail: Open indoors with modifications (Max 50 percent capacity)

Personal care services: Open indoors with modifications

Places of worship: Open indoors with modifications (Max 25 percent capacity)

Movie theaters: Open indoors with modifications (Max 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer)

Hotels and lodging: Open with modifications (Fitness centers open at 10 percent)

Gyms and fitness centers: Open indoors with modifications (Max 10 percent capacity)

Restaurants: Open indoors with modifications (Max 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer)

Wineries, breweries and distilleries: Outdoor only with modifications (Reservations, 90-minute time limit, seating/tables only, limited hours)

Bars (where no meal provided): Closed

Family entertainment centers: Outdoor only with modifications

Offices: Remote

Outdoor live events with assigned seating: Open with modifications (20 percent capacity, weekly worker testing, in-state visitors only, advanced reservations only, primarily in-seat concessions)


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