Madera finally enters Orange Tier
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Tommy Molina of Perko’s Cafe Grill takes the order of Connie Miller who is a regular patron of the restaurant. Since Madera has moved to the orange tier for COVID, the restaurant is open at 50 percent capacity.
Since California Governor Gavin Newsom established the colored tiers to determine how businesses can operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Madera County had been one of the most hit regions.
Madera county entered the Purple Tier right away, which signified widespread infection with COVID-19.
The county has been working its way down. A month ago, the county finally got itself out of the Purple Tier and entered the Red Tier. Tuesday, Madera County Department of Public Health announced the county finally had the data to enter the Orange Tier.
“It’s really exciting to see our case rate at 3.1, our positivity rate at 1.6 percent, our health equity positive rate at 1.3 percent and that’s fabulous,” CDPH Director Sara Bosse said. “If we continue to see our case rate decrease, we could be in the Yellow Tier in three weeks.”
The county’s positivity rate and health equity positivity rate are already in Yellow Tier levels. The county’s case rate needs to be lower than two percent in order to reach Yellow.
“I think we can really attribute our case rate, positivity rate to the introduction of the vaccine,” Bosse said. “The fact that we have three vaccines that we can utilize, have ample supply and anyone who is interested can get a vaccination can help us get to Yellow.”
Another factor that can help the county reach the Yellow Tier is to get vaccinated. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12-15 years old.
“We are anticipating California Department of Health will approve us to open up to that group,” Bosse said. “And, we’re ready to be able to vaccinate students. Many parents have been waiting to be protected as they go to school.”
Bosse said the Pfizer vaccine’s trial of 12-16 year-olds resulted in 100 percent efficacy rate.
“The clinical trial involved 2,260 kids aged 12-16,” she said. “The vaccine was well tolerated by the kids who received the vaccine. That’s great news. It looks like we have an excellent vaccine to provide to our youth. In Madera County, we have been doing a lot of school-based vaccination clinics. We’re ramping those up so we will continue that effort to vaccinate youth, middle school and high school students and also their family members and residents in that area.”
Almost half of the residents in Madera County have received at least one dose of the vaccine (47.6 percent)
“We are at 36.2 percent who are fully vaccinated,” Bosse said. “We are pretty comparable to other counties. It’s harder to reach everyone in a population that is more rural. There are more challenges to hosting large vaccination clinics. It means we have to do more clinics that are smaller to get it out to everyone. We’re really proud of the vaccination rate we have reached. We are pushing forward to vaccinate as many people as possible, especially with the June 15 date where the community opens more broadly.”
By reaching the Orange Tier, Bosse said that just means a lot more businesses can open up to more people.
“It’s opening more broadly things that are already open, for the most part,” she said. “Gatherings go from a max of 25 to 50 people. For private events, it goes from 50 to 100 and up to 300 if people are tested or show proof of vaccination. I know we all want more space in restaurants. In Red, the restaurants were at 25 percent. In the Orange Tier, they can have 50 percent capacity. More people can get into a restaurant without waiting too long. Our gyms and fitness centers can move from 10 to 25 percent capacity. It just means more people can participate in more activities that I know we’ve all been looking forward to getting back to. That’s the thing with the vaccinations. Everyone can name things they have missed doing in the last year. Everyone wants to get back to life and back to those activities. The easiest way for all of us to do that together is for all of us to get vaccinated.”
The Orange Tier also comes at a good time for graduation ceremonies and parties in the next couple of weeks. Bosse hopes this will allow those students more of a normal graduation ceremony.
“The seniors last year have a story to tell for the rest of their life, but they missed out on a lot of important events they looked forward to,” she said. “We’re really excited we’ve reached this place in time for the graduating seniors to have a fuller experience. It might not be exactly the way it would have been. It’s more participation and more people that can come and see it in person.”
Recently, MCPH held a vaccination clinic to coincide with Cinco de Mayo and handed out tacos for each person that came in for a vaccination.
“We’re planning more fun ways for people to participate in vaccination,” she said. “We’re trying to keep a calm, but celebratory mood so that people know that vaccination is something we can all work together and celebrate as an achievement towards health and protection.”
Information for vaccination clinics and testing is available at the county’s website (maderacounty.com/covid19vaccine or maderacounty.com/covid19testing). Bosse encourages Madera residents to get vaccinated and also to get tested. The county is also offering an incentive to residents to get tested.
“We are offering $5 incentives for people to get tested,” Bosse said. “It’s a gift card of choice. We have Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Amazon gift cards and others. If you have symptoms, it’s natural to think to go get tested. But, we need to be testing to find asymptomatic cases and have an accurate positivity rate of people who don’t have COVID. If people are out and about and haven’t been vaccinated, it’s good to get tested every 4-6 weeks. If you have symptoms or have been exposed, even if you have been vaccinated, it’s good to get tested. It’s really important for people to continue to stay home if they or their household members have symptoms of COVID-19. They may have been exposed and not have symptoms, yet, or may be asymptomatic-positive.”
Bosse is happy to see the numbers go down and looking forward to the day she doesn’t have to talk about COVID anymore.
“We’re really hopeful we’re headed towards immunity,” she said. “Things are gong in the right direction. I would love to talk about something other than COVID.”
• Bars: can open outdoors with modifications
• Breweries (where no meals provided): Can open indoors and outdoors with max 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Capacity may increase to 37.5 percent if all guests show negative test or full vaccination.
• Churches: Can open indoor with max 50 percent capacity.
• Cultural ceremonies: Indoor ceremonies permitted with modifications. Max 50 percent capacity recommended.
• Dance studios: Can open indoors max 25 percent capacity.
• Gatherings: Outdoors, max 50 people capacity. Indoors is strongly discouraged or 25 percent or 25 people, whichever is fewer.
• Gym and fitness centers: Can open indoors with 25 percent capacity, indoor pools are open. Capacity may increase to 37.5 percent if all guests show negative test or full vaccination.
• Hotels and lodging: Can open fitness centers at 25 percent capacity and indoor pools.
• Mosques: Can open indoors, max 50 percent capacity.
• Movie theaters: Can open with 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Capacity may increase to 37.5 percent if all guests show negative test or full vaccination.
• Museums: Can open indoors with 50 percent max capacity. Capacity may increase to 75 percent if all guests show negative test or full vaccination.
• Organized runs and walks: Can open outdoors with max 200 participants per hour and 500 total participants. Max 1,500 participants if all participants show proof of negative test or full vaccination.
• Places of worship: Can open indoor with modifications, max 50 percent capacity.
• Racetracks: Permanent venues with live audiences outdoors only, max 20 percent capacity, regional attendees only, reservations required, assigned seating only, in-seat concessions only.
• Receptions: Tickets or guest list required, assigned seating, no intermingling of multiple private events. Outdoor: Max capacity of 100 people or 300 if all guests test negative or show proof of full vaccination. Indoor: Max capacity 150 if all guests test negative or show proof of full vaccination.
• Restaurants: Can open indoor max 50 percent capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer. Capacity may increase to 75 percent if all guests show negative test or full vaccination.
• Wineries: Can open indoors and outdoors with 25 percent max capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Capacity may increase to 37.5 percent if all guests show negative test or full vaccination.