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Solano Health Officer Warns Of Jump in COVID-19 Cases, Possible Move To Most-Restrictive Purple Tier

FAIRFIELD (CBS SF) -- Solano County's public health officer warned Tuesday that the county is on track to move into the state's most restrictive coronavirus reopening tier next week if county residents continue to flout public health guidelines.

Dr. Bela Matyas told the county's Board of Supervisors that as of three weeks ago, and for several weeks prior, the county had confirmed around 26 to 28 positive COVID-19 cases per day.

That number of new cases has since jumped to around 40 per day over the last two weeks, according to Matyas.

Solano County has been out of the state's most restrictive, purple reopening tier since Sept. 22 but, Matyas said, the metrics the state uses for tier assignments are beginning to trend in the wrong direction for the county.

"I think, unfortunately, given what we've been experiencing, if the case rate is reported today as too high it'll be too high next week as well," Matyas said.

The warning comes as three Bay Area counties, Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo, moved from the Red Tier to the less-restrictive Orange Tier on Tuesday. To the west, neighboring Napa County moved to the Orange Tier last week.

As of Tuesday, only one Bay Area county, Sonoma, remains under the most-restrictive Purple Tier.

Solano County must keep its number of new cases per 100,000 residents per day under seven to remain in the less-restrictive red tier, which allows it to resume indoor operations at businesses like restaurants and gyms.

As of Tuesday, its state-adjusted case rate, based on the number of tests performed in the county, sat at 7.1.

Matyas also indicated the county's hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks and that there are multiple ongoing outbreaks in congregate living facilities like nursing homes.

He suggested that some residents are not taking the virus seriously enough, holding large indoor gatherings at which attendees fail to wear masks and practice physical distancing.

Matyas used the examples of a recent funeral with some 300 attendees in the county and an indoor wedding of around 40 people as actions that are detrimental to the county's effort to reduce its case rate.

While Matyas did not indicate whether any cases resulted from either event, he noted that "as long as that type of behavior occurs, we can't protect ourselves from higher case rates, and then the governor steps in and we get pushed to the higher level."

Multiple supervisors pushed Matyas to communicate with state health officials if the county's case rate falls back under seven per 100,000 residents over the next week to ensure the county remains in the red tier.

"It's becoming troublesome out there," Supervisor John Vasquez said. "There are businesses that, if we go back in the purple (tier), will not remain open."

Supervisor John Spering suggested that the state has operated behind closed doors to control county-level reopening during the pandemic, as opposed to local governmental bodies whose meetings are open to the public.

Spering also said if he were in a position to choose the county's tier, he would not move into the purple tier "under any circumstance."

"My position is don't even close down, stay open and let the state close you down," he said, referring to business owners concerned about how shutting down will affect their bottom line.

Matyas argued that the county's health guidelines have been based on balancing harm reduction with opening the businesses allowed by the state.

"The ... events that occurred several weeks ago that resulted in our spike were individuals clearly not paying attention to anything even remotely close to harm reduction," he said. "So I do believe that there's a difference between responsible interaction with family and friends and flat-out refusing to do anything to prevent transmission."

After multiple public speakers lambasted the board as well as the state and Gov. Gavin Newsom for reopening restrictions they viewed as too restrictive, Supervisor Skip Thomson suggested those members of the public were themselves to blame by ignoring public health guidelines.

"I've sat here patiently listening to you scream at this board and the governor," Thomson said. "But I would like to see some of you trying to help us achieve those numbers that Dr. Matyas is talking about."

Thomson added that keeping businesses open is something of a moot point because people do not want to risk being exposed to the virus by eating indoors at a restaurant or going to a movie theater, especially if residents continue ignoring public health guidance.

"Until the public feels confident that the coronavirus is under control, they're not going to visit our businesses," he said. "They're not going out to restaurants or shows, they're going to stay home because you have decided that you don't want to wear a mask or you don't want to social distance."

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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