Gov. Gavin Newsom hinted at a Green Tier on the state’s business reopening system that could mean even more business reopenings once the county’s virus metrics improve enough. 

State officials said they’re working out just what exactly a Green Tier would logistically look like.

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At a Friday news conference in San Diego, Newsom said counties throughout the state are progressing through the tiers and reopenings could come faster once more vaccinations are done in the hardest hit communities. 

“It will allow cities and counties to … move more quickly through these tiers. Ultimately getting to a Green Tier, which we will be talking about next week,” Newsom said.

As of Sunday, roughly 3.9 million vaccinations were  given to the hardest hit, often poorest communities throughout the state, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard.

Once that number crosses 4 million doses, reopening metrics will once again be eased, allowing counties to reopen businesses faster.

The current four-tiered reopening system goes from Purple, the most restrictive tier, to Yellow, the least restrictive tier.

Orange County sits in the Orange Tier, right below Yellow. 

At a news conference last Wednesday, OC Public Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau said the county will likely stay in the Orange Tier for most of April before moving to the Yellow Tier. 

“At best, three weeks is pretty hopeful for us. But again, we can never be sure,” Chau said. 

The Orange Tier allows more people inside already opened businesses, and bowling alleys to reopen. It also allows for bars to reopen for outdoor operations.

State public health officials are working with local health departments to refine the logistics of what a Green Tier would mean. 

“We don’t have anything to share right this minute but as the Governor has said, we are working with local health offices and industry leaders to build a plan that allows us to safely reopen more broadly. We hope to have more details on those efforts this week,” the Governor’s press office said in a Monday email. 

Chau said he and his staff are currently speaking with state public health officials about the Green Tier.

“The conversation is very active. The State has not decided on what it would look like and when to implement it,” Chau said in a Monday text message.

Counties throughout the state are steadily reopening more businesses as they progress through the tiers and vaccinations ramp up. 

Los Angeles County, the hardest-hit county in the Golden State, also moved to the Orange Tier Monday.

“We see a bright light at the end of this tunnel. We are now moving through these tiers,” Newsom said Friday. “We’re seeing businesses reopen. Over 9,000 of our 11,000 schools have either reopened for in-person instruction or have announced a date to reopen for in-person instruction.” 

Talks of a new tier come after a tough Winter wave for Orange County, which saw over 2,200 people hospitalized at one point in January. 

December and January were the deadliest months of the pandemic for OC, according to death data from the county Health Care Agency. 

The virus killed over 900 people in December.

Nearly 1,500 people were killed by the virus in January. 

Vaccinations have ramped up since then. 

Over 1.5 million doses have been given to roughly 1 million county residents, according to the OC Health Care Agency. 

But gaps in vaccine distribution persist. 

Latinos, while making up roughly 35% of OC’s residents, have had nearly 47% of all cases, nearly 38% of deaths and have received 11% of the vaccinations so far. 

In comparison, white people make up nearly 39% of the population, have almost 25% cases, nearly 38% of deaths and have received nearly 36% of vaccines. 

State and county health officials have been working with numerous community clinics and neighborhood organizations to close those gaps.

“Community clinics have a relationship with the patients and our patients are in the affected zip codes. Our population of patients is underserved, they’re the low income and so forth,” said Alexander Rossel, CEO of Families Together of Orange County, a local health clinic. 

Families Together have been able to administer over 20,000 coronavirus vaccines to Orange County’s hardest hit communities. 

In the Thursday phone interview, Rossel said he and his staff were gearing up to vaccinate an apartment complex in Santa Ana, one of the hardest hit cities in OC.

He said the overall effort is “going well. We know how to get to these impacted and low-income areas.”  

Meanwhile, Orange County’s coronavirus hospitalizations continue dropping. 

As of Monday, 109 people were hospitalized, including 16 in intensive care units. 

That’s the lowest hospitalizations have been in a year. 

The virus has now killed 4,772 people. 

COVID deaths have now surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC. 

It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively. 

Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.

Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the latest state health data.

According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.

Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Infections | Hospitalizations & Deaths | City-by-City Data

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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