Question: How do we get Yuba  and Sutter counties into a less-restrictive COVID-19 safety tier, and what would that mean for the local economy?

Answer: Both Yuba and Sutter counties remain in the purple tier – which is the most restrictive – in the state’s reopening framework.

Bi-County Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu said in order to move into the red tier, a county must meet both the “case count metric” of less than seven new cases per 100,000 people daily and have a test “positivity rate” of less than 8 percent.

“As a reminder, not getting tested will not drop us into the lower tier faster,” Luu said. “In fact, avoiding testing works against us as the state has outlined test positivity metrics counties must reach.”

She said the test positivity rate is calculated by taking the total number of positive cases divided by the total number of COVID-19 tests completed in a given time frame – the state uses a seven-day time period.

Dropping into the red tier would allow for the partial reopening of places of indoor worship at 25 percent capacity, gyms and fitness centers at 10 percent indoor capacity, and indoor dining at 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller.

Question: What about restaurants that are opening up inside dining despite the restrictions? Why should we care?

Answer: Last week, local Assemblyman James Gallagher had encouraged local businesses to not wait for the state’s go-ahead and resume indoor dining due to the smoke and poor air quality.

Butte County Public Health had also notified businesses within its jurisdiction that they could temporarily allow indoor dining.

However, Butte County’s allowance was rescinded days later to comply with the state’s orders.

“The temporary allowance was put in place to ensure that evacuees had a safe space to have a meal while the event was unfolding,” it was stated in a press release from Butte County Public Health. “Butte County officials believe this was the right decision but we are still under the state health officer order and must comply again now that evacuees are able to obtain meals safely.”

Luu said she elevated the indoor dining issue during poor air quality periods to the California Department of Public Health for their review, but was informed that they would not be allowing exemptions.

“Per (the) state’s directive, indoor restaurant dining is not allowed in counties within the purple tier (which both Yuba and Sutter are),” Luu said. “Any deviation from the state’s health directives place at risk the counties’ CARES Act funding.”

Question: What’s the big deal about dining in restaurants?

Answer: Luu  said there was a Centers for Disease Control study that shows that people who eat out were twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 than those who don’t, with all other activities being the same – such as going to hair salons, going to the grocery store, etc.

“When you eat or drink, you cannot wear a facial covering and therefore one of the best ways to protect yourself and others around you cannot be implemented during dining,” Luu said. “Please continue to support local businesses by ordering takeout and outdoor dining when air quality improves.”

Question: What about getting tested:

Answer: Luu is encouraging people who have any COVID-19 symptoms, even if they’re mild, to consider getting tested.

“It’s important to get tested, even with mild symptoms like a small cough or low fever because it indicates that you should be isolating yourself at home so you don’t infect others,” Luu said. “You may not suffer severe symptoms but if you’ve been at any social gathering, you may have inadvertently put others at risk who could suffer more adverse effects leading to hospitalization or death.”

Luu also encourages people to get a flu shot as soon as possible to avoid a possible “twindemic.”

“You can get sick with both the seasonal flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could certainly cause more severe symptoms,” Luu said.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yuba-Sutter increased by 29 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 2,729.

As of Wednesday evening, 21 residents were hospitalized and 32 recovered on Wednesday.

Seventeen coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in the Yuba-Sutter area to date.

There are two OptumServe COVID-19 testing sites in the Yuba-Sutter area:

–Sutter County Veterans Memorial Building, 1425 Veterans Memorial Circle, Yuba City, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

–Yuba County Library, 303 Second St., Marysville, Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Luu said people can likely get same-day appointments with OptumServe and the turnaround time to get results is about three to four days.

To make an appointment, visit LHI.care/COVIDtesting or call (888) 634-1123.

For more local information on COVID-19, visit www.bepreparedyuba.org or www.bepreparedsutter.org. 

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