Lassen County may move into ‘red’ tier as cases increase

Lassen County may be heading toward the “Red” Tier in California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy following the recent increase in COVID-19 numbers, but the possible loss of non-symptomatic testing at public health will not affect the testing of correctional officers.

“We are very likely to be moving to the more restrictive ‘Red’ tier beginning next Wednesday. The state will release their final determination Tuesday at or around noon. They did give us a heads up that the data justifies the movement,” wrote Barbara Longo, health and social services director and joint commander for the Lassen County COVID-19 Incident Command.

The state’s tier system is based on test positivity and adjusted case rate. At a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks before moving forward. Data is reviewed weekly and tiers are updated on Tuesdays. To move forward, a county must meet the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks. If a county’s metrics worsen for two consecutive weeks, it will be assigned a more restrictive tier.

However, being in the “red” tier is not new to Lassen County — it’s where the county started when the Blueprint was first rolled out this summer.

“We began the new color tier system in ‘Red’ so we have been in this situation already,” wrote Longo.

Moreover, High Desert State Prison is also experiencing a large increase of COVID-19 positive inmates, with more than 250 the past two weeks alone, but those cases do not impact the county’s standing in the tier system.

“The inmate COVID-19 cases do not impact our community numbers; however, the staff positive cases do count toward our case numbers — but only those that are Lassen County residents,” Longo continued.


What’s happening with free non-symptomatic testing?

Earlier this month, the Lassen COVID-19 Incident Command shared that state funding for the COVID-19 Project Baseline Testing was ending in November. The testing provided two days a week where anyone, even those without symptoms, could participate in a drive through clinic Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Should the testing not be replaced, though, it will not affect local correctional officers from receiving testing if they are asymptomatic.

“CDCR has a laboratory testing contract. CDCR tests and will continue to test staff — we audit the testing process to ensure that the techniques they use meet our public health standards. Staff may also test at public health if they want to be retested, but that is not required by CDCR,” wrote Longo.

The county is still working on finding a replacement for the free testing clinic, however, those who have symptoms or cases deemed important, will still be able to receive a test.

“We are still negotiating a new contract for community non-symptomatic testing. We do have and will continue to have laboratory services for symptomatic individuals or those that we deem important test,” added Longo.

The Lassen County Public Health department will continue to offer free drive-through COVID-19 testing through Nov. 25, at the Public Health Department, 1445 Paul Bunyan as follows:

  • 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, Nov. 17.
  • 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Nov. 18.
  • 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, Nov. 24.
  • 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Those wanting to get tested on these dates should register online at 19 prior to arriving at the clinic. Project Baseline Testing is only available for individuals 18 years or older.


Blueprint for a Safer Economy

Based on recent data, each county will fall into one of four colored tiers – Purple (Widespread), Red (Substantial), Orange (Moderate) and Yellow (Minimal) – based on how prevalent COVID-19 is in each county and the extent of community spread. That color will indicate how sectors can operate.

For example, in the Purple (Widespread) tier where the disease is widespread, restaurants can only operate outdoors. But once a county has achieved a lower level of disease transmission and moved into the Red (Substantial) tier, restaurants can operate with 25 percent capacity indoors or 100 patrons, whichever is fewer.

It relies on two leading health metrics: number of cases per 100,000 residents and percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive. In addition, counties will also be required to show they are targeting resources and making the greatest efforts to prevent and fight COVID in communities and with individuals with the highest risk, and demonstrate improvements in outcomes.

Find the PDF below explaining what is allowed and not allowed in California for each of the four tiers.