More California counties see COVID-19 case improvements

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Designer Gere Kavanaugh, left, wears a face mask of her design, as she exercises with Silver Age Home Health licensed vocational nurse Daisy Cabaluna during a weekly outdoors session at her home in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Monday, May 17, 2021. California is keeping its rules for wearing face masks in place until the state more broadly lifts its pandemic restrictions on June 15. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Five more California counties will move to less restrictive tiers because of improving COVID-19 conditions and no counties regressed, the state Department of Public Health said Tuesday.

Orange, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Amador counties are moving from the orange, or moderate, tier to the yellow, or minimal, tier. Tehama County is improving from the red, substantial, tier to orange.

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The moves will put 13 counties in yellow, 35 in orange, 10 in red. No counties are in the purple, or substantial, tier.

Santa Clara County's health officer, Dr. Sara Cody, immediately announced that new yellow tier rules will implemented Wednesday. Among the local rules being lifted are requirements that businesses maximize the number of staff who are teleworking.

The improvements were announced a day after the state's health director announced that California will require people to keep wearing masks and practice social distancing indoors until June 15 — the date when Gov. Gavin Newsom has said nearly all COVID-19 restrictions will be dropped if cases remain low.

More than 34.8 million vaccines have been administered in California, and the seven-day positivity rate is down to just 0.9%.

During a virtual meeting of the California Travel and Tourism Commission on Tuesday, the governor noted, however, that since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended looser masking guidelines last week there has been a decline in vaccinations “that is creating some pause and a little bit of concern.”

More than a dozen other states, including neighboring Oregon, have already followed the new CDC masking guidelines.

Most of the 58 counties in California — including gigantic Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego — are heeding the state's masking schedule.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said Monday the county will use the extra month to fully vaccinate more people. ”More than half of our adult population remains vulnerable," she said.

After becoming the epicenter for the virus in the U.S. at the start of the year, California has experienced a tremendous decline in COVID-19 cases.

Newsom, like the Biden administration, has been under pressure to ease mask restrictions as coronavirus cases decline nationwide. But the Democratic governor faces a recall election this fall driven largely by frustration with his handling of the pandemic.

The tiers are based on cases, positivity rate and on vaccination figures. Newsom has indicated California will do away with the system in mid-June.

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