More Changes Coming to California’s County Tier System

Coronavirus vaccination rates could soon help determine which counties are subject to the strictest and most lenient restrictions. Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that the state has been having discussions with local officials about connecting the county tier system to vaccines. The current system categorizes counties by cases, positivity rates, and an equity metric.

That wasn’t the only important change announced last week. The governor also said the state will set aside 40% of vaccines for those in disadvantaged neighborhoods — that is, those in the lowest quartile of the California Healthy Places index. Once 2 million doses have been administered to those communities, the state will reduce the threshold for counties to move from the most restrictive (purple) tier to the red tier. That would speed up reopenings.

Some lawmakers criticized the last minute changes, which were articulated only after they reached a school reopening deal with the governor.

“If we are going to change the tiers and suddenly everyone is in red tier, that changes the classes that have to be open, the number of classes and the testing cadences,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Sacramento) told the Sacramento Bee. “So, if you get calls from your teachers union a little upset, they have the right to be upset. You don’t negotiate a deal and change the parameters of that deal on the day we are voting on it.”

California expects to reach the 2 million goal in about two weeks.