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As predicted, Humboldt County’s dramatic rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases prompted state public health officials on Tuesday to move us into the most restrictive, purple tier indicating “widespread” risk under California’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

The move comes just eight days after Humboldt County was moved from the least-restrictive, or yellow, tier directly to the red or “substantial” tier as state public health officials pulled the “emergency brake” in an effort to slow the spread.

Forty-five of the state’s 58 counties, including all of Humboldt’s neighbors, are now in the purple tier while another eight in the red. That means 99.9 percent of California residents live in counties with “substantial” or “widespread” risk. 

Graphics via CDPH.

In a live press conference streamed online at noon Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said cases in California are growing at a faster rate than ever before. “We are in the midst of a surge,” he said. 

The latest statewide daily case count of 15,329 is close to a record, Ghaly said. Over the past two weeks there has been a 51 percent increase in test positivity rate and an 81.3 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. There are currently 5,844 California residents hospitalized due to COVID-19, and Ghaly said we can expect deaths to rise as well.

So what does going purple mean for Humboldt County? In short, more restrictions. With Thanksgiving just two days away, gatherings are limited to three households and must now take place outdoors only. Restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and places of worship are also limited to outdoor-only operations under the purple tier. Retail is limited to 25 percent capacity, down from 50 percent in the red tier. 

A full list of the restrictions in each tier can be found on the California Department of Public Health website, at this link.

On Facebook, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said it will continue to prioritize “education and voluntary compliance, rather than criminal enforcement of health orders,” saying it has seen “overwhelming success with this approach.”


ADDENDUM: One thing we neglected to mention is this (as articulated by the county in a press release):

Now that Humboldt County is in the purple tier, the state’s Limited Stay at Home Order will take effect locally on Wednesday Thursday. This order requires residents to refrain from gathering with non-household members and stop any non-essential activities between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Members of the same household may leave their home during this time as long as they do not interact with other households, and activities related to “the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure” are exempt, according to the state’s order.