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Orange County Moves to Purple Tier Amid Second Wave Of COVID-19

As COVID-19 cases have reached record highs in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that Orange County would immediately be moved to the most restrictive level of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy on Nov. 16. 

“California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet — faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer,” Newsom said in a press release. “That is why we are pulling an emergency brake in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

Orange County joins 40 more California counties in the purple tier, which altogether contain 94% of the state’s population including all of Southern California.

The Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which was implemented in August, ranks counties using three key metrics: adjusted case rate, county-wide positivity rate and positivity rate within the health equity quartile. Based on a county’s rank, different restrictions and regulations are imposed in regards to their reopening status. 

The purple tier, which signals a widespread risk level and imposes the most restrictions, represents an adjusted case rate of more than seven COVID-19 cases per 100,000 Californians daily. Currently, statewide metrics indicate a rate of 16.5 new cases per day, while Orange County has reported an adjusted case rate of 10.8 per 100,000 residents daily as of Nov. 16.

Going into the holiday season, Newsom also announced a new limited stay-at-home order in the form of a curfew. Beginning Nov. 21, Californians who are in the purple tier counties are instructed to remain at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The stay-at-home order is to remain in effect through Dec. 21 at 5 a.m., according to a letter by Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan.

“This Limited Stay at Home Order will reduce opportunities for disease transmission with the goal of decreasing the number of hours individuals are in the community and mixing with individuals outside of their household,” Dr. Pan said in the statement.

Health experts had predicted a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the form of a “second wave” throughout Orange County due to the increase in confirmed cases in the beginning of November, reaching a rate of 6 new cases per 100,000 residents on Nov. 9. 

Currently, the county has surpassed its most single-day COVID-19 cases since a widespread outbreak of cases in July, which was considered the peak of the disease in the area. A new set of 1,169 COVID-19 cases were reported on Nov. 20, compared with a previous record of 1,058 confirmed single-day cases on July 7.

Moving to the purple tier directs a halt in non-essential indoor operations such as entertainment, restaurants and gyms in favor of safe outdoor alternatives or temporary closures. In addition, masks and face coverings are mandatory outside of the home.

In order to facilitate COVID-19 testing and reporting, the Orange County Board of Supervisors Testing Ad Hoc Committee has partnered with Aliso Viejo’s Ambry Genetics to provide 11,000 at-home self-administered saliva test kits to disproportionately impacted communities with the highest transmission rates. Registration for the program begins Nov. 23, and the county plans to make approximately 500,000 additional kits available by the end of the year for all its residents.

“I’m proud to see the County of Orange expand our COVID-19 testing capabilities to include at-home testing kits,” OC Supervisor Doug Chaffee said in a press release. “As we make testing more accessible for our residents and encourage the wearing of masks and limiting social gatherings, I’m confident that we’ll be able to move Orange County out of the purple tier.”

Ariana Keshishian is a City News Intern for the 2020 fall quarter. She can be reached at