Covid-19, novel coronavirus 2019
Novel Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) (CDC Image)

MONTEREY COUNTY — While the state of California lowered the tiers of multiple counties to the most restrictive tier (purple) earlier this month, Monterey County has never left the purple tier since the new system was implemented this summer.

The latest restrictions also come with more need for testing to monitor the pandemic, with the county soon to see new testing sites.

“For Monterey County, for at least three weeks now, we have evidence of increasing numbers of cases,” said Dr. Edward Moreno, the county’s health officer. “We also have had an increase in hospitalizations due to Covid-19.”

While the state’s change to the reopening tiers also came with a modification in the state’s ability to switch a county’s restriction tier at any time rather than Tuesdays, Moreno explained that is unlikely to happen for Monterey County anytime soon.

“At the rate that Covid-19 is increasing in the state of California, it’s highly unlikely that a county with worsening metrics would stabilize their metrics from one week to the next,” Moreno said. “This is a serious situation and the state has acted accordingly.”

Monterey County currently has an adjusted case rate of 14.1 as of Nov. 18 and a test positive rate of 6.1. With the state having gone more restrictive to most counties, they did not report out any equity index rates for Monterey County. The threshold to move to the less restrictive red tier would require an adjusted case rate of 4 to 7 and a positivity rate of 8.

“For the months of September and October, we were looking at around 30 people in Monterey County hospitalized for Covid-19 in our four hospitals,” Moreno said. “That number as of a couple days ago has closer to around 50, so that has been increasing over the past couple weeks. That’s another indication of increased transmission and the impact of Covid-19 on our community.”

Moreno noted the ICU bed availability remains stable at the moment.

“We’ll have to see what happens, as when people get hospitalized with Covid-19, some of them do OK,” Moreno said. “Others don’t fare so well and can deteriorate after about a week or two.”

To help with monitoring the spread of the virus locally, Monterey County will soon have additional testing capacity. The county currently has two testing sites, one in Seaside and one in Salinas. The Seaside one was opened after the former site in Greenfield was shut down for low testing numbers.

“The one in Seaside has significantly increased number of testing compared to when it was in South County,” Moreno said. “Their goal is to have at least 85% of the testing capacity utilized on a regular basis at those sites. We seem to be meeting those expectations.”

A total of 120,000 Covid-19 tests are conducted daily in California, but Moreno noted the state would like to add another 150,000 tests per day.

The county has requested new testing sites, and has already been approved for a walk-up site in Castroville. Another has been approved for South County, but the county and testing company are working on where it will be located. It is planned as a drive-thru site.

“They can test more people in a drive-thru than they can in a walk-up,” Moreno said.

In addition, the county has been approved to have a traveling team to conduct tests.

“A traveling team is intended to go on a rotating schedule to different schools and provide testing for school staff and can also go to skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, and assist in helping those facilities meet their requirement to have their staff tested on a regular basis,” Moreno said.

There is currently no timeline on when the new sites will open or when the testing team will begin its rotation.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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