SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – All Orange County schools could receive permission to reopen campuses by late September, health officials announced Monday night.
The O.C. Health Care Agency reported that it could receive permission for all K-12 schools to reopen for some form of in-person instruction by Sept. 22.
On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new four-tiered coronavirus assessment system that will determine the process by which each county can reopen businesses and schools.
The entire Southland, including O.C., is currently under the worst level, purple, which measures the spread of coronavirus as “widespread.”
However, County Health Officer Clayton Chau received confirmation from state health officials Monday that O.C. was on track to be downgraded from the purple tier to the red tier on Sept. 8 due to its improving coronavirus metrics.
Once it moves into red, there will be a 14-day waiting period before it can reopen schools, the OCHCA tweeted.
Nearly all O.C. school districts have reported that they will go to some kind of hybrid system when in-class instruction resumes.
To be downgraded from the purple tier, a county must have less than 7 new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, and have a positivity rate of less than 8%. It must maintain those levels for 14 straight days.
On Tuesday, the O.C. Health Care Agency reported eight additional COVID-19 fatalities and 287 new cases, bringing the county’s totals to 988 and 48,825 respectively.
The rate of residents testing positive for coronavirus increased slightly from 4.9% on Monday to 5% on Tuesday, but it is still below the state’s threshold of 8%.
Both hospitalization rates and the number of patients in ICU dropped. The county is also well above the state standard for available ICU beds and ventilators.
The current case rate per 100,000 residents over the past seven days is 5.6. To move to the red tier requires a case rate per 100,000 residents between 4 and 7.
Dozens of mostly private K-6 schools in Orange County have already received special waivers to reopen their campuses to in-person instruction.
While most indoor operations must remain closed under the purple tier, the new system does give permission to all counties at any tier to reopen indoor barbershops and hair salons, as well as indoor shopping malls, all at only 25% capacity, although Los Angeles County has not yet eased those guidelines.
On Monday one of the Southland’s biggest malls, the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, reopened to shoppers as a result.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)