Counties Begin to Come Off of California COVID-19 Monitoring List

COVID-19 Update

Some Counties Appear to Have Stabilized, but Next Steps Remain Unclear

On Monday, August 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California has resolved data reporting issues with its COVID-19 database, and therefore has unfrozen the State’s county monitoring list. The list tracks counties with elevated rates of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths. As of the morning of Thursday, August 20, 38 of California’s 58 counties were on the monitoring list.

Counties on the monitoring list are required to close additional industries beyond the required statewide closures. These additional closures include gyms and fitness centers, places of worship, protests, offices for noncritical sectors, personal care services, hair salons and barbershops, and malls, as required by the state’s health order. An up-to-date list of restrictions in all counties is available from Manatt here.

However, it is not clear whether removal from the monitoring list will immediately allow counties to lift restrictions on certain industries. First, counties must stay off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days before they can begin lifting restrictions. Second, any loosening of restrictions must be done by county health officers and must otherwise adhere to state health orders. Santa Cruz County’s Health Services Agency noted the following in a statement on August 17:

Being removed from the monitoring list is an indication of reduced spread of COVID-19 and is the first step toward the lifting of economic measures and school restrictions. However, counties must be off the data monitoring list for 14 consecutive days for measures and restrictions to be lifted, and no immediate changes to those operations may be implemented at this time.

Governor Newsom indicated in a press conference on Wednesday, August 19, that the state was preparing strategies for reopening based on new criteria, which he anticipated would be made public in the next week.

San Diego County officials were pleased at having been removed from the list after arguing that the County had met the state’s monitoring thresholds; the County was removed on Tuesday, August 18.

Orange County remains on the monitoring list despite focused efforts to have the County removed. But County officials believe they are close to the state’s thresholds, and think the County should be ready to be removed from the list within days. According to the Orange County Register, “Orange County’s case rate—new cases over two weeks—was 118 cases per 100,000 residents, still above the state health department’s threshold of 100 per 100,000.”

Manatt will continue to monitor developments at the state and county levels.

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