Yolo County passes key reopening benchmarks after change to state guidelines

More Yolo businesses will be allowed to reopen under relaxed public health metrics

Yolo County has been cleared for further reopening under new, relaxed guidelines issued by the State of California on May 18. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office amended earlier public health benchmarks that may have otherwise prevented further reopening in the county. 

Previous guidelines stipulated that individual counties must have no deaths from COVID-19 in the past 14 days in order to move further into Stage Two of the state’s Pandemic Resilience Roadmap — which would allow dine-in restaurants, in-store retail and other businesses to reopen — according to the original attestation form. Other benchmarks included the number of recent positive tests, contact tracing and hospital surge capacity in the county. Individual counties were required to submit attestations that detailed how they were meeting each of these “pandemic readiness” requirements in order to be cleared by the state for further reopening.  

For Yolo County, the initial death-count benchmark was the sole metric that prevented the county from progressing further along the reopening process. In the May 19 Board of Supervisors meeting, Public Health Director Brian Vaughn said the state rejected the initial attestation form submitted by the county. 

“We submitted that [form] with the caveat around that one benchmark we didn’t meet — that zero deaths in the last fourteen days,” Vaughn said. “We considered that a very high benchmark and one that wasn’t realistic for our local context. We provided that explanation, submitted it and just received feedback that we did not meet that requirement, and our attestation wasn’t approved for round one.”

Vaughn pointed to new May 18 guidelines issued by the state which replaced the death-rate metric with one of two potential metrics measuring hospitalization rates. These had been outlined the day before in a press conference by California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly. 

 “Those two data points are hospitalizations looking at no greater than 5% increase in hospitalizations over the past days on average,” Ghaly said. “And for some counties that have very few hospitalizations already, we’re looking at no more than 20 people hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout your County in any one of the last 14 days.”

According to Vaughn, Yolo County easily met both of these new state standards. 

“Both those metrics — whichever we choose — we meet them with flying colors,” Vaughn said. 

On Thursday, May 21, Jenny Tan, the Yolo County Public Information Office’s Manager of Public Affairs, announced in a daily briefing that the county had submitted a new attestation form under the amended guidelines and that the state approved the plan. 

“This means that our county has met criteria outlined by the California Department of Public Health to move more quickly through Stage Two,” Tan said. “Activities and businesses that are now eligible in Yolo County to reopen include dine-in restaurants and shopping centers like retail stores and swap meets.”

This approval doesn’t mean that all businesses of this nature will reopen right away, however. Tan emphasized that the county would be proceeding with caution, and there would be substantial discussion between county public health officers, supervisors and business owners about “which business to reopen and when.”

“Even though we’re eligible to reopen restaurants and retail, we’re not quite going to do so yet,” Tan said. “We will be taking a gradual approach while communicating with business and partners to keep public health a priority.”

Any businesses that do eventually reopen — as well as their future patrons —  will still have to abide by public health guidelines, like mask requirements and social distancing protocol, according to Tan. 

The upcoming Board of Supervisors meetings will include discussions of which specific Stage Two business and activities in Yolo County will be approved for reopening in the near future, Tan said. 

Written by: Tim Lalonde — city@theaggie.org