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Surge in positive SJ County COVID-19 cases could reverse re-openings now underway
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The four tiers for reopening of businesses and other venues based on COVID-19 conditions as mandated by the State of California.

San Joaquin County’s rate of daily positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 residents as well as the overall percentage of positive tests has been rising in recent days.

That prompted City Manager Miranda Lutzow to warn the Manteca City Council Tuesday that the latest county data — if it continues and holds for a 14-day average being above specific levels — will end up forcing the reversal of re-opening rules made just 9 days ago. That would mean gyms and other concerns that just reopened will have to close again and for other businesses such as restaurants to have tighter restrictions re-imposed.

Lutzow said county health officers have emphasized the best way to avoid that from happening is for more people that are not showing any signs of COVID-19 to get tested.

At the same time social distancing protocols including wearing face masks in numerous situations is considered key to slowdown the potential spread and reduce the number of new positive cases.

But, as Lutzow noted, there is a catch. Many private physicians and others doing tests for the coronavirus have supply issues meaning that if you don’t have symptoms and pass a battery of questions they may not test you.

The county is trying to counter that by arranging for as many free testing sites at various locations as possible that offer free testing for all regardless of whether they are showing symptoms. One such effort took place last week in Manteca at the former Qualex parking lot on Industrial Park Drive. The health department posts testing location information on its website at

In response to a question from Mayor Ben Cantu, Lutzow said the state-imposed rules on Manteca businesses are impacted by the overall county rate and not just test results from those residing within Manteca.

A reversal — should that happen — would be crushing for a number of business sectors.

Restaurants, as an example, as of Sept. 29 could start serving patrons indoors but they can only do so at 25 percent capacity and as long as the number doesn’t exceed 100. Almost all restaurants continue to provide outdoor dining options as 25 percent indoor capacity is significantly below their pre-COVID-19 pandemic business levels.

Should there be 7 or more new cases of COVID-19 at a daily rate of 7 or more per 100,000 over an average of 14 days that would force San Joaquin County back into the purple that is the highest of four color-coded state restrictions for COVID-19 protocols given the coronavirus at that point is considered to be widespread. That would mean inside dining would again be banned.

In the current “red” designation gyms and health clubs can now open but only at 10 percent capacity.

Being in the red allows retail operations to go from 25 percent to 50 percent capacity. Body waxing salons and tattoo parlors along with other personal services can open indoors with modifications. Cultural ceremonies will be allowed at whichever is lowest — 25 percent capacity or 100 people.

Theaters can open with 25 percent capacity of 100 people, whichever is less. The same limits apply to places of worship.

San Joaquin County was moved down to red after getting its positivity rate from new cases down to 5 percent or below for at least two weeks.

All of that goes away, however, if the county creeps back into purple.

What San Joaquin County wants to move to next instead of back to purple is down to orange. In orange gyms can operate at 25 percent capacity while restaurants at 50 percent capacity or 200 people, whichever is less.

The orange stage allows bars and other locations that serve alcoholic beverages without meals to open outdoor operations. Cardrooms can move indoor with 25 percent capacity. Family entertainment centers cam open indoors for what is described as “naturally distanced” activities such as bowling alleys and climbing walls as long as they adhere to medications and capacity is capped at 25 percent.

Cultural ceremonies can be at 50 percent capacity as long as it is still below 100 people.

The fourth tier is yellow and requires being under a 2 percent daily positive rate for new cases.

Gyms can operate at 50 percent capacity in the yellow tier. Restaurants are still at 50 percent capacity but there is no numeric cap on the overall number.

Most indoor businesses can open at this point with modifications.

Updated COVID conditions

Postings on the San Joaquin County COVID-19 dashboard on Tuesday as 11:45 a.m. show 1,277 persons out of 776,000 San Joaquin County residents are currently positive with the virus although they are not necessarily sick. That is the number once you subtract the 19,454 people that health officials have determined to have recovered from the 20,731 cases since March

Many of the recovered may never have been ill. The mask order and social distancing is designed to protect people from those who may not know they are carrying the virus and who may never show symptoms.

There were 162 new cases on Tuesday compared to 112 new cases on then prior Tuesday, Sept. 29.

There have been 472 deaths in San Joaquin County. That’s an increase of 25 in the past week. Of those, 11.5 percent did not have pre-existing conditions such as asthma, obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, or diabetes

There were 31 COVID-19 patients countywide as of Tuesday with 12 using ICU beds. That reflects 4 less COVID patients countywide since a week ago.

There were no COVID-19 patients at Doctors Hospital of Manteca and only one non-ICU patient at Kaiser Manteca Hospital. The Manteca hospital statistics are unchanged from a week ago.