In partnership with residents, cities, and businesses, San Bernardino County is taking steps toward meeting the metrics that will get the county off of the state monitoring list and allow county businesses and schools to reopen if they choose.

The list includes 35 of California’s 58 counties, including San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles counties.

According to a public release, San Bernardino County has activated programs that are showing consistent, positive results. Five counties in the state have recently demonstrated enough progress in their fight against COVID-19 to be removed from the list. County leaders are confident that with continued commitment and patience from residents and businesses, San Bernardino County can do the same.

Monitoring List criteria

The state has listed six criteria that put a county on its Monitoring List:

1. Experiencing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations of 10 percent or more over the previous three days. San Bernardino County is well within state standards.

2. Having fewer than 20 percent of ICU beds in the county available at any given time. San Bernardino County is well within state standards.

3. Having fewer than 25 percent of hospital ventilators available for use at any given time. San Bernardino County is well within state standards.

4. Performing fewer than 150 tests per 100,000 residents per day (over a 7-day average). For San Bernardino County that means averaging approximately 3,000 tests per day – and the county is very close to achieving this.

5. Having more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days. The county’s current average is about 200, but improving.

6. Having more than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents and an 8 percent test positivity rate. San Bernardino County positivity rate currently stands at 10.6 percent and it is steadily declining.

San Bernardino County’s progress toward meeting the state’s metrics can be tracked by clicking the COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard directly from the county’s sbcovid19.com website and going to the CDPH Monitoring tab.

Making headway

In recent months, the county has launched several key initiatives that are showing results. The COVID-Compliant Business Partnership is a success, and thousands of businesses are practicing strict safety guidelines in their facilities. This initiative has been combined with the Education/Engagement/Enforcement (EEE) Plan that has seen the county already visit 2,000 high-risk businesses with education and resources.

The county also increased testing capacity with a new, painless nasal testing system that can deliver results in less than three days. A robust contact tracing system that can identify and isolate infected individuals to quickly stop the spread of the virus has also been implemented.

The County Department of Public Health engages with the State Department of Public Health on a nearly daily basis to discuss key data points and the county’s strategies and progress. The county was recently successful in convincing the state to consider regional data within its vast region when considering school waivers rather than judging schools against countywide numbers.

News cases and positivity rates

Corwin Porter, the county’s director of public health, said that although the county has improved its performance in news cases and positivity rates, there is still a need to do a much better job to get off the Monitoring List.

“Our performance on these measures is improving,” Porter said. “We have done an excellent job preparing our hospitals for a potential surge in seriously ill patients. Now, residents need to not let their guard down and be cautious about gathering with family and friends.”

Another area where the county is dramatically improving its performance is testing, which is also lowering the positivity rate. The state requires an average (over seven days) of at least 150 tests per 100,000 residents per day, which in San Bernardino County’s case means an average of about 3,000 tests per day. Since Aug. 9, after investing heavily in better and quicker testing and promoting testing to the public, the county has averaged 4,679 tests per day.

Porter noted that getting more county residents (including those who show no signs of the disease) to take a test will improve our performance on this benchmark while reducing our positivity rate. Thankfully, the recent expansion in the county’s testing capacity is now enabling many more residents to get a test, which is free, painless and can be scheduled without a doctor’s appointment.

The county has many appointments available each day, and the test literally takes only a few minutes to administer

“Among other benefits, testing will identify asymptomatic carriers who could be unwittingly spreading the virus,” Porter said. “By identifying these individuals and those with whom they have been in close contact, we can enable them to quickly isolate themselves and thus reduce the spread of the virus.

”We can get off the monitoring list if everyone continues to follow the guidelines we’ve been emphasizing: maintain a safe distance from other people, wear a mask or face covering when such distancing is impractical, and please, please avoid gathering with people outside your immediate household,” added Porter. “The more consistently we follow these simple rules, the more quickly we can get off the state’s list and get back to business.”

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