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Quick Guide: What California’s Color-Coded County Tracking System Means for Schools

In this Quick Guide, EdSource answers your questions about California’s four-tiered, color-coded tracking system that replaced the previous county monitoring list at end of August.

Sample questions and answers follow.

What is the color-coded county tracking system and how does it affect schools?

Gov. Newsom released the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” on Aug. 28 that changed the way the state monitors counties to determine when schools can open for in-person instruction. However, its principal impact is on when businesses can reopen..

The blueprint includes a four-tiered, color-coded system that tracks counties by the number of Covid-19 cases recorded each day and the percentage of positive cases out of the total number of tests administered, both averaged over seven days. It went into effect Aug. 31, and replaced the previous “county monitoring list.” On Sept. 30, the California Department of Public Health released a new health equity metric that went into effect Oct. 6 and impacts a county’s ability to move between tiers.

What do the colors stand for?

Purple, or Tier 1, indicates that the virus is widespread in the county — with more than seven cases per 100,000 residents or more than 8% of tests results reported positive over seven days. Red (Tier 2) indicates “substantial” spread of the virus, while orange (Tier 3) indicates “moderate” spread and yellow (Tier 4) indicates “minimal” spread of the virus in the county.

If one of the two metrics is higher than the other, the state will assign the county to the color associated with the highest rating. For example, if a county reports six cases per 100,000, but a 9% positivity rate, it will be rated purple.

No public or private schools in counties rated purple can reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive an elementary waiver for students in grades K-6 permitted under Gov. Newsom’s July 17 executive order, or are following guidance for small groups of children, known as “cohorts.” See below for counties that move into purple from red.

Counties that move from purple to red can open for in-person instruction after they have remained in the red tier for 14 days. However, some counties may have stricter rules in place prohibiting schools from opening.

Excerpted from “Quick Guide: What California’s Color-Coded County Tracking System Means for Schools.” Read the full Q & A on EdSource for up-to-date information about the monitoring system, the current rating for counties throughout California, waivers that may allow schools to open if COVID is widespread in their county, and more.

This online Q & A will be updated regularly as new information becomes available. If you’d like to receive regular updates from EdSource, subscribe to one of EdSource’s free email lists.

Source: EdSource | Quick Guide: What California’s Color-Coded County Tracking System Means for Schools, https://edsource.org/2020/quick-guide-what-californias-color-coded-county-tracking-system-means-for-schools/639357 |© 2020 EdSource
EdSource is non-profit journalism website reporting on key education issues in California and beyond.

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