Merced County warns its at risk of moving back to Purple Tier, testing sites defunding threat


Medical personnel prepare to administer a COVID-19 swab at a drive-through testing site in Lawrence, N.Y., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. U.S. health officials are redefining what it means to have close contact with someone with COVID-19. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more, so briefer but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes now count. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) –Merced County is at risk of moving back to the more restrictive Purple Tier – and its COVID-19 testing sites are under threat of being defunded, according to the Merced County Department of Public Health.

Officials say Merced County progressed into the Red Tier on Oct. 6, allowing several non-essential indoor businesses to resume operations with safety restrictions.

However, within the last week, the county experienced a higher COVID-19 case rate while the number of people testing continues to decline.

“It would be disappointing for our County to move backwards, when so much progress has been made to move forward into recovery. Everyone must do their part to help, get tested, and continue to follow safety measures,” said Dr. Salvador Sandoval, Merced County’s Public Health Officer.

Health officials say they are in jeopardy of not meeting the state’s metric to remain in the Red Tier. Reverting back to the Purple Tier would include the closure of most indoor services that were only recently authorized to reopen.

“We are asking all County residents to assist by getting tested every 14 days if possible. Increasing our county’s surveillance testing will allow us to stay on the path to reopening and move through the tiers more rapidly,” said Rodrigo Espinoza, Board Chair and District 1 representative for the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

Officials say the state is funding two testing sites in the county and now the the sites are under threat of being defunded if their usage continues to decline at the current pace.

COVID-19 testing is available to all Merced County residents, free of charge, at the following locations:

  • The Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
  • Los Banos Fairgrounds, 403 F St. Los Banos

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