The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently announced that a total of 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Californians in some of the state’s hardest-hit communities, increasing immunity where the state’s transmission rates and disease burden have been the highest during the pandemic. With this equity metric met, and because vaccines slow the spread of disease and serious illness, the state has updated the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

With this update, 16 counties are moving to a less restrictive tier, although local public health departments may implement policies that are more restrictive than the state. Counties moving to less restrictive tiers include Contra Costa, El Dorado, Humboldt, Imperial, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Tulare, and Ventura. The updated tier assignments take effect on Wednesday, April 7.

“California is making great progress in administering COVID-19 vaccine doses,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency. “We must continue to do our best to vaccinate Californians as safely and quickly as possible. Our vaccine equity focus remains the right thing to do and ensures we are having the greatest impact in reducing transmission, protecting our health care delivery system and saving lives.”

Due to the 4 million doses milestone, the Purple (Widespread) tier threshold will remain at greater than 10 cases per 100,000; the Red (Substantial) tier case rate range will narrow to 6-10 cases per 100,000; and the Orange (Moderate) tier case rate range will shift to 2-5.9 cases per 100,0000. The Yellow (Minimal) tier case rate range will shift to less than 2 cases per 100,000.

In the Blueprint update, CDPH also added an additional metric that will be reviewed before a county moves to a more restrictive tier. During the weekly tier assessment, if a county’s adjusted case rate and/or test positivity has fallen within a more restrictive tier for two consecutive weeks, the state reviews the county’s most recent 10 days of data – and now, also hospitalization data, to determine if there are signs of improvement to indicate the county can remain in the less restrictive tier.

On March 4, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state had set aside 40 percent of vaccine doses for the hardest-hit communities and established an equity metric to increase vaccinations in those communities. Doing so recognizes that the pandemic did not affect California communities equally. Forty percent of COVID cases and deaths have occurred in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index (HPI), which provides overall scores and data that predict life expectancy and compares community conditions that shape health across the state.

The state met its 2 million goal on March 12, and just 24 days later doubled that number, reaching the 4 million doses mark.

“Administering 2 million doses in 23 days in our areas of highest need is a good indicator of the breadth of our outreach,” said Tomás Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. “We thank all of our local government and health care partners in working with the state to continue our work and get this vaccine administered to all Californians. In the meantime, we must all do our part by continuing to wear masks, practice physical distancing and get ourselves and our loved ones vaccinated as soon as possible.”

More information about the Blueprint for a Safer Economy is available at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs.