Santa Cruz County was removed from the state's COVID-19 watchlist after the list was unfrozen for the first time in several weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
Santa Cruz County was added to the watchlist late last month after it was flagged for factors like rising case and hospitalization rates. Counties on the list are prohibited from opening certain higher-risk businesses like salons and gyms.
It was removed from the list retroactive to Friday, Newsom said. "We've said this in the past, you've seen this in the past, this is a dynamic list," Newsom said.
Santa Cruz County is the first to come off the list since state officials froze additions and removals due to a technical glitch with the state coronavirus tracking system, the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange, which had a backlog of nearly 300,000 test samples.
The state has caught up with the backlog, confirming nearly 15,000 coronavirus cases that had been unaccounted for since mid-July.
In addition to Santa Cruz County's removal, Amador, Mendocino, Inyo, Calaveras and Sierra counties were added to the list.
Santa Cruz County is now the only part of the greater Bay Area and Monterey Peninsula to fall off the list, which now includes 42 counties.
"The community should continue taking steps to protect themselves and their community from COVID-19, including avoiding indoor gatherings with those outside your household, maintaining physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands and sneezing/coughing into your elbow," Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency spokeswoman Corinne Hyland said in a statement.
Newsom said the state's coronavirus case and hospitalization data is not where public health officials want them but they are trending in the right direction.
Hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions due to the coronavirus have fallen by 21 and 14 percent, respectively, between Aug. 3 and Aug. 16. The state's testing positivity rate is also down to 6.5 percent over that 14-day span.
"The positivity rate, stabilizing and moving broadly in the right direction, also connects the expectation that we'll see hospitalizations to continue to decline," Newsom said.
As of Monday, state public health officials have confirmed 628,031 coronavirus cases, including 11,242 deaths. Nearly 10 million tests have been conducted since the pandemic began.
This story was written and reported by Eli Walsh for Bay City News Foundation.