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Tuesday, July 12, 2022 9:43 AM

Is it safe to go shopping? Or fly? How to interpret the COVID-19 color tiers 

Health & Wellness

Depending on which news channel you watch, we might be in a red, orange, blue or green COVID-19 risk tier. But what does that mean for you and your family? Or — if you own a business — your employees and customers? 
To keep things simple, here are the three main color systems you’ll see used locally:

1. Fresno County Department of Public Health
Fresno County’s four tiers are meant to help the general public and businesses decide whether to use masking and social distancing prevention measures. 
 close-up of a mask held by small hands
To determine the tier, county public health officials look at changes over a seven-day period in the percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19. They also calculate the actual number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, hospitalization numbers and COVID-19 deaths. 
In this system:

  • Yellow = minimal risk. You should be safe to gather indoors and outdoors and go without a mask.

  • Orange = moderate risk. Gathering outside is fine. Masks are recommended if you are immunocompromised or at risk of serious disease.

  • Red = substantial risk. Social distancing and masking are highly recommended.

  • Purple = widespread risk. Lockdowns might be considered to minimize deaths and hospitalizations.

2. CDC’s community levels help businesses assess risk 
If you own a business, you’re probably aware of the three-color COVID-19 risk tiers used by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC bases its assessment on hospital admissions, percentage of hospital beds being used by COVID-19 patients and new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
This CDC map can show you where your community falls on the risk scale.

  • Green =  low risk

  • Yellow = medium risk

  • Orange = high risk

3. CDC’s integrated county view uses four tiers
A second CDC model for assessing COVID-19 risk is used by health professionals to decide what personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed for their employees and what restrictions might be needed for visitors. 
This model looks at changes over a seven-day period for new cases per 100,000 people and the percentage of people testing positive. 

  • Blue = low risk

  • Yellow = moderate risk

  • Orange = substantial risk

  • Red = high risk

Your own risk of COVID-19 depends on your vaccination and booster status, your age and general health, and whether you are immunocompromised or have a chronic disease that puts you at greater risk for hospitalization. 
Be sure to watch for local changes and follow guidelines to keep yourself, your family, your business and your community safe.