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Merced County moved out of the state’s most restrictive COVID tier on Wednesday after California health officials corrected for delayed reporting of coronavirus test results.

A sudden surge of case reports from a testing laboratory kept Merced County from moving into a less restrictive reopening tier last week, county officials said.

Merced Officials Cry Foul

The situation resulted in the county being the last in the state to still be operating under most restrictive purple tier. That is — until local officials cried foul.

“The data dump was processed as one day’s worth of cases instead of being spread out over more than two weeks,” according to a Merced County news release.

Up to that point, the county had achieved COVID case rates and other required metrics to move into the red tier, county officials said. Merced County appealed to the state, which then reprocessed the data and confirmed the county’s eligibility for the red tier.

“We appreciate the State recognizing this issue and making the change,” said Daron McDaniel, chair of the Merced County Board of Supervisors. “I would like to thank County staff for identifying this data error and addressing it with the State—being placed in the wrong tier is a disservice to our business community and we owe it to them to get it right.”

Change to Red Tier Effective Immediately

The tier change became effective immediately. The red tier allows for the re-opening of more non-essential business operations.

“Remaining in the purple tier yet another week was not an option and we are pleased that the adjudication request was approved by the State,” said Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, Director of Public Health for Merced County in a statement.

As of Wednesday, Merced County case data shows 8.2 daily cases per 100,000 residents (qualifies for red tier) and a 4 percent positivity rate (qualifies for orange tier).

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