Just days away from the June 15th lifting of most public health mandates, Sonoma County is seeing a disturbing uptick in COVID cases that could be mirrored elsewhere in the state as the summer goes on.

While much of the Bay Area is in the state's least restrictive "Yellow" tier as the June 15 unmasking day approaches, Sonoma is one of three counties in the region that remains in the "Orange" tier. And according to the latest COVID testing data coming out of the county, Sonoma could even qualify for "Red" tier status if the color tiers weren't set to go away next week.

This leads to concerns about what could happen when all distancing and masking requirements get lifted, both in Sonoma and elsewhere in the state where a significant portion of the population remains unvaccinated.

Sonoma County has recorded 280 new COVID cases since June 1, an average of 25 per day. And as the Chronicle reports, in the last week, the daily case rate in the county has risen to 7 per 100,000 residents, up from 3 per 100,000 the week before.

County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase tells the paper that because 73% of the county has received at least one vaccine dose and 63% are fully vaccinated, the spike in cases is not leading to severe outcomes — though the county did record one new COVID death earlier this week.

"That said," Mase says, "we are still seeing cases in the community, mostly in young, unvaccinated individuals who are gathering with others."

As of Thursday, Sonoma County had 11 COVID patients in hospitals, up from 9 a day earlier, and one person was in intensive care.

Mase says that despite the concerning uptick, she feels confident the county can align with the rest of the state and reopen fully on June 15.

"Due to our high vaccination rate and widely available vaccine appointments, as well as our low hospitalizations, we are ready for the reopening," Mase tells the Chronicle.

Across the state, COVID hospitalizations continue to tick downward, and as of Thursday, they reached a new pandemic low. There were 982 COVID patients in hospitals statewide as of June 10, the lowest number since hospitalizations began being tracked by the state last spring and the first time the number has dipped below 1,000.

In the Bay Area, there were 212 confirmed and suspected COVID patients hospitalized as of Thursday, 24 of those in San Francisco.

California's vaccine lottery continues with its second drawing Friday, with Governor Gavin Newsom pulling numbers to award 15 more vaccinated Californians with $50,000 apiece. On June 15 the big drawing occurs with ten $1.5 million prizes.

Photo: Annie Spratt