Bay Area health officials have eased some restrictions in the latest shelter-in-place order that’s aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak.
The new mandate—which applies to Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Marin and San Francisco counties, along with the city of Berkeley—will allow construction, real estate transactions and certain outdoor businesses to resume as long as they comply with safety and social distancing protocols.
The order goes into effect May 4 and is set to last through May 31.
“Outdoor businesses and activities likely pose lower risk of Covid-19, especially where there’s strict social distancing,” Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said at a Wednesday morning news conference.
Nurseries, landscapers, gardeners and childcare programs for essential workers where there are less than 12 children will all be able to operate under the new order, according to Williams. Other recreational outdoor activities and facilities that were previously barred—like skate parks—can also reopen as long as the activity doesn’t “involve shared equipment or physical contact.”
Williams, however, warned that some businesses, like golf courses, that fall into these categories won’t be allowed to reopen because of the state order.
“We must all abide by both the local health orders and the state health orders,” he said. “That means whichever is stricter controls.”
Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said the latest order is designed to “preserve the progress that we’ve made.” She noted that on Feb. 4, Santa Clara County had two of 11—or 18 percent—of the confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country. Six weeks later, the county accounts for less than 5 percent of cases in the state and an even smaller fraction of the more than 1 million cases in the U.S.
“My point here is to just remind us all here at Santa Clara County we got something of a head start in this pandemic,” she said. “But through gradual and collective actions, starting with voluntary working from home and culminating in sheltering in place for the last 6 weeks, we have slowed the spread, flattened the curve, preserved our hospital capacity and prevented many many deaths.”
While the county is moving toward loosening restrictions, Dr. Cody warned that, “if we move too fast to ease restrictions, the potential for exponential spread could have grave impacts to the health and wellness of our residents, as well as to our economy.”
Bay Area health officials have also created a list of indicators to measure the progress of the containment of the coronavirus and make decisions about easing restrictions in the near future.
The indicators include:
- If the total number of cases is flat or decreasing.
- If the number of hospitalizations is flat or decreasing.
- If there is adequate hospital capacity to meet the need of the county's nearly 2 million residents.
- If there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers.
- If the county is conducing wide-spread testing, especially in vulnerable populations or those working in high-risk fields.
- If health officials have the ability and capacity to conduct contact tracing, isolate new cases and quarantine individuals who might have been exposed.
“We don’t have a date we can go back to our normal lives,” Dr. Cody said. “What I can tell you is given the fact that we don’t have a vaccine—a vaccine is a very long way off—given the fact that we know that our population in large is at risk, we are going to have protections in place for a very very long time.”