The Bay Area shelter-in-place order meant to curb the number of coronavirus cases in the region has officially been extended through May 3.
Santa Clara County health officials announced the revised mandate at a Tuesday afternoon news conference in which they shared new social distancing criteria and stricter rules about what kind of construction can continue in the weeks ahead.
County Executive Jeff Smith also took the occasion to release long-awaited data about the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and the availability of ventilators and beds as the South Bay prepares for an influx of patients at its 11 hospitals.
As of end-of-day Monday, Smith said the county has identified 152 confirmed COVID-19 patients in all local hospitals combined, and another 90 hospitalized patients suspected but not yet confirmed of having the virus.
Although there are plans to ramp up capacity if needed, Smith said the county has a total of 1,475 hospital beds available for the expected surge and will open its overflow facility at the Santa Clara Convention Center in the coming days.
“This medical center station will be available for only COVID patients who don’t need acute care hospitalizations but for whatever reason still need some services,” Smith told reporters. “The idea being here that we will move them out of the hospitals, all 11 hospitals in the county, and therefore make more space.”
Out of the 300 ICU beds in the county, Smith said 52 are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients and 119 are available. The county has 611 ventilators in all, of which 209 are being used by COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients alike. Smith said he expects a shipment of 500 additional ventilators in the coming weeks.
Before hospitalization data disappeared from the county’s new coronavirus dashboard, the health department had reported 152 hospitalizations—the same number Smith reported today. The county executive said the online dashboard will be updated with more information in the coming days.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the county has confirmed 890 cases of COVID-19—52 more than a day prior. Officials also reported two more deaths, bringing the local toll up to 30.
Dr. Cody said she hopes the longer, stricter mandates will keep the case numbers low.
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and the city of Berkley first issued the unprecedented stay-at-home mandate closing down all non-essential businesses on March 16, leaving typically gridlocked roads deserted and once-bustling businesses boarded up. But the declaration—which originally was set to expire April 7—will now last at least another month and with tighter restrictions.
“We have some early indications though that the actions we have collectively taken are beginning to slow the spread,” Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said at the news conference. “The sacrifice that everyone has made has given our hospitals valuable time to prepare for the influx of patients. However, more time and additional restrictions are needed to slow the spread and to further reduce the impact on our local hospitals and healthcare providers.”
In an effort to maintain social distancing guidelines, playgrounds, dog parks and recreation areas such as basketball or tennis courts will be off limits.
Essential businesses—such as take-out restaurants, grocery stores and banks—can continue to operate, but will be required to develop a “social distancing protocol” by Friday. The form, which can be found on the county’s website, asks businesses to detail how they plan to limit crowds, protect employee’s health, increase sanitization and prevent unnecessary contact.
“This will help ensure that even those places that do need to remain open, are adhering to careful guidelines and thoughtful guidelines specific to their own facility to ensure maximized social distancing,” Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said.
The county’s top attorney added that they’ve tailored the limits on construction, as well. The health department has made exemptions for the following:
- Projects that are immediately necessary for the maintenance or repair of essential infrastructure.
- Projects related to healthcare operations.
- Affordable housing projects where at least 10 percent of the units are income restricted.
- Specific public works projects that are exempted by the health department.
- Shelters and temporary housing.
- Project that will immediately provide services to the homeless or elderly.
- Construction that needs to wind down so the site can be left in a safe condition.
- Construction to repair essential businesses or residences.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen also urged non-essential businesses that are still operating to “please close your doors.”
“Every person who enters your business carries the potential of spreading the virus and endangering more lives,” he said. “Please join the rest of our community, the vast vast majority of our businesses as we stand together through these difficult days.”
The DA’s office has been working closely with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that non-essential businesses stay shuttered. Since last week, San Jose police have issued warnings to hundreds of businesses that were violating the public health order.