Under a Nov. 16 directive by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Santa Clara County will revert to the state’s most restrictive reopening tier due to the rapidly increasing rate of Covid-19 cases being transmitted among the community.
New restrictions under the “purple tier” of the state’s reopening framework will begin at midnight Nov. 17. This means indoor dining and indoor gatherings will be prohibited, and tighter capacity limits will be in place for retail and other commercial activities, until the county is able to climb back up to the red or orange tier. Indoor gyms and fitness centers will be closed under the purple tier as well.
As of last week, Santa Clara County officials were expecting the state to impose more mandatory restrictions on public business due to the recent sudden—and accelerating—increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
However, county officials thought they would be placed into the “red” tier, which is slightly less restrictive than the purple tier. For about the last month, Santa Clara County has been in the state’s orange tier, which allowed some indoor dining and other public gathering activities.
The purple tier indicates that community transmission in the county is “widespread,” according to the state’s framework.
Newsom announced Nov. 16 that dozens of counties in California are in the purple tier starting on Tuesday. The rollback is related to data cited by Newsom that show statewide Covid-19 cases have doubled in the last 10 days. Santa Clara County is now one of 41 California counties assigned to the purple tier.
On Nov. 16, the county recorded 388 new cases of Covid-19—one of the highest single-day case tallies since the pandemic began. Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody added that over the weekend, her office has also noticed local hospitalizations from Covid-19 rising at an accelerating pace.
Similar increases in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have occurred in recent weeks in other states, according to public health officials.
But Dr. Cody said Santa Clara County has gone through the tighter restrictions before and can climb back out again by following safety practices recommended to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
“We need every single person in our county taking this extremely seriously,” Dr. Cody said at the press conference. “We know this virus can spread silently jump from person to person, and show up in long-term care facilities, skilled nursing homes or somebody’s home…We can all do our part to prevent that from happening, and we really need to.”
County Counsel James Williams explained that Newsom skipped the red tier in enacting more restrictions for Santa Clara and other counties due to the lag time between new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations or deaths resulting from those cases.
“The faster you act when you have exponential growth (in the virus’ spread), the more meaningful the impact, the more lives you can save and the more serious illnesses you can avoid,” Williams said.
Other restrictions in the purple tier include the closure of indoor gyms and fitness centers, and 25-percent capacity limits for retail and most other indoor business. Nail and hair salons can remain open indoors, but with strict guidelines.
Also under the purple tier, schools that have not yet opened for in-person instruction may not do so until the county is out of the purple tier for two weeks, Williams explained. Schools that are already open can remain open with state and county protocols in place.
In more hopeful pandemic news, the drugmaker Moderna Nov. 16 announced that initial trials of its coronavirus vaccine show the drug is 94.5 percent effective. The county will play a key role in distributing a vaccine when it is available to the public, which won’t be until 2021. Cody said county officials are already planning for the release of the vaccine.
“My hope is 2021 will look very different than 2020,” Dr. Cody said. “It will be another tool to get this under control.”
County officials also used the Nov. 16 press conference to advise residents not to travel during the upcoming holidays. Cody said public health officials “strongly discourage travel outside the Bay Area” this winter.
Supervisor Cindy Chavez also encouraged residents to get their flu shots as a way to safeguard against preventable hospitalizations and doctors’ visits that might occupy resources that could be used to treat Covid-19 patients.
The county will offer flu shots at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, 344Tully Road, every Saturday through Dec. 12, from 9am to 4pm.
“Let’s act like a community,” Chavez said. “Let’s do what we need to do to get as many people across that finish line as we can.”