The public health officers of six Bay Area counties, including Contra Costa and Alameda, have released details surrounding their extended shelter-in-place order, and while certain restrictions on outdoor businesses have eased back, social distancing policies remain.
Originally initiated in mid-march in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, new shelter-in-place regulations still mandate residents stay at home unless conducting essential business, but will allow certain low-risk outdoor businesses and activities, such as construction projects and golf courses, to reopen, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department.
“We understand how challenging shelter-in-place is, but we are clearly seeing the benefits,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Health Officer of Contra Costa County. “As we ease a small number of restrictions, it’s important to remember that the virus is still in our community. Now is not the time to ease up on maintaining social distancing, wearing a face covering, and staying home whenever possible.”
The existing COVID-19 shelter order had been set to expire Sunday (May 3) in the six counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara), as well as the city of Berkeley, which has its own health division.
According to the Contra Costa County Health Services department, the new order will go into effect on May 4 -- extending through at least May 31 -- and will allow a number of lower risk outdoor businesses to reopen.
Construction on both residential and commercial properties may once again continue operating, provided companies comply with construction project safety protocols issued within the order, as will commercial and residential real estate transactions.
Child care programs such as summer camps, schools and other recreational programs may also be allowed to continue, so long as no more than 12 children are in a group at a time.
Outdoor recreational facilities that do not encourage gathering or contain high-touch equipment are also once again allowed, which would include athletic fields such as tennis courts, shooting and archery ranges, skateparks and golf courses. Play areas and structures at parks are among facilities that are not open.
According to Contra Costa Supervisor Candace Andersen, the region's order is generally consistent with the state's, but there are some differences. For example, Alameda County officials noted that while golf courses are permitted under local orders, their use is prohibited under the order initiated by the state.
Other lower-risk outdoor businesses now allowed to operate include landscaping and agriculture services that normally operated outdoors prior to the shelter-in-place orders.
Restaurants with outdoor seating are not included in the list of acceptable businesses.
Also, as a condition of operating under this order, the operators of all businesses must prepare or update their personnel on social distancing protocol for each of their facilities in the county frequented by members of the public.
Older social distancing policies still remain, however, and local communities are still expected to enforce individual mask coverings, the cessation of all non-essential travel and the temporary closure of all activities and businesses not listed as essential or exempt.
"The new order allows us to carefully monitor our progress while building the essential public health infrastructure -- such as contact tracing and testing capacity -- that will support our gradual reopening and make recovery possible,” said Dr. Tomás Aragon, Health Officer for the City and County of San Francisco.
As of April 28, there are 7,273 confirmed cases -- up from 258 confirmed cases on March 15 -- and 266 deaths -- up from 4 deaths on March 15, 2020, in the Bay Area jurisdictions that have jointly issued the order.
The opening of outdoor businesses and activities reflects the region's progress in its efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19, according to Contra Costa County officials, who added that the Bay Area's collective efforts have gone a long way toward saving lives.
"Those actions have saved lives and staved off mass hospitalizations from the COVID-19 virus, which spreads easily and causes severe illness in many people. There is not yet an effective treatment or cure for the disease," said Danville Town Councilman Newell Arnerich.
Livermore Mayor John Marchand told the Weekly, "Based on the data that the medical experts have, the revised order makes sense as we gradually relax the original shelter in place order."
"We all recognize that there is another crisis in our county, and that is the lack of affordable housing. Construction may resume as long as the projects comply with the appropriate safety protocols," Marchand said. "Nurseries, landscaping and agriculture may also resume. These efforts, when done correctly, will safely put many people back to work, a good first step toward restoring our economy."
"I want to applaud our community, healthcare workers, first responders, businesses, non-profit partners and city workers for their continued support during this disaster. It’s making a real difference in mitigating the transmission and impacts of this virus locally," said Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho.
"The city’s priorities during this pandemic remain -- public safety, the health and welfare of our community, protection and maintenance of city assets, providing accurate and timely information to the public, and accelerating the recovery of our local economy and city operations upon the continued and measured lifting of county and state health directives,” Fialho said.
San Ramon City Manager Joe Gorton said, "We are glad to see the return of some recreational activities, construction, real estate transactions and outdoor businesses. We are looking forward to businesses coming back allowing people to go back to work as soon as it is safe to do so."
Danville Town Manager Joe Calabrigo told the Weekly, "We are glad to get the news that progress is being made in flattening the curve, and that some of the restrictions are beginning to ease. That being said, we would still encourage our community to abide by the shelter-in-place order, so that we can continue to keep the risk of transmission down, and protect those that are most vulnerable."
Health officers are also releasing indicators that will be used to measure progress in containing the virus going forward. These indicators will be used in the next few weeks and months when deciding how to further ease shelter-in-place restrictions.
According to Contra Costa County Health Services, those criteria include the following:
* Whether the total number of cases in the community is flat or decreasing;
* Whether the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is flat or decreasing;
* Whether there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for all healthcare workers;
* Whether we are meeting the need for testing, especially for persons in vulnerable populations or those in high-risk settings or occupations; and
* Whether we have the capacity to investigate all COVID-19 cases and trace all of their contacts, isolating those who test positive and quarantining the people who may have been exposed.
“A pandemic of this scale is unprecedented,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer. “We are progressing steadily as a region, but we must reduce restrictions on activity gradually or we will put the lives of many community members at risk.”
Residents interested in learning more about the shelter-in-place order are encouraged to join State Senator Steve Glazer for a virtual town hall on Thursday.
At the online gathering, Sen. Glazer (D-Orinda) will be joined by Dr. Farnitano and Andersen to talk about the latest changes to the order and what it means for local residents.
Participants can submit any questions they may have before or during the call to email@example.com.
Interested residents may join the conversation starting at 3 p.m. Thursday by streaming the audio over Glazer's website at https://sd07.senate.ca.gov/.