As Alameda County health officials relaxed some restrictions in their COVID-19 shelter order, the mayors of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore co-signed a letter on Friday calling on the county to allow the Tri-Valley to reopen businesses and activities more quickly.
Citing low coronavirus case rates in the Tri-Valley cities and more expedited reopenings for nearby San Ramon and Danville in Contra Costa County, the mayors encouraged the Alameda County Public Health Department to take a sub-regional approach to lifting shelter-in-place (SIP) restrictions, instead of countywide mandates.
"Let us be your pilot area," mayors David Haubert (Dublin), Jerry Thorne (Pleasanton) and John Marchand (Livermore) said in their joint letter to Dr. Erica Pan, interim public health officer for ACPHD.
"Let us prove to you that we can navigate COVID-19 safely, that it is just as safe to shop at a local music store and gift shop, as it is to shop at Walmart and Home Depot. Let us prove that kids in team practice is no different than essential workers' children in day camps," they said in part, adding:
"We know that a shift in strategy is not easy, but we are in unprecedented times that require adaptive thinking. We believe that if you were to assess Eastern Alameda County as a sub-region, the data proves our communities should re-open and get our economies moving forward again."
ACPHD has been among the slowest counties to loosen COVID-19 shelter restrictions, even among its Bay Area counterparts.
Alameda County has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in all of the Bay Area with 3,805 positive patients and 101 deaths, as of Saturday's data update.
But, the mayors argue, the three Tri-Valley cities' case count is a very low percentage of the county's total and appears to have been slowing in recent weeks -- Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin, combined, account for less than 4% of the positive cases on record to date.
The mayors' letter was made public on Friday evening, about an hour after the county health department announced a revised shelter order to take effect Monday allowing a few more business and activities to resume, authorizing small gatherings with "social bubbles," and expanding the county's face covering law.
Now permitted to reopen are child care providers for all children (not just children of essential workers), along with conditions under which youth extracurricular activities can resume; certain businesses with person-to-person contact like appliance repair and pet groomers; libraries for curbside pickup; and educational institutions for career internship and pathways programs.
County officials said, "Residents can expect that outdoor museums, outdoor restaurant dining, religious services, and additional outdoor activities (like outdoor fitness classes) will resume in phases in upcoming relaxations to the Shelter-in-Place restrictions."
ACPHD also authorized small gatherings of people from different households to occur in outdoor settings, subject to conditions including "social bubbles."
A social bubble is a group of 12 or fewer people from different households that can interact in small outdoor gatherings. The bubble should be maintained for at least three weeks, people can participate in only one bubble at a time, and social-distancing guidelines are strongly encouraged, county officials said.
"As we move forward in Stage 2 of the reopening plan, we increase the level of exposure to infection among Alameda County residents," Pan said. "This is still a highly contagious virus and medically fragile residents and our disproportionally impacted communities are still at high risk for this disease."
Another key to Pan's new order is expanding the county's face covering law to mandate they be worn at all times in public, including outdoors when exercising within 30 feet of another person outside of their household. (The mask does not have to be worn the whole time exercising, but it must be carried and then put on when within 30 feet of other people.)
Children between 3 and 12 years old do not have to wear a face covering; children 2 years old or younger should not wear a face covering, according to Pan.
"A face covering helps prevent transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19," Pan said. "Everyone should wear a face covering anytime they are outside the home and around other people. This helps decrease the exposure for all of us and is one of the few tools we have that will allow us to decrease risk as we gradually allow for more activities outside the home."
"Face coverings protect everyone because people may have COVID-19 and not realize it," she added. "My face covering protects you and your face covering protects me."
All other aspects of the county's previous shelter order remain intact, unless amended by the new order effective Monday. Read more on the ACPHD website.
But the three Tri-Valley mayors want more allowances for their jurisdictions, even proposing for Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore to serve as a test case for more aggressive reopenings in Alameda County.
"We urge you to consider a more refined, sub-regional strategy," wrote Haubert, Thorne and Marchand.
"Not only will this reflect the data, it will allow regions of the County to reopen and provide you with the needed evidence/data that areas, like ours, can open safely and responsibly. This will also be helpful in giving you more confidence as you make decisions about more impacted areas in the County," they added.
The mayors said the COVID-19 case data show the Tri-Valley's overall case count, as well as weekly rates over the past three weeks, are significantly lower than the rest of the county.
As of Saturday, ACPHD reported 64 positive cases in Pleasanton residents, 57 in Livermore and 28 in Dublin -- plus 55 at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, which is kept in a separate statistical category.
That compares to more heavily impacted parts of the county such as Oakland (1,424), Hayward (714), Fremont (185) and San Leandro (163).
The mayors also cite their cities' partnership to offer a COVID-19 regional testing site for their residents by Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.
Dublin city officials confirmed separately on Friday that the fairgrounds testing site, which is open to any resident of Pleasanton, Dublin or Livermore 10 years old or older regardless of symptoms or exposure, will remain open until further notice. It operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with a maximum capacity of 200 tests per day.
The mayors revealed that the regional testing center has tested more than 3,000 people to date, with a positive rate for COVID-19 that is less than 1.5%. (That marks the first time the cities have confirmed testing site data publicly; in the past, the cities, Stanford-ValleyCare and the county had either deferred or declined to release test result data to the Weekly.)
"As cities, we have worked tirelessly in our communities during this SIP, particularly with our business community and with our families who are eager to return to a sense of normalcy," the mayors said. "We are doing our part and making a difference."
"Compliance will become a bigger issue without a change in strategy," they added. "Our business community will need to reopen in order to stay alive, and we will find it difficult to effectively enforce more restrictive orders. We will face even more intense political pressure from our business community to re-open and we are already seeing that occur now."
The mayors' letter, addressed to Pan, was also sent to all three city councils, county supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley, the director of ACPHD and the director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.
"We look forward to hearing your thoughts and we would be open to hosting a constructive dialogue with you to take the next steps. Thank you for your continued work to support the public health of Alameda County," the mayors said to conclude their letter.