Several counties in the Northern California Bay Area have decided to jump ahead of Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D) looming stay-at-home order, which is tied to a new regional ICU capacity metric, by ordering the public to stay home starting next week.
Under the new stay-at-home order, retail stores will be allowed to operate at 20% capacity, but restaurants will be prohibited from offering indoor and outdoor dining. The governor said schools that have already received waivers to operate won’t be affected, but nail salons, movie theaters, zoos, and playgrounds will be forbidden from operating.
“The dark COVID winter we feared would come has arrived in the Bay Area,” said Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. “I and other health officers don’t think we can wait for the state’s new restrictions to go into effect later this month. We must act swiftly to save as many lives as we can. This is an emergency.”
The new Bay Area stay-at-home orders will affect the roughly 5.9 million residents of San Francisco County, Marin County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County, and Alameda County, with the first restrictions going into place beginning on Sunday night.
Earlier this week, Newsom unveiled a new metric for triggering a stay-at-home order that involves regional hospital ICU capacity. Under the governor’s plan, California has been divided into five regions, and once hospital ICU capacity drops below 15% for the entire region, a stay-at-home order is triggered for three weeks.
The governor said that every region — the most populous of which, Southern California, has 23 million people and the smallest of which, Northern California, has fewer than a million — is expected to meet the 15% threshold by early to mid-December, with the exception of the Bay Area, which he said would hit the threshold by late December.
Some Bay Area officials, however, indicate they’re ready to shut down anyway.
“Waiting until only 15% of a region’s ICU beds are available is just too late,” said San Francisco Health Office Dr. Tomás Aragon, reports The Los Angeles Times. “Many heavily impacted parts of our region already have less than 15% of ICU beds available, and the time to act is now.”
San Francisco currently has an ICU bed capacity of 26%, reports the Chronicle.
“This should be the last major surge we face, and it will likely be the most challenging because we’re tired of this. I’m tired of this,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed, an apparent reference to the ability of a COVID-19 vaccine to curb the pandemic. “This is perhaps the final test we face as [a] city in this pandemic. We need to do what we can.”
“People will die otherwise who would have lived,” said Breed.
The California governor instituted a nightly stay-at-home curfew covering nearly 95% of the state earlier this month. His office described the order as “the same as the March Stay at Home Order, but applied only between 10 PM and 5 AM and only in purple tier counties that are seeing the highest rates of positive cases and hospitalizations.”