Santa Clara County joined California in lifting a stay-at-home order Monday, allowing businesses to reopen under previous purple-tier restrictions.
Effective immediately, outdoor dining and personal care services can get back to business, and professional, collegiate, adult and youth sports can also resume.
“Santa Clara County continues to experience very high rates of COVID-19 transmission,” said County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “Our collective actions to date have saved lives and helped protect our health care system from collapse. I encourage all residents to remain vigilant, wear a mask anytime you leave your home, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from anyone outside your household and get vaccinated when it is your turn.”
State officials said they are starting to see the COVID-19 surge in California slow, despite many hospitals having scarce space for patients.
Intensive care units in Santa Clara County are barely remaining below their capacity.
As of Jan. 23, 307 ICU beds were occupied with 160 of them with COVID-19 patients. The maximum ICU capacity is 317 beds, according to the county’s data. Local hospitals are caring for 545 COVID-19 patients, which includes ICU patients.
The Bay Area region only has 8.2% of its ICU beds available, according to state data.
Yet, state officials said they are seeing signs of hope.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s public health officer. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
The state’s stay-at-home order had limited restaurants to takeout and delivery — shuttering outdoor and indoor dining. It allowed retail to continue doing business at 20% capacity, but closed barbershops, nail salons, personal care services, movie theaters, museums, bars and wineries.
Now the county will return to the purple tier, where it was before it went under the state’s stay at home order on Dec. 4.
The purple tier, which imposes the most restrictions, still allows many businesses to operate outdoors. Under the purple tier, people can dine outdoors and hair and nail salons can offer services indoors with masks and limited capacity. Nonessential retail stores can fill up to 25% capacity and cardrooms can operate outdoors.
Gyms can allow people to exercise outside. Body-piercing studios and tattoo parlors can also open indoors with modifications.
The curfew for nonessential businesses to close at 5 p.m. is no longer in effect.
But County Counsel James Williams said the county’s requirement for people traveling outside Santa Clara County to quarantine for at least 10 days when they get home remains in effect.
“This may be even more critical now given the lifting of the regional stay-at-home order, given the variants that we’re seeing around the world and in Southern California and the need to try to slow the spread while we continue to ramp up and push out vaccinating as many of our vulnerable population as possible,” Williams said.
Additionally, people cannot use gyms, pools and restaurants inside hotels.
Schools must wait until their counties are in the less restrictive red tier for five consecutive days to open, but can continue having in-person classes if they already reopened with a waiver.
Despite the surge of COVID-19 patients in Santa Clara County ICUs, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said most people in the state heeded advice to stay home and avoid gatherings for the holidays.
“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” Ghaly said. “Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”
Sen. Dave Cortese, who represents most of San Jose, expressed support for the changes and said the revised order would relieve businesses struggling with closures.
“Thanks to the collective effort and sacrifice made by community members across California, we have made progress in slowing the spread of this virus, ensuring our hospital system is not overwhelmed, and protecting the lives of each and every one of us,” Cortese said.
But other South Bay representatives appeared to be in the dark about the changes in the state’s restrictions.
In a tweet, Assemblymember Evan Low, who represents Cupertino, Campbell and parts of San Jose, implied people were asking him about the state’s plan to lift the stay at home order before he was even notified of it.
People: Is it true? CA is lifting the shelter-in-place?
Me: Huh? I haven’t heard.
People: It’s all over Twitter.
People: Aren’t you a state official? Shouldn’t you be in the know?
Me: *sigh* 🤦♂️Where to begin… pic.twitter.com/hn1LhIeR6g
— Evan Low (@Evan_Low) January 25, 2021
The county has tallied 98,057 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 1,234 deaths as of Jan. 24.
Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.