Five Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley are not waiting around for the state to enact a new stay-at-home order that Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday. Instead, the order will start this weekend for some counties and at the beginning of next week for others.
Public health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara counties and Berkeley will implement the tougher restrictions that will force several business and activity sectors to shut down operations.
The targeted businesses and activities requiring closure include, but are not limited to: personal care services, outdoor dining, indoor gyms, drive-through gatherings, outdoor playgrounds, outdoor family entertainment venues and open air bus and boat operators.
The order will be effective in most counties and Berkeley as of Sunday at 10 p.m. Alameda County will implement the restrictions Monday and Marin County will follow on Tuesday.
Similar to what was seen in the spring when the pandemic began, all retail stores, including grocery stores, must again reduce capacity to 20 percent. Stores must have a metering system to keep track of the number of people entering and leaving. Stores will be required to provide special operation hours for seniors and persons with disabilities.
Schools that have already opened with a waiver can remain open, officials said.
California’s new stay-at-home order is based on ICU bed capacity in five different regions throughout the state — the Bay Area being its own region, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties.
The stay-at-home order would be automatically triggered for at least three weeks when ICU bed availability in a region falls below 15 percent. As of Thursday, state reporting reflected a 25.3 percent of ICU bed availability in the 11-county Bay Area region.
Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a combined statement issued Friday:
“We cannot wait until after we’ve driven off the cliff to pull the emergency break [sic].”
In San Francisco, there are approximately 26 percent of ICU beds available across The City’s nine hospitals. The Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said at a press conference Friday that an ICU bed shortage could come by Dec. 26, adding:
“At this rate, we believe that all hospitals will have a shortage of beds for any sick person.”
The City is averaging about 145 new cases per day, Colfax said:
“The virus is spreading rapidly throughout The City like never before. The increase in infections has been climbing for over a month now, and Covid-19 cases have quadrupled in that time.”
Contra Costa County reported as of Thursday that only 35 of 176 ICU beds remain staffed and available, which is less than 20 percent of the area’s supply.
Cody said that in Santa Clara County, the number of Covid-19 patients being treated in ICU beds has tripled within the last month and continues to rise. She said:
“Unfortunately, we are shattering records every day.”
Cody revealed that Santa Clara County only has 14 percent of its non-surge ICU beds available as of Friday and that many hospitals have already canceled elective surgeries in order to care for the surge in Covid-19 patients.
Alameda County’s ICU availability was 35.3 percent as of Thursday but the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations nearly doubled in the past two weeks. The county reported a total of 206 coronavirus acute patients and 58 in ICU beds as of Thursday.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed agreed with the decision to get ahead of the state and roll out the new restrictions Sunday night. The mayor said she worries that there will not enough hospital beds for the sickest patients, adding:
“Our biggest fear all along is that we won’t have a bed for you, or your mother, or your grandmother, or grandfather when they get sick, is the reality we’ll be facing, unless we slow the spread.”
Officials are pleading with the public to remain home, go out only if necessary, avoid gathering with anyone outside their households and not travel over the holidays.
“We have to do everything we can to prevent this from being a holiday season that we look back on as one of sickness and death.”