Bay Area extends shelter-at-home order to May 3, adds restrictions

While acknowledging that the immense strain that the shelter-at-home order has placed on Bay Area families and businesses, the region’s public health leaders extended their orders for another month, through May 3.

Santa Clara County leaders, announcing the extension, called on all residents to stay home as much as possible, and to maintain maximum social distance when they leave for groceries, medical needs, or some light exercise.

“The goal is to decrease, to the greatest extent possible, the average number of contacts that each of us has with each other every day,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s Public Health Officer, at the announcement from the County offices.

“Every unnecessary contact with another person increases the chance that the virus may spread from one person to another,” Cody continued, imploring residents to continue staying home.

“Let’s be really mindful that every interaction you have with another person could put them at risk, it could put your families at risk,” commented Cindy Chavez, President of the County Board of Supervisors.

New business restrictions, continued hardships

The new order includes a number of additional restrictions for businesses, including tightened language around construction and on what qualifies as an essential service.

“To those very, very small number of non-essential businesses who have remained open during the pandemic, please close your doors,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen implored, in his plea to help limit unnecessary interpersonal interactions.

Grocery stores, banks, gas stations, laundromats, and plumbers, electricians, and exterminators continue to be exempt, and can remain open for service. Construction for healthcare, affordable housing, and to ensure in-progress projects are safe and secure are also allowed to continue.

Leaders at the announcement acknowledged that the increased restrictions would prolong the hardship that so many businesses, and their workers, are facing.

“This is a time of hardship, it’s a time of shared sacrifice,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

Essential businesses that do stay open must now complete and implement social distancing protocols, limiting interactions between workers and identifying strategies to curb the spread of the virus on their premises.

“Social distancing is now mandatory when performing essential activities or operating essential businesses,” County Counsel James Williams said at the announcement.

“To further enhance that, there is now a requirement that businesses must complete, post, and implement a social distancing protocol,” Williams added.

A template from the County for businesses to establish their protocols is available on the County’s website here.

Giving hospitals more time to prepare

An overarching message made by regional leaders is that by staying home, residents are giving hospitals more time to prepare for the expected glut of COVID-19 patients.

“The sacrifices that everyone have made has given our hospitals valuable time to prepare for the expected influx of patients,” Cody said.

County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith noted that while Santa Clara County’s 11 hospitals are all working to increase their temporary capacity, this extra preparation time has been critically important.

Last week, the County announced it had joined with federal officials to open use the Santa Clara Convention Center as a care center for COVID-19 patients who don’t need full hospital services, freeing up needed space in acute-care facilities.

As of Tuesday, the County has 611 ventilators available, with 209 currently in use. Smith said orders are in for 500 more ventilators to augment capacity. Of the 300 ICU beds available County wide, 119 are occupied, showing that while there is still a fair amount of capacity available, it could quickly disappear if a huge number of COVID-19 patients needing acute care arrive all at once.

Is social distancing working?

One question at the top of everyone’s mind with the month-long extension: how well have the last two weeks of social distancing worked?

“We have some early indications, though, that the actions we have collectively taken are beginning to slow the spread,” Dr. Cody stated.

While officials were wary of providing too much specificity, given the lack of data and the insufficient testing happening nation- and county-wide, there may be some hopeful evidence in coming days.

During a question and answer period, Dr. Cody asked the public to continue their efforts.

“It’s really, really early. It’s going to take us more time to see the impact of the social distancing. The incredible sacrifice that everyone has made, I believe it is starting to bend the curve, but it’s not enough and it hasn’t been in place for long enough. We need to keep at it. We just need to keep at it.”

To see the County’s new order in full, click here.

To see updated FAQs on the County’s new order, click here.