Shelter order extended to May 31, some activities allowed to resume

The fight against COVID-19 will continue for at least another month in the Bay Area. Seven Bay Area Counties extended their shelter-at-home orders Wednesday through the end of May, with some changes to the restrictions.

“I want to pause and recognize just how far we have come and to express my gratitude for the collective sacrifice that has averted catastrophe in our region,” said Dr. Sara Cody in making the announcement Wednesday morning.

“The new order, that will take effect next week, is designed to preserve the progress that we’ve made, to continue to prevent a surge in cases, and to gradually ease restrictions allowing for a few additional business and activities to take place,” Cody added.

The order, which begins May 4, does feature some changes compared to the current order that began earlier this month.

“All construction allowed under the state order will be allowed to resume,” said County Counsel James Williams. Some other outdoor marketplaces and activities, with strict social distancing, can also resume. State orders, which are more restrictive, remain in effect. Until state orders change, activities including golf, cannot resume.

Indicators of progress

Cody also detailed a number of indicators to help officials make determinations on reopening businesses and activities. Contact tracing and increased testing are central to those efforts.

“To be successful, we must ensure we have a robust infrastructure in place to transition to containment,” Cody said.

The indicators focus on how novel coronavirus is spreading and acting, and what health care infrastructure exists to combat it.

  1. Whether the total number of COVID-19 cases in the community is flat or decreasing;
  2. Whether the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is flat or decreasing;
  3. Whether there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment to protect healthcare workers;
  4. Whether the county is meeting demand for testing, particularly for healthcare or high-risk workers;
  5. Whether there is capacity to investigate all COVID-19 cases, trace contacts, and isolate and quarantine the exposed.

Navigating the harm of shelter in place

Officials at the announcement acknowledged that the shelter-in-place order has been harmful to the local economy and resident health.

However, they cautioned against reopening too quickly, for fear of a surge in new cases that could necessitate reclosing.

“If we move too fast to ease restrictions, the potential for exponential spread could have grave impacts to the health and wellness of our residents as well as to our economy,” Cody said.

Sheltering in place is not free from health risks, however. Mental health challenges and isolation are the tip of the iceberg. And domestic violence, child abuse, and deferred health checkups are all top of mind for local health officials.

“Our goal is to carefully chart a course forward that is overall most health protective and we need to balance the health risks of COVID with the health risks of shelter in place,” Cody said.

The lack of a definitive timeline for next steps is also a challenge, for community members and elected leaders.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez asked for time, while praising the community’s collective response.

“We have earned our success and I know we have much to do,” Chavez said.

“We are almost there. We are asking for continued patience and continued leadership from all of you.”

To read the order in full, click here.