County’s new health order lays out guidelines for a ‘new normal’

Santa Clara County leaders set out a new vision Thursday afternoon, guiding our region for the next few months. It builds on the last changes, implemented nearly a month ago.

With the new health order, County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, along with the County Counsel James Williams, and members of the Board of Supervisors are looking to clarify and simplify operations for businesses and residents. The change in structure, and its seeming lack of industry-specific items, did leave many wanting more details.

“We are at an inflection point. We need to adapt to a new way of being, a new way of living,” Cody said.

Rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

The county continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases and in hospitalizations, which led to Governor Newsom’s actions Wednesday. Cody lauded those actions at a press conference Thursday.

“I’m extremely grateful for his leadership in doing this,” Cody said.

Cody acknowledged that numbers are on the rise, but put the county’s situation in context. While the rise in hospitalizations is real, the county has gone from very low to low numbers, she said.

Changes coming July 13, at the earliest

Thursday’s announcement comes nearly two weeks before any changes can take place. The new order requires assent from state officials. It takes effect on July 13 or when the state grants the changes, whichever is later.

The new order is aimed at reordering around principles of distancing and operations, across industries. That is a change from the industry-specific guidelines that have governed closures in the past four months.

There are new requirements for businesses to ensure adequate space for their workers and for customers. A new web portal is being set up for businesses to submit their protocols.

What can and cannot open?

County Counsel James Williams tried to make it clear, stating that activities where social distancing isn’t possible are generally prohibited. Masking is also required. That means indoor dining, indoor swimming, and other indoor activities, where people are not masked, cannot open.

Personal care services, including salons, where masks stay on throughout the activity will likely be allowed to reopen, as long as businesses can meet the spacing protocols.

Williams laid outs the parameters with a preference toward the outdoors, increased distance, fewer and briefer contacts, and face coverings.

Larger gatherings, arenas, and workplaces without proper distancing available cannot reopen. Telework remains the preference of health officials.

Looking forward

The officials honed in on the need for continued community vigilance in fighting the spread of the virus.

“Our success in fighting COVID-19 has always been about us as a community. We all need to do our part to follow these guidelines and keep each other safe,” said Mike Wasserman, Vice President of the County Board of Supervisors.

Board President Cindy Chavez acknowledged the rise in cases and the strain the sheltering has had on communities and families. Chavez also noted that new case rates must slow if schools and other community activities are to reopen.

“Thank you to everyone, and now we need you to all do more,” she said.

To read the new health order, effective July 13, 2020, at the earliest, click here.