COVID update: State releases Regional Stay Home Order plans, announces new financial relief; restrictions and risk on the rise locally

Update 12/4: Bay Area health officers implement state’s Regional Stay Home Order effective Sunday – read more

Below are this week’s key updates from local and state officials as new records in case counts and hospital capacity take center stage. 

New Regional Stay Home Order anticipated for Bay Area by mid to late Decemberfor other regions sooner 
Govern Newsom announced today expanded stay at home restrictions slated to go into effect soon, in light of record case levels and the risk of exceeding hospital capacity before the end of the year. The Bay Area is one of five new regions, designated according to hospital and health care networks, in which aggregate ICU bed capacity will be monitored. When the ICU bed capacity within a region falls below 15 percent, the regional stay home order is triggered, and remains in place for three weeks.    

Once implemented, the regional stay home order mandates the following: 

  • CLOSED: bars, wineries, personal services, hair salons 
  • OPEN: schools with a waiver, critical infrastructure, retail (at 20 percent capacity), restaurants (for takeout and delivery only) 
  • TRAVEL: All non-essential travel is restricted statewide; essential travel and lodging excepted 

*Note: as has been the case, if local and state orders differ, the stricter of the two applies. 

The Bay Area region is anticipated to fall below 15 percent ICU bed capacity in mid to late December, according to state projections. Most other regions are expected to fall below the threshold within the next 48 hours. Learn more about the Regional Stay Home Order.  

Local restrictions 
Last weekend, Santa Clara County rolled out increased restrictions effective November 30 including a 14 day quarantine for those who travel more than 150 miles from the County, stringent capacity limits for retail stores including grocery and pharmacies, and bans on contact sports. Outdoor gatherings are restricted to First Amendment protected events, and hotels may only be used for essential travel or for purposes of isolation or quarantine.  

State, County announces vaccine preparations amid hospital availability crisis 
Governor Newsom on Thursday detailed the state’s vaccine distribution plans for the 327,000 doses expected between December 12 and 15. Phase 1A recipients are critical healthcare workforce and long term care residents, with further breakdowns into three tiers; the first tier includes acute care workers, skilled nursing and assisted living facility staff, paramedics and EMTs, and dialysis center staff. 

The Governor reported more than 18,000 new cases statewide as of December 2, and an 86% increase in hospitalizations over the last 14 days.  

On Wednesday, Dr. Jennifer Tong, Associate Chief Medical Officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, assured residents the County is prepared to distribute vaccine doses to residents, but acknowledged the process ‘might take many months.’ The county submitted a vaccine distribution plan to the State on Tuesday. Distribution priorities are set by the federal government, along with additional recommendations from the State. She reiterated that first doses will be directed to people who are at the highest risk, including health care workers and those on the front lines of exposure to COVID-19.  

Dr. Tong shared new grim data around the availability of hospital beds, including intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and warned the County is at increasing risk of exceeding hospital capacity. “As of Dec. 1, ICU occupancy among hospitals traditionally serving South County and East San Jose was at 93 percent. ICU occupancy for other hospitals in the County was at 84 percent. None of the hospitals serving South County and East San Jose had more than 5 ICU beds available as of yesterday,” she said. 

Financial relief for small businesses 
Earlier this week, Governor Newsom announced new COVID-related relief programs for small business owners from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, including automatic tax filing extensions, interest-free payment plans, and a hiring tax credit to offset income or business and use taxes.   

  • Taxpayers filing CDTFA returns of less than $1 million tax will automatically be granted a three-month extension on payments and returns originally due between December 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021.    
  • Qualified small businesses with annual taxable sales of $5 million or less can apply for a 12-month, interest-free payment plan to defer payment of up to $50,000 for 4Q2020 and 1Q2021 sales and use tax liability, with the first of 12 equal monthly installments not due until April 2021. Businesses with annual sales greater than $5 million in operationally impacted sectors with a demonstrable drop in sales may also apply for an interest-free payment plan. More information will be available soon via CDTFA’s COVID-19 page.  
  • CDTFA is also now accepting applications through January 15, 2021 for qualified small business owners to reserve a hiring tax credit of up to $100,000 to be used to offset income taxes or sales and use taxes when filing tax returns. Applicants will be notified within 30 days via email.  Registrations are first come, first served. Learn more.