California health officials announce a regional stay-at-home order triggered by ICU capacity

By: 
Register Staff
Staff Writer

As COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations continue to rise at an alarming pace and threaten to overwhelm the health care delivery system, California health officials on Thursday announced a regional stay-at-home order that will be triggered if Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity drops below 15% in a given region. State health officials are tracking the state by five regions: Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. No regions currently meet this threshold but some are projected to within the next week. Residents are required to stay at home as much as possible and minimize mixing to reduce unnecessary exposure, while still being able to do important things like go to the doctor, buy groceries, pick up take out, go on a hike, or worship outdoors. K-12 schools that are already open can remain open and retailers can operate indoors at no more than 20% capacity to reduce exposure risk.

The public health order takes effect at 12:59 p.m. on Saturday. Thereafter, if a region falls below the 15% ICU threshold, it will have 24 hours to implement the stay-at-home order.

The five regions are:

Northern California: Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity
Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma
Greater Sacramento: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba
San Joaquin Valley: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne
Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura

Regions will remain in the regional stay-at-home order status for at least three weeks once triggered. Counties are eligible to come off the regional stay-at-home order after three weeks if their hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15%. Counties will return to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy tier determined by their case rate and test positivity after they are eligible to exit the Regional Stay at Home Order.

“We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus and we need to take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “By invoking a stay-at-home order for regions where ICU capacity falls below 15%, we can flatten the curve as we’ve done before and reduce stress on our health care system. I’m clear-eyed that this is hard on all of us – especially our small businesses who are struggling to get by. That’s why we leaned in to help our small business owners with new grants and tax relief to help us get through this month. If we stay home as much as possible, and wear masks when we have to go to the doctor, shop for groceries or go for a hike, California can come out of this in a way that saves lives and puts us on a path toward economic recovery.”

“We know what a struggle this pandemic has been for so many California families, but our actions have saved countless lives,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary. “This targeted action will preserve vital ICU beds for people who need them – whether they’re COVID-19 patients or someone who has suffered a heart attack or a stroke.”

“Staying home for three weeks is a sacrifice, but if every Californian did that for a month, we could stop this disease in its tracks,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Acting State Public Health officer. “This public health order strikes the balance between saving lives, providing essential services that we all rely on and still allowing Californians to participate in lower-risk outdoor activities that are crucial for our physical and mental health.”

The terms of the regional stay-at-home order closely mirror the March order, with some variations.

What does the regional stay-at-home order do?

The regional stay-at-home order would be in effect for three weeks after the trigger and instructs Californians to stay at home as much as possible to limit the mixing with other households that can lead to COVID-19 spread. It allows access to (including travel for) critical services and allows outdoor activities to preserve Californians’ physical and mental health. This limited closure will help stop the surge and prevent overwhelming regional ICU capacity.

In any region that triggers a regional stay-at-home order because it drops below 15% ICU capacity, all operations in the following sectors must be closed:

Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
Indoor recreational facilities
Hair salons and barbershops
Personal care services
Museums, zoos and aquariums
Movie theaters
Wineries
Bars, breweries and distilleries
Family entertainment centers
Cardrooms and satellite wagering
Limited services
Live audience sports
Amusement parks

The following sectors will have additional modifications in addition to 100% masking and physical distancing:

Outdoor recreational facilities: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted.
Retail: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
Shopping centers: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
Hotels and lodging: Allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.
Restaurants: Allow only for take-out or pick-up.
Offices: Allow remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible.
Places of worship: Allow outdoor services only.
Entertainment production including professional sports: Allow operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.

The order does not modify existing state guidance regarding K-12 schools.

The following sectors are allowed to remain open when a remote option is not possible with appropriate infectious disease preventative measures including 100% masking and physical distancing:

Critical infrastructure
Non-urgent medical and dental care
Child care and pre-K

When does a regional stay-at-home order end?

The regional stay-at-home order will be implemented regionally once there is less than 15% ICU capacity remaining in the designated region. After three weeks from the start of the stay-at-home order, the following criteria would apply:

End for a county in a region if the region’s ICU capacity projected out four weeks (from three weeks since the stay-at-home order started) is above or equal to 15%. Each county in the region would be assigned to a tier based on the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
Remain in effect in a county if the region’s ICU capacity projected out four weeks (from three weeks since the stay-at-home order started) is less than 15%. The order would remain in effect until the region’s ICU capacity meets criteria (1) above. This would be assessed on a weekly basis.

Non-essential travel lodging

Except as otherwise required by law, no hotel or lodging entity in California shall accept or honor out of state reservations for non-essential travel, unless the reservation is for at least the minimum time period required for quarantine and the persons identified in the reservation will quarantine in the hotel or lodging entity until after that time period has expired.

Can people go outside?

Members of the same household are encouraged to maintain physical and mental health by safely going to a park, hike, walk or bike ride when safe to do so and socially distanced. Californians are also encouraged to keep connected with loved ones virtually.

The regional stay-at-home order can be found here https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/12.3.20-Stay-at-Home-O... .

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