CENTRAL COAST—The Bay Area region designated in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order is expected to fall below its baseline Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed capacity sometime this weekend, meaning several industries will face more restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Under the new order, announced by Newsom at a Dec. 3 press conference, regions would be subject to additional business restrictions if their ICU capacity falls below 15%. The Bay Area, according to state data, was at 17.8% capacity Thursday.

Once a region falls below 15%, it has 24 hours to adhere to the new order, Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin said.

San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties announced a day after Newsom introduced the new order that they would close before the region’s projected trigger date of Dec. 14.

Santa Cruz County officials were expected to weigh a similar closure Tuesday in a closed session, but took no action on the issue.

In neighboring Monterey County, Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno followed the so-called “core five” in closing early after reports that hospitals in that county were struggling to keep up with a mounting number of Covid-19 patients. That county was set to close Sunday at 10pm.

That order will be in effect until Jan. 11.

The other counties in the Bay Area region, Napa, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma, joined Santa Cruz County in not preemptively adhering to the new order.

The state implemented the restrictions, Newsom said, because ICU capacity was falling across the state as more Californians were testing positive for Covid-19 than in recent weeks.

As of Thursday, Southern California (7.7% capacity), Greater Sacramento (13.3%) and the San Joaquin Valley (1.9%) were under the new order.

Northern California was at 30.3% capacity.

If the orders are triggered, private gatherings of any size will be prohibited, and all but essential services and businesses will be closed.

Restaurants, gyms and other businesses will be prohibited from offering outdoor services. Wineries and bars must also close.

Churches can offer service outdoors.

Schools that have received waivers can stay open. Retail businesses can stay open at 20% capacity, and restaurants can continue carryout service.

Grocery stores can remain open at 35% capacity, and are encouraged to offer shopping hours for seniors and those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.  

The order will remain in effect for at least three weeks and after that period will be lifted when a region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%.

The good news, Newsom said, is that California is set to receive 327,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines from the Pfizer drug company. He called the impending vaccines the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We will get through this,” he said. “This is the final surge.”

Santa Cruz County health officials in a press release Thursday said they have submitted a vaccine distribution plan to the California Department of Public Health for approval. The plan will prioritize health care workers and first responders.

Limited initial delivery of the vaccine could begin as early as next week. The first doses would be reserved for local hospitals. Widespread vaccinations, however, “may not occur for several months,” according to the press release.

There have been roughly 1.4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in California. The state reported more than 29,000 new cases Thursday. It also reported 220 new deaths.

In Santa Cruz County, the death toll had reached 50 as of Wednesday. There have been 5,525 cases of Covid-19 in the county, including 1,342 active cases. More than 4,100 have recovered.

Nearly 50 people were hospitalized in the county Wednesday with Covid-19, according to numbers reported by the state. Ten people were in the ICU, and there was one ICU bed available.


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