SANTA CLARA CO., Calif. (KGO) -- Six Bay Area counties have jointly agreed to ease some restrictions of the ongoing shelter-in-place orders amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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On Monday, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties, as well as the City of Berkeley, which has its own public health department, announced an extension of the stay-at-home orders through May 31.
Starting May 4, a few activities that were previously banned will be permitted.
"All construction activities, certain businesses that operate primarily outdoors, and some outdoor activities will be allowed to resume with specific conditions," Bay Area public health officials said in a joint press release.
Outdoor businesses that are allowed to resume include retail nurseries, landscapers and gardeners, as they are lower risk. However, restaurants or cafes with outdoor seating are not included.
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Construction that resumes starting Monday will have to comply with new safety protocols.
"Outdoor facilities where social distancing is possible would be allowed to reopen," said Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams, but not contact sports or high-touch surfaces (like basketball courts or playgrounds, for example). Williams cited golf courses as one such facility that would be allowed to open up again, but emphasized that stricter state guidelines would supersede any local changes.
"Where there is overlap the stricter of the two applies," said Williams.
In the case of golf courses, those were still ordered to be closed by the state of California on Wednesday. However, the state amended its list of permitted outdoor activities Thursday to include golfing. That means Bay Area counties (or any California counties) can reopen golf courses as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.
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Some childcare facilities, recreational facilities and summer camps will also be allowed to reopen as long as they are limited to small groups of 12 children. However, California state guidelines still limit childcare to only the children of essential workers, and those stricter state guidelines take precedent over the augmented local restrictions, Williams said.
All real estate transactions and residential moves will also be allowed to resume, though limitations on open houses and in-person home viewings continue.
"This kind of movement today is going to give the general public some hope and a shot in the arm in terms of morale to keep doing the good work that they've been doing," said Santa Clara County Supevisor Dave Cortese.
"I wish I could give you a set timeline on when this is going to end. My family asks me, my friends ask me. We don't have a date," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County's public health officer. "Given a vaccine is a long way off and given we know our population at large is at risk, we are going to need to have protections in place for a long, long time."
Santa Clara County has been hit hardest by COVID-19 in the Bay Area. As of Wednesday morning, the county had 2,122 known cases of the virus and 106 coronavirus-related deaths.
"I want to just pause and recognize just how far we have come and to express my gratitude for the collective sacrifice that has averted a catastrophe in our region," said Dr. Cody. "We have slowed the spread, flattened the curve, preserved our hospital capacity, and prevented many, many deaths. Our county now accounts for less than five-percent of the cases in California, and just a tiny fraction of the over one-million cases across the United States."
Bay Area public health officials also announced the criteria they'd be watching to make decisions on further lifting restrictions in the coming weeks and months:
- Whether the number of COVID-19 cases is flattening/decreasing
- Whether the number of hospitalizations is flattening/decreasing
- Whether all health care workers have access to adequate protective gear
- Whether there is adequate testing
- Whether there is the ability to investigate known cases, do contact tracing and isolate people who have been exposed
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