Today, Santa Clara County and County of Santa Clara Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody have asked for the State’s approval to allow for their new health order to go into effect. The new order, if approved by the State of California, would allow for the reopening of personal care services and gyms as well as allow for small gatherings. However, it also puts in place significant additional containment measures to control the spread of COVID-19. The order will go into effect either on Monday, July 13, or when the State gives its approval, whichever is later.
“Our approach from the outset of the pandemic has been careful, based on constant assessments of relevant data, and also the evolving scientific understanding of the virus,” said Dr. Cody. “This new order marks the next stage in this consistent approach, reflects the reality that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, and we need to adapt to that new reality. Today’s order offers a long-term containment strategy that we believe will need to remain in place for the coming months.”
The new health order allows other activities to resume, including hair and nail services, gyms and small gatherings, but only with strict social distancing protocols in place, consistent use of face coverings and significant capacity limits. It also requires all employers to immediately report cases of COVID-19 tied to their workplaces to local public health officials. The order continues to stress that we are all safest when we stay home, and that people over age 70 and those with serious underlying medical conditions should continue to leave home only for essential needs.
Under California’s County Variance process, the order must be approved by the State before it can take effect. However, Santa Clara County is currently on the State’s Monitoring List. Dr. Cody said that Santa Clara County is on the list because of a recent increase in hospitalizations, but that the hospitalization numbers remain relatively low. The County’s dashboard reports that there are currently 80 hospitalized cases of COVID-19, this time last month it was 27.
Until the order is reviewed and approved by the State, businesses are encouraged to review the guidance and protocols so they can be prepared to reopen if the County gets State approval.
Dr. Cody admitted that there has been an accelerated increase in cases. The positivity rate within the County has been on the rise. However, Dr. Cody said that with a careful and measured approach more sectors can reopen in limited ways. She said that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time so we need to adapt and find new ways to live our lives safely.
Williams stated that the new health order sits on a foundation of core principals which include the fact that outdoors is preferred to indoors, more physical distance is better than less distance, face coverings are required in most environments, and staying at home is the absolute safest way to protect yourself from COVID-19.
The new order features universal requirements for businesses to make it clearer and more uniform across sectors. Some industry-specific guidelines will come out next week, according to James Williams, County of Santa Clara Counsel.
The Order requires that all businesses that are open for their workers or for customers follow a set of rules, including:
- Telework: All businesses must continue to require workers to do their jobs from home whenever possible. Workers can go into work only to complete the job duties they can’t complete from home.
- New Social Distancing Protocol requirements: All businesses must complete and submit an updated Social Distancing Protocol for each of their facilities on the County’s website at COVID19Prepared.org. The Social Distancing Protocol must be signed under penalty of perjury and will be posted on the County’s website. Businesses that operate from a facility must post an updated COVID-19 Prepared sign and Visitor Information summary sheet. Businesses that provide services at several facilities that they do not own (like cleaning services) must distribute the Protocol to the owners or operators of each location they serve. All businesses must distribute the Protocol to their workers.
- Capacity limitations: All businesses must comply with the same density limitations. There may be no more than one worker per 250 gross square feet of the facility, and no more than one customer or member of the public per 150 square feet of space open to the public. Exceptions apply for healthcare, education and childcare facilities. And capacity limits do not apply to children under age 12 when accompanying a parent into a business facility.
- Positive case reporting: All businesses (and governmental entities) are legally required to report to the Public Health Department within four hours if they learn that any of their workers are confirmed to be positive for COVID-19. They must also ensure workers alert them if they test positive.
Additionally, the new order strongly discourages gatherings, but it allows outdoor gatherings (up to 60 people) and indoor gatherings (up to 20 people). Gatherings have special rules and must comply with the Health Officer’s forthcoming Mandatory Directive on Gatherings.
Sectors that are not open include indoor dining, indoor swimming and places that would mean large gatherings like nightclubs and stadiums.
If the State approves, the new health order will go into effect on July 13 or two days after the approval, whichever is later. Until that time, the current shelter-in-place order remains in effect. Read the full order on the County’s website.