Today, the State of California approved Santa Clara County’s application for a variance, which officially allows for outdoor dining and also means that the County’s new health order will go into effect on Monday, July 13.
The new order allows more 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.
Last week, the County and County of Santa Clara Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody asked for the State’s approval to allow for their new health order to go into effect. Over the 4th of July weekend, the State initially rejected the County’s application. Additionally, ABC agents were reportedly telling Santa Clara County businesses that they were not allowed to have outdoor dining. This County variance approval clears all that up.
Last week, 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.
Now that a reopening date is set, businesses should review the guidance and protocols so they can be prepared to reopen on July 13. The new order features universal requirements for businesses to make it clearer and more uniform across sectors. The County will be posting sector-specific directives related to the new County Risk Reduction Order over the coming days.
County Counsel James Williams stated that the new order sits on a foundation of core principals which include the fact that outdoors is preferred to indoors, more brief interactions are preferred over prolonged interactions, 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.
“We must conduct ourselves differently,” said Dr. Cody at today’s press conference.
Additionally, Dr. Jeff Smith, the County Executive for the County of Santa Clara, said that the County is shifting to a personal responsibility stance. Previously, the weight of responsibility weighed heavily on businesses to enforce rules within their establishments, now this new order emphasizes personal responsibility to follow the County’s rules.
The Order requires that all businesses that are open for their workers or for customers follow a set of rules, including prioritizing telework, reporting if any of their workers test positive for COVID-19, and following new social distancing protocol requirements as well as capacity limits.
Additionally, the new order strongly discourages gatherings, but it allows outdoor gatherings (up to 60 people).* Gatherings have special rules and must comply with the Health Officer’s forthcoming Mandatory Directive on Gatherings.
The State’s variance actually allows for many more sectors to reopen; however, the County’s new health order only allows for the above-mentioned sectors. Sectors that are not open include indoor dining, indoor swimming and places that would mean large gatherings like nightclubs and stadiums.
Update: The order originally allowed for indoor gatherings with up to 20 people but was changed on Friday, July 10 to only allow outdoor gatherings. All indoor gatherings are still prohibited.