Record-shattering numbers of daily new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Santa Clara County have prompted worried health leaders to issue new directives, the county health department announced on Saturday, Nov. 28. As the deadly virus continues to spread, San Mateo County officials meanwhile also announced their county has slipped into the state's more restrictive purple tier and ordered a nighttime curfew.
State health officials had already put Santa Clara County back into the purple tier as of Nov. 17 to try to curb rapidly escalating coronavirus infections, but county health leaders are now taking further restrictive steps.
As of Nov. 29, Santa Clara County had 34,292 COVID-19 cases, 476 deaths and a seven-day rolling average of 417 new cases per day. In addition, 272 people were hospitalized with the virus -- a jump of 50 people in just two days. Of these, 74 were in intensive care units and 186 out of 631 ventilators were in use. To reduce the likelihood of a surge in hospitalizations that would exceed the capacity of hospitals within the county, Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody announced new mandatory directives that accompany her prior Risk Reduction Order and take effect Monday, Nov. 30, at 12:01 a.m.
"This pandemic is like a high-speed train, and our projections tell us that we are on target to derail by the third week of December if we don’t apply brakes right now with all our collective might," Cody said.
The changes limit many stores and facilities to a maximum of 10% capacity indoors, prohibit contact sports and reduce the size of outdoor gatherings to 100 people. The county is also strongly discouraging residents from leisure and nonessential travel and requiring anyone returning to the county from travel of more than 150 miles to quarantine for 14 days. The new mandatory directives will remain in effect until at least Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. unless they are extended.
"I am gravely concerned by the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations," Cody said in a statement. "The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in our county has doubled in just the past couple of weeks, and we are at risk of exceeding our hospital capacity very soon if current trends continue. During this critical time of surging COVID-19 transmission in our community, I urge every resident to exercise caution and to the greatest extent possible, minimize contact with anyone outside of your immediate household."
The new orders include:
• Capacity limits for indoor facilities: Stores and other facilities open to the public will be limited to 10% capacity indoors. Grocery stores, drug stores and pharmacies will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity indoors to ensure adequate access to food and medicine.
All facilities open to the public must establish a metering system to ensure the capacity limits, such as by posting an employee at the facility entrance to track the number of people entering and exiting.
• Outdoor gatherings: Gatherings continue to be allowed only outdoors, with a maximum of 100 people. The state limits such gatherings, however, to First Amendment protected activities, such as religious services or protests.
• Professional, collegiate, and youth sports: All recreational activities involving physical contact or close proximity to people outside one's household, including all contact sports, will be temporarily prohibited. The new directive effectively bans San Francisco 49ers practices and games at Levi's Stadium. People can continue to engage in outdoor athletics and recreation where social distancing can be maintained at all times.
• Cardrooms: Cardrooms are temporarily closed.
• Hotels and other lodging facilities: Hotels and other lodging facilities will be open only for essential travel and for use to aid isolation or quarantine.
• Quarantine post-travel: Leisure and nonessential travel are strongly discouraged, and a new mandatory directive on travel will require people to quarantine for 14 days upon return to the county after travel of more than 150 miles.
Health care workers traveling into the county to provide care or patients traveling into the county to obtain treatment are exempted from this requirement.
San Mateo County
San Mateo County also moved back into the state's purple tier on Saturday after it had previously been in the less-restrictive red tier since late September. A statement issued by the San Mateo County Emergency Operations Center announced the new designation and a nighttime curfew, both to begin on Nov. 30.
All indoor retail spaces, including shopping malls, are restricted to 25% of capacity and indoor restaurant dining is prohibited. A full list of what's regulated can be found here.
The county is also under a curfew order that extends from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. San Mateo County has seen an 85% spike in COVID-19 cases between October and November, according to county health data.
"This is not unexpected considering the virus is surging across the state," Supervisor David Canepa said in a separate statement. "That being said, we have doubled the rate we are testing and are now second in the state behind only San Francisco in the rate that we do test. We are well-positioned to handle the surge considering the hospital capacity we have and resources needed to battle COVID.
"As the holidays approach, we must double down on the core behaviors of frequent hand washing, socially distancing, avoiding crowds and most importantly wearing our damn masks. It's on us to take the personal responsibility to protect our families, friends and neighbors from this very deadly disease."
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.