After three weeks of being in one of the state’s least restrictive tiers for reopening, a spike in COVID-19 cases has caused San Mateo County to be moved back into the red “substantial” risk tier on Tuesday, requiring many businesses to roll back operations or close completely. 

“While this is a setback, we need to look to a brighter future and to support local businesses and our local restaurants,” said Warren Slocum, president of the Board of Supervisors. “Let’s all take a pledge to patronize our favorite local businesses as best we can. That could be an order we pick up at the curbside or a take-out dinner. Let’s help one another the best we can at this most trying of times.”

As part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “emergency brake,” indoor dining, places of worship, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums will have to reduce capacity to 25% in the county, after expanding to 50% under the orange tier. Gym capacity will also be reduced to 10% from the 25% and small retailers and shopping centers will have to follow capacity limits of 50% after having capacity requirements lifted.  

Businesses now only permitted to operate outdoors include card rooms and wineries while bars, breweries and distilleries that do not sell food will be forced to close. Schools that have begun to reopen will not be required to close now that the county is back in the red tier. 

“By following the guidance provided in the Pandemic Recovery Framework, schools are showing they can do this even if conditions in the county change. Nonetheless, we remain alert to state and county guidance, and the County Office of Education continues to build the capacity of schools to pivot to distance learning if public health officials advise,” said county Superintendent Nancy Magee in a press release. 

COVID-19 cases have surged across the nation, including California, leading state officials to halt reopenings. In San Mateo County, new daily cases have risen to 10.4 new cases per 100,000 residents. Accounting for a state credit granted to counties that administer tests above the state’s average, San Mateo County has an adjusted new case rate of 5.7 cases for every 100,000 residents after falling below an adjusted 3 cases per 100,000 residents in past weeks. Counties must have a case rate below 4 to enter into the orange tier. 

Two additional metrics used to determine tier placement remain in good standing for the county to be in the orange tier, including a positive test rate of 2.1% for every 100,000 residents and a healthy equity metric of 2.5%, both monitored on a rolling seven-day average. But having one of three metrics fall into a more restrictive tier for two consecutive weeks results in a county being moved into the stricter tier.

“The economy will never recover unless we take personal responsibility and double down on the core behaviors of social distancing, hand washing, avoiding crowds and of course wearing masks. If we don’t do this then people will die and the economy will fall into calamity,” Supervisor David Canepa said in a press release.

In the past week, the county reported 585 new COVID-19 cases totaling 12,565 residents having contracted the highly contagious respiratory disease. Of those who have tested positive since the beginning of the shelter-in-place orders, 168 have died. The surge has yet to be reflected in hospitalization data which has remained at a low of 22 confirmed patients receiving care, four in the ICU. 

Like San Mateo County, Marin County also moved from the orange tier to the red while San Francisco, once a success story, moved to the red from the least restrictive yellow tier. San Francisco Mayor London Breed voluntarily began placing restrictions on businesses last week. All other Bay Area counties are now in the most restrictive purple tier. 

“What this tells us is that all of us need to redouble our efforts to follow common-sense health and safety guidelines: wear your face covering, wash your hands, maintain social distancing and, above all, do not gather in close proximity to those outside your immediate household,” said County Manager Mike Callagy in a press release. 

Restrictions come as officials encourage residents to safely celebrate during this holiday season. A joint statement from the 10 Bay Area health officials recommend people host small outdoor gatherings among no more than three households for a short period of two hours and to not participate in multiple gatherings with different households. 

“With the holidays approaching, everyone is longing to be with their loved ones. But with the numbers we are seeing in the Bay Area and in California, it’s important that we find safe ways to appreciate the holidays and each other.” said Chief of Health Louise Rogers.

If case counts do not begin to fall, Newsom said during a news conference that additional restrictions could be leveraged, including a curfew. 

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(1) comment

Scott McVicker

Businesses and the economy will never recover as long as these people are trying to eliminate an endemic virus. See The Great Barrington Declaration. See Sweden. 99%+ get over this if they catch it (read: If they become a case). The majority are asymptomatic.

Please note that the previous restrictions merely postponed the resurgence of new exposures. They did nothing to eliminate the virus from the environment. So their conclusion is: More of the same! Brilliant!

Aside: Will the district responsible for electing Canepa please apologize to the rest of us?

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