As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge and ICU capacity declines, San Mateo and 10 other Bay Area counties are under a mandatory Regional Stay Home Order that takes effect Thursday, Dec. 17, at 11:59 p.m., county officials announced.

The order prohibits private gatherings of any size, except for outdoor church services and political demonstrations. Restaurants must stop offering in-person dining and can offer only take-out and delivery. Many businesses and activities must close, including salons and barbershops. Retail can remain open at 20% capacity. Nonessential travel and the use of hotels or short-term rentals for leisure is banned.

The state of California announced the order Wednesday as regional ICU bed capacity fell below 15%, a trigger threshold. The order is meant to prevent crowding and mingling among non-household members and overwhelming the health care system.

The order is less sweeping than the lockdowns ordered in the spring. People can continue with essential activities like going to the doctor, buying groceries and picking up takeout food.

The rules will remain in effect for at least three weeks.

Outdoor activities like walking, hiking, cycling and outdoor religious ceremonies are permitted. Schools that have already reopened for in-person classes under a plan reviewed by San Mateo County Health and the San Mateo County Office of Education may remain open.

All retail operations and shopping centers are limited to 20% capacity (35% for stand-alone grocery stores) with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. In a press release, Warren Slocum, president of the Board of Supervisors, called the ongoing pandemic devastating and tragic.

“So many lives have been affected by COVID-19 across the world and here at home. It’s heartbreaking,” Slocum said. “The holidays are a time when we show our love for our friends and our families. I encourage everyone this holiday season to show your love by giving the gift of good health. Please stay home and stay safe.”

As of Tuesday, Dec. 15, the County has reported to the state a total of 18,907 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Deaths due to COVID-19 are 183. T he county has recorded new single-day highs for cases repeatedly this month. For the period Dec. 9 through Dec. 15, the county recorded 2,602 new lab-confirmThe county’s test-positivity 14-day average has risen to 8% from 2.1% in early November.

Across the Bay Area region, ICU capacity fell to 12.9%, according to the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard. With Bay Area ICU capacity falling below the 15% trigger threshold, now 39.4 million Californians — about 98% of the population — are subject to the Regional Stay At Home Order.

The order remains in effect for at least three weeks in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties. After the three weeks, the order may be lifted if the region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%.

Businesses that must close include: hair salons and barbershops; personal care services; museums, zoos, and aquariums; movie theaters (except drive-in); wineries, bars, breweries, and distilleries (with exception for production, manufacturing, distribution, and retail sale for off-site consumption); family entertainment centers; cardrooms and satellite wagering; live audience sports; and amusement parks.

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