SANTA CRUZ, CA — The Bay Area fell beneath a grim threshold Wednesday as officials announced that intensive care unit capacity had fallen below 15 percent, triggering the regional stay-at-home order for Santa Cruz County.
Officials reported Wednesday morning that ICU capacity had slipped under 12.9 percent, pushing the county under the order for at least three weeks or until Jan. 8. Restrictions will only be lifted when the Bay Area region restores ICU bed capacity back to 15 percent or above.
“With our case counts at an all-time high and headed higher due to the Thanksgiving surge, our hospitals and health care delivery system are at the breaking point,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel wrote in a news release Wednesday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's order will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday for the county but won't affect a large portion of the Bay Area since six counties opted into the tough restrictions last week. Neighboring Monterey county also adopted the order on Sunday.
On Thursday, San Mateo, Napa and Solano counties will join Santa Cruz under the order, which will close businesses and limit capacity levels across multiple sectors.
The county narrowly dodged the order earlier in the week when the capacity level in intensive care units see-sawed from 16 to 17.8 percent. But health officials closely monitored the data and weighed whether the county should join Monterey in adopting the order.
On Wednesday, the county reported 1,632 active cases and 6,317 total cases of COVID-19. The county also reported 64 total deaths in the county related to the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We urge all residents to adhere to state guidelines as closely as possible to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and help reduce impacts to our most vulnerable residents," Newel said. "Our actions now will help us return to our normal lives sooner rather than later.”
Much like the early stay-home orders in March, the renewed order closes most personal services such as salons and barbers. It also mandates all coffee shops, restaurants and bars to close for dine-in service and to only remain open for take-out and delivery.
Unlike spring's shutdown, residents are encouraged to visit hiking trails and spend time outside. All campgrounds are ordered to close, but California State Parks announced regions under the order would be able to access parks for day use. Playgrounds will also remain open during the shutdown.
Additional guidance from Santa Cruz County on the order:
Coffee Shops – Considered restaurants and may open for take-out and delivery only.
Youth sports – May operate outdoors only with restrictions.
Farmers markets – May remain open with modifications.
Gyms, group exercise and personal trainers – May offer outdoor services only withprecautions.
Libraries – Considered retail and should follow capacity limits.
Pet grooming – Considered a limited service and must close.
Residential and janitorial cleaning services – May remain open.
Funeral Homes – Considered critical infrastructure and can remain open.
Massage therapy – Must close unless client has a valid prescription.
Real estate – May offer in-person showings to individual prospective buyers only.Open houses not allowed.
In an otherwise dismal week of coronavirus news, public health officials recieved the welcomed of the first shipment of Pfizer vaccine doses Tuesday — 2,000 first doses to be exact. Some of the first administrations were set to be given to heath care workers Wednesday.
“In Santa Cruz County, we have all made sacrifices to slow the spread of the virus and adapt to a new normal. The next steps in our pandemic response are widespread vaccinations and community recovery,” Newel said Tuesday. “The delivery of these safe and effective vaccines are a welcome step in that direction.”
Bay Area nurses, doctors and other health care workers will be among the first in the region to receive the first dose of the two part Pfizer vaccine this week.
"In this darkest hour, the vaccine gives us a beacon to show the direction we’re headed," said Dr. Lisa B. Hernandez, Health Officer for the City of Berkeley.