Stay-at-home COVID order lifted for greater Sacramento region, Gov. Newsom announces

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Tony Bizjak, Dale Kasler
·4 min read
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday afternoon that the 13-county greater Sacramento region has been released from its month-long COVID-19 shutdown order, the result of new data that show hospitals likely will not be as crowded with COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks.

“We’re seeing stabilization in ICUs and positivity rates,” Newsom said in a social media post at 4:30 p.m. “Greater Sacramento is coming out of the regional stay-at-home and going back to purple tier effective today.

“We must continue to wear a mask and stay home as much as possible. There is a light at the end of this tunnel.”

The Sacramento region is the first of four California regions to be given the green light to reopen some businesses. Southern California, the Bay Area, and the San Joaquin Valley remain under the restrictive shut-down order as of Tuesday evening.

The announcement means the Sacramento region can allow restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining. Other businesses, including barbers, hair salons and nail salons would be allowed to reopen.

Also, stores can allow more customers in at one time.

Sacramento public health spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno confirmed before the announcement that was “information shared that indicates the Greater Sacramento Region is exiting the state’s ‘Regional Stay at Home Order’ effective immediately.

“Sacramento County will still need to revise the local Public Health Order,” she said. “At that time, Sacramento County would revert back to the purple tier restrictions outlined in the ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy.’”

County officials said the new county order, reopening those businesses, will go into effect Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Earlier in the day, state health chief Dr. Mark Ghaly hinted of the move. He said that most of the state remains under the stay-at-home order at the moment, but that the state was recalculating data today for the last 24 hours, and “may be updating you in the next hours and certainly tomorrow if any one of these regions does emerge out of that regional stay-at-home order.”

Ghaly said the state appeared not be seeing as big a post-Christmas surge as it had expected, and that new hospitalizations “are beginning to flatten.”

The Sacramento region includes: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba counties.

Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sue Frost and Supervisor Phil Serna posted the news on their Facebook pages, saying they were pleased the county could begin to reopen some businesses.

“I was just made aware that the Greater Sacramento Region stay-at-home order will be lifted effective immediately based on a four-week projection of 19.1% ICU bed capacity,” Serna wrote Tuesday afternoon on Facebook.

“This means that Sacramento County is expected to move back into the ... ‘Tier 1 Purple’ category. A revised Sacramento County Public Health Order is forthcoming.”

The state imposed the lockdown a month ago with hospital intensive care unit capacity fell below 15%. The region’s capacity remains at just under 10%.

The governor introduced the regional shutdown program concept statewide at the end of November as hospital ICUs began to fill. Counties in the far north of California have not fallen under the shutdown order because ICUs in those areas have sufficient ongoing capacity. Those counties, though, are subject to less restrictive pandemic closures, however.

Whether the easing of the shutdown order will translate into major help for the economy remains to be seen. Rick Mahan, owner of The Waterboy and OneSpeed Pizza restaurants, said he is likely to stick to takeout service because it was to generate enough business with outdoor dining as cold weather set in.

“Those nighttime dinners were getting pretty depressing,” Mahan said. The restaurants’ profitability “was going up in propane.”

But Marvin Lee Maldonado, at Federalist Public House in midtown Sacramento, said on Facebook the restaurant was expected to reopen Wednesday. And Riverside Clubhouse in the Land Park neighborhood announced it would reopen for patio dining.

“It’ll matter,” said John Pickerel, owner of the Buckhorn restaurant chain. “It’s a big break.”

He said the Buckhorn expects to see a bump in business with warmer weather forecast in the next few days, “a good 30% (increase) if the weather’s good.”

The shutdowns have left unemployment in the four-county Sacramento area at 6.7%.

“We’ll take any good news we can,” said Lui Nguyen, owner of two Top Coat nail salons in Natomas. “I’m in shock.” He said the shutdown had been “devastating.”

Brandon Willis, owner of Brandon’s Barber Shop in midtown, was similarly excited to hear about the governor’s announcement. “That will definitely be a great thing,” he said.