SACRAMENTO – Officials with the California Department of Public Health on Monday ordered the Regional Stay at Home Order lifted for all regions statewide, including the three regions that had still been under the order – San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area, and Southern California.
Four-week ICU capacity projections for these three regions are now above 15%, the threshold that allows regions to exit the order. The Sacramento Region exited the order on January 12 and the Northern California region never entered the order.
This action allows all counties statewide to return to the rules and framework of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and color-coded tiers that indicate which activities and businesses are open based on local case rates and test positivity. The majority of the counties are in the strictest or purple tier. Tier updates are provided weekly on Tuesdays. Individual counties could choose to impose stricter rules.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
Los Angeles County Public Health officials said Monday the county would align its Health Officer Order with the state’s new guidelines by the end of the week.
“I support following the Governor’s recommended guidelines for Southern California and reopening outdoor dining, personal care services, and other industries that were previously closed by these orders,” said L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the county’s 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.
“A data-driven and pragmatic policy approach is essential to protecting public health while balancing the devastating social, emotional, and economic impacts of this virus,” Barger said.
“While this is great news for businesses and their employees up and down California, it begs the question, why now?” Senate Republican Leader-elect Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) said in a statement Monday afternoon after the Regional Stay at Home Order was lifted.
“The Administration’s data metrics are secret, they are ‘too complicated’ for anyone to understand,” Wilk said. “Are they really too complicated or are they just driven by politics? Who knows? One day everything is closed and we are in crisis. The next day it is all open. How are small business owners and their employees supposed to plan? How can anyone be sure the Governor will not shut us down again tomorrow?”
Wilk continued: “The Legislature ceded its authority to the Governor a year ago to address the pandemic and to date Democratic legislative leadership has refused to restore its constitutional authority. One-man rule is only serving one person well, Gavin Newsom. I urge my colleagues to re-establish the Legislature’s authority, and put this state back on strong footing where decisions are driven by scientific data and transparency rules the day.”
Pandemic Far from Over
While there are positive signs that the virus is spreading at a slower rate across the state, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. It is still critical that Californians continue to wear masks when they leave their homes, maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet, wash their hands frequently, avoid gatherings and mixing with other households, follow all state and local health department guidance and get the vaccine when it’s their turn.
The state, in collaboration with local health departments and health care facilities statewide, took a long list of actions to support California’s hospitals and slow the surge in cases and hospitalizations.
The Regional Stay at Home Order urged Californians to stay home except for essential activities, which helped lower disease transmission levels and reduce burden on the hospital system.
California deployed more than 4,100 medical professionals to facilities across the state to ease the burden on frontline health care workers.
The state provided assistance within hospitals in the form of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and help with oxygen supply.
California also helped hospitals expand their capacity by opening 16 alternate care sites, lower-acuity facilities where COVID-19 patients get a bridge from hospital to home as they are recovering.
Public health leaders implemented a statewide order to make it easier to transfer patients from over-crowded hospitals to those with more space and staff.
The administration of vaccines to health care workers has meant that fewer healthcare workers are falling ill from the virus, which helps keep staffing levels more stable.
“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”
Nearly all the counties exiting the Regional Stay at Home Order today are in the Purple or widespread (most restrictive) tier. Services and activities, such as outdoor dining and personal services, may resume immediately with required modifications, subject to any additional restrictions required by local jurisdictions. See the county map to find the status of activities open in each county.
Because case rates remain high across most of the state, the state’s Hospital Surge Order remains in place to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
The Limited Stay at Home Order, which limits non-essential activities between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., expires with the Regional Stay At Home Order ending.
From Courthouse News Service Monday morning:
In what amounted to a third lockdown for many counties across the state, the emergency order forced the closure of bars, wineries, hair salons and indoor religious ceremonies. It also spurred a new rash of unemployment, as California’s jobless rate increased in December for the first time in seven months.
Critics viewed the holiday order as heavy-handed and unclear, as the governor and officials struggled during press conferences in recent weeks to explain how decisions were being made in regard to how and when regions could move forward. Counties and businesses complained that the state wasn’t being upfront or releasing their projections about ICU data to the public.
For example, the state without fanfare exempted the Greater Sacramento region two weeks ago even though its ICU capacity was well below the 15% threshold. In the last ICU update given over the weekend, only the rural Northern California region and Bay Area are above 15% estimated capacity.
Despite the criticism, state officials on Monday cast the ICU framework as a success.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, department of public health director and state public health officer. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. Covid-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
Dr. Ghaly hinted last week that changes were likely coming to the coronavirus restrictions after the predicted holiday surge didn’t fully materialize. He noted that hospitalizations dropped 10% and that the state’s effective reproductive number — a key indicator of community spread — has dropped below 1, meaning the average infected Californian spreads the disease to less than one person.
As of Monday morning, Newsom had yet to address the media about the significant change to the state’s pandemic fight. But his critics were quick to react.
State Republicans accused Newsom of caving to political pressure and trying to shift attention from the GOP’s fledgling recall attempt.
“And just like that, the health threat of the virus became less important than the political threat of a recall,” said state Senator Melissa Melendez on Twitter.
“It’s ‘science’. Political science,” added Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher.
According to Johns Hopkins University, California has confirmed the most cases of any state with 3.17 million and is second in deaths with 37,138.
Under the colored system first implemented this past August, counties are placed into four tiers based on new case rates and test positivity. Individual counties have the ability to enact stricter business restrictions if deemed necessary.
The state will resume updating the tier assignments each Tuesday.
— By Nick Cahill, Courthouse News Service