Santa Cruz residents wait in lines outside stores.
Santa Cruz residents have grown accustomed to waiting in lines outside stores. Lines are expected to get longer if the regional stay-at-home order kicks in.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Pandemic Life

FAQ: How Gov. Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order impacts Santa Cruz County

The new regional stay-at-home order is different from the first order that came in the early days of the pandemic. Here are answers to some of the questions Santa Cruzans might have:

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a regional stay-at-home order Thursday in light of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout California. The coronavirus surge we are currently seeing, he said, doesn’t even include people who might have caught the virus over the Thanksgiving holiday.

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This new, regional stay-at-home order is different from the first order that came in the early days of the pandemic. Naturally, there’s been some confusion about how things will work. Here are answers to some of the questions you might have:

Are we under a stay-at-home order right now?

No. The regional stay-at-home order divides the state into five regions. Santa Cruz County falls under the Bay Area region. ICU capacity in a region will determine if the stay-at-home order is triggered for the residents within that region. As of Thursday, none of the regions met the threshold to go under the stay-at-home order, though Newsom expects that to change soon.

What will it take for Santa Cruz County to go under the stay-at-home order?

The order kicks in when fewer than 15% of ICU beds are left available in the entire Bay Area region, which, besides Santa Cruz County, is comprised of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.

So how quickly might the order kick in here?

The short answer: Newsom predicted Thursday that if current trends continue, the order would take effect by mid- to late-December.

The long answer: As of Thursday, only 18 out of 37 ICU beds in Santa Cruz County hospitals were occupied, with half of those people being COVID-19 patients. This puts the county’s ICU capacity at roughly 49%, which is well above the 15% threshold.

But because capacity is assessed regionally, and not by county, “our numbers have very little to do with the expanded stay-at-home order, given our relatively small size in the overall Bay Area,” county spokesperson Jason Hoppin explained.

Regional Bay Area ICU capacity as of Thursday stood at 25.30% which is much closer to the 15% threshold. So Newsom’s mid- to late-December prediction likely will play out.

Where do the other regions stand as of Thursday?

A graphic map of California divided into five regions.
The five regions whose ICU capacities are being monitored.
(State of California)

The Bay Area region had the most hospital capacity as of Thursday at 25.30%.

Here’s where the other regions stood:

  • Northern California — 18.60%
  • Greater Sacramento — 22.20%
  • San Joaquin — 19.70%
  • Southern California — 20.60%

If the Bay Area region gets to the 15% threshold, what will happen next?

Per Newsom’s order, once a region hits the 15% ICU threshold, the stay-at-home order will be triggered within 48 hours.

Once triggered, the stay-at-home order will be applied for three weeks.

After that, any reopening of closed services and activities will be based on four-week projections of a region’s ICU capacity — suggesting the broad new restrictions could easily last through the end of the year.

Can restrictions be different in Santa Cruz County compared to the rest of the Bay Area?

Yes, but that’s not likely to happen. The regional stay-at-home order allows local leaders to impose public health rules that are more strict than state rules. This already has happened in neighboring Santa Clara County.

But if history is any indicator, Dr. Gail Newel, the county’s top health officer likely will balk at the idea of issuing stricter rules than the state. Newel became a target of public anger when she ordered the beaches closed earlier this year. Plus, Santa Cruz County is faring better than other counties in the Bay Area region when it comes to ICU bed capacity.

What will stay open if the order takes effect?

When a remote-work option is not possible, the following places will be able to stay open with 100% masking and social distancing:

  • Schools that are already open for in-person learning
  • Playgrounds
  • Non-urgent medical and dental care
  • Child care and pre-kindergarten programs
  • Critical infrastructure

What will close?

  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair salons and barbershops and other personal care services
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Wineries
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Limited services
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks

What other sectors of the economy will see modifications?

  • Outdoor recreational facilities: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted.
  • Retail: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Shopping centers: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Hotels and lodging: Allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.
  • Restaurants: Allow only for take-out, pick-up, or delivery.
  • Offices: Allow remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible.
  • Places of worship and political expression: Allow outdoor services only.
  • Entertainment production including professional sports: Allow operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.

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