Masked people shop in Santa Cruz County
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
COVID 2021

California’s coronavirus stay-at-home orders lifted for all regions

The California Department of Health announced Monday morning it would end regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders across California, a change that will allow restaurants and gyms in many counties to reopen outdoor dining and services.

“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 in a statement released Monday morning.

“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.”

COVID Today

Lookout’s COVID Today, the latest on COVID-19 developments as they happen, is among eight Lookout initiatives documenting all aspects of the pandemic this year. For more, go to our COVID 2021 section, sign up for COVID Text Alerts and our COVID PM newsletter here, and leave feedback and ask questions at the end of this story.

Based on previous experience, counties statewide would have the leeway to keep stay-home orders in effect if they deem the virus is surging within their borders.

But, at last check, Santa Cruz County plans to stick with the state’s regulations. During a press conference on Friday, County Health Officer Gail Newel said she would abide by Newsom’s guidance when it comes to reopening the economy.

If officials stay that course today, the county would move back into California’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” framework — the colored tier system that assigns local risk levels based on case numbers and rates of positive test results for COVID-19 infections, according to sources briefed on the plan by the governor’s office.

Most counties will go into the “widespread” risk purple tier, which permits hair salons to offer limited services indoors but restricts many other nonessential indoor business operations. The change is expected to take effect immediately after Newsom’s announcement on Monday.

During a Lookout event last week, Newel cautioned Santa Cruzans would need to remain vigilant if the economy begins to reopen. “When we come out of regional (order) . . . we’re going right back into purple,” she said. Based on conditions here, “we are a deep purple. So I don’t want… people to get too excited about any changes,” she added.

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank

The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County re-envisioned its programs and initiatives to meet the needs and challenges of...

Newsom’s outdoor dining ban has been highly controversial, with some elected officials and the restaurant industry fighting in court and out to overturn it. Officials in some other Southern California counties have been even more critical of the state-imposed rules and had urged Newsom to give them more local control.

The governor announced the regional stay-at-home orders on Dec. 3 in an effort to reduce the strain on hospitals as case numbers surged. While state data show hospital systems in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley remain strained, the Newsom administration told officials Sunday that models project ICU capacity in those areas will exceed 15% — a threshold for lifting the regional shutdowns — over the next four weeks.

State officials never released the full details of how the four-week ICU calculations were being made. And while services were allowed to reopen in the Sacramento region on Dec. 13, daily reports of available intensive care beds never approached the 15% threshold deemed necessary to cancel the restrictions. ICU capacity in the Northern California region, which is not under the stay-at-home order, has continued to remain above the state’s shutdown benchmarks.

The Bay Area, which reported 23.4% capacity, had remained under the stay-at-home order due to a four-week projection of a decrease in hospital bed availability. Southern California showed no ICU capacity and the San Joaquin Valley region reported 1.3%, according to state data as of Saturday.

Taryn Luna is an LA Times reporter. Mallory Pickett is a correspondent for Lookout Santa Cruz. John Myers and Paloma Esquivel from the LA Times contributed to this report.

Have a question about the pandemic? Ask Lookout . . .