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Coronavirus and COVID-19 Information: Santa Clara County and Bay Area, California

Trustworthy information about COVID-19

How Long will California have to Shelter in Place?

We don't know.

In the summer, of 2020 California issued a statewide plan (Blueprint for Safer Economy) listing what businesses and activities are allowed in its counties, depending on a standard set of metrics. Counties will be allowed to move to a new stage of operations when those indicators are doing well, but if those metrics go up, that county will need to close down the higher level for at least 3 weeks, and until its indicators improve, As of this writing, nearly all counties in the state are classified at the most restrictive level ("widespread"). In addition, several counties in the Bay Area Region (including Santa Clara County) have chosen to follow the more restricted regulations of the statewide Regional Shelter at Home Order. Also, Santa Clara County's own Mandatory Revised Order of Nov. 28, 2020 adds further restrictions. Read on for details.

PlaneTree Health Library's  webpages will be updated regularly (in some cases, daily) with the latest accurate, verifiable, news you can use during this pandemic.

Bay Area Closures and Restrictions Currently in Place

  Current requirements for the Bay Area counties:

Shelter-in-place is (still) in effect, which means that we are all ordered to stay home, except for the activities that have been specifically permitted. 

Cases of COVID-19 are surging throughout the U.S., Bay Area included.

On Dec. 3, the Governor's office declared that all the counties within a region would need to follow even stricter regulations if the availability of ICU beds in hospitals should be too few (15% of total), the Regional Stay at Home Orders. Some of the counties in the Bay Area region (Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Marin) decided to preemptively start those regulations in the first week of December; and San Mateo County came under the same restrictions on Dec. 16.  Those restrictions will be in effect until Jan. 4, 2021.

People coming into Santa Clara County from more than 150 miles away, or coming into San Francisco from outside the Bay Area must quarantine for 10 days. (Those regulations apply to residents who have travelled outside the area & and returning home, too.)

A week earlier, on Nov. 30, Santa Clara County Public Health also issued a county-wide Revised Order with additional restrictions that are in effect until Dec. 21, unless extended.

In Santa Clara County, under these new Orders, the statewide Regional Stay at Home Order of Dec. 3 and the Santa Clara County Revised Order of Nov. 30:

* We must wear a non-medical face mask or some kind of covering over both nose and mouth at all times when we are outside our home and could be within 6 feet of anyone else.

* Stores and businesses that are allowed to open must keep the numbers of employees and customers low to maintain social distance. Businesses that are allowed to be open to the public cannot admit more than 10% of their legal occupancy at any one time (grocery stores, drug stores, and pharmacies may admit 20%) and must have some way to meter - and enforce - the number of people inside whenever the building is open.

* Restaurants (and bars or wineries or breweries that sell food) may sell food for take-out, as pick-up or delivery. Both outdoor and indoor dining are prohibited.

* The following businesses must close until at least Jan. 4:

  • bars, wineries, breweries, or distilleries (except for takeout food sales)
  • personal care services (hair salons and barbershops, beauty shops, massage or chiropractic, etc.)
  • museums, zoos, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, amusement parks, and cardrooms.

* Workers in non-essential businesses must work from home.

* No changes at this time to the regulations on schools, but there are updated regulations on programs serving children or youth (see below for more details).

* Gatherings are prohibited (including private gatherings at home). No in-person meals, parties, or celebrations with anyone from a different household are allowed. There are exceptions are for activities protected by the First-Amendment - for worship, cultural ceremonies, protest, or political events - but they must be held outdoors and must follow regulations. See below for more details.

* Everyone who is not an essential worker on shift must be at home by 10:00 PM, and stay there until 5:00 AM the next day

* Group or team sports are "temporarily prohibited". Outdoor recreational activities are still allowed, provided that the regulations on physical distancing, no food or drink, and mask wearing are followed. Parks may be open, but camping overnight is prohibited.

* Leisure and non-essential travel are strongly discouraged. Hotels and lodging (including homestays or Airbnb) may only house people who are traveling for essential jobs (or who are in isolation or quarantine). People coming into Santa Clara County or  San Francisco from outside the Bay Area must quarantine for 10 days

The other parts of the Bay Area Region that are implementing the statewide Regional Shelter at Home Order of Dec. 3 may have slightly different regulations. For details in those counties, see:

Public Gatherings

From the first pandemic regulations in CA, back in  March, the county and state Departments of Public Health published guidance on how many people could or should gather in one place, under specific circumstances. The current public health Directives and Orders from the state and counties incorporates these. 

The state defines "gathering"  as

"any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space". 

The county Department of Public Health notes that the limits on gathering size do not include:

"normal operations at airports or spaces where persons may be in transit." ... [nor] classrooms [but see statement on schools]; medical offices, hospitals, or clinics". The Mandatory Revised Order for Santa Clara County of Nov. 28, 2020, however, does limit the number of people who can be inside facilities that are open to the public (i.e., stores and businesses).

As of Dec. 6 2020, gatherings of more than 1 household, either indoors or outdoors, are prohibited.

(There are a few exceptions to that rule, for activities protected by the First Amendment: for worship, cultural events, protests or political activities. Gatherings for those purposes must be:

  • outdoors,
  • and follow physical distance and mask-wearing regulations;
  • no more than 100 people,
  • with a clearly-identified person in charge,
  • include no food or drink (weddings and funeral services may take place, but no receptions allowed);
  • and follow limits on live music, singing, chanting, etc.)

Schools and Child Care

Schools in other parts of the country that have opened for the fall term (sometimes only briefly) have found that children are just as vulnerable as adults to catching and spreading COVID-19, even though they may not show symptoms.

Most schools in the Bay Area are teaching online-only for this fall, but under certain circumstances, childcare, day care, camps and small-groups of children are allowed to be open or operate when allowed by the county's public health department. (For Santa Clara County, see the Mandatory Directory for Programs Serving Children and Youth from Nov.28, linked below.)

In August & September 2020, California State released guidance for those situations on how to operate:

  • childcare settings
  • cohorts or groups of children or teens
  • day camps, and
  • higher education (colleges & universities).

  For FAQs and updated details on that guidance, see:

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