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Bay Area’s shelter-in-place to last through May

Gov. Gavin Newsom and local health officials are telling residents to buckle down and maintain their gains against COVID-19.

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As states across the country rush to restart economies battered by the coronavirus, the Bay Area is telling residents to buckle down — at least until June.

Six Bay Area counties — Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and San Francisco — and the city of Berkeley announced Monday they will be extending their first-in-the-nation stay-at-home order through the end of May. The current order was set to expire Sunday.

“At this stage of the pandemic … it is critical that our collective efforts continue so that we do not lose the progress we have achieved together,” Bay Area public health officers announced in a joint statement. They promised more details later this week but said the new order will allow for the “limited easing of specific restrictions for a small number of lower-risk activities.”

The news came just before Gov. Gavin Newsom admonished Californians for crowding beaches over the weekend, saying that kind of behavior would only delay the easing of his statewide shutdown, which he suggested was weeks, not months away.

California’s unprecedented shutdown order in mid-March is widely credited with slowing the spread of the virus, and now state and local leaders are pleading with residents for patience to prevent a second wave of infections. The cautious approach is weighing heavily on millions of residents who have lost their jobs and seen businesses and schools shuttered, as states such as Georgia and Texas already are taking steps to reopen.

“Every one of you staying home and wearing masks has saved lives,” San Francisco’s public health director Dr. Grant Colfax said Monday. “We need to stand our ground and maintain our gains. Make no mistake, this virus is still out there.”

Several sources familiar with the next steps in the Bay Area lockdown have told this news organization that the core of the stay-at-home orders — social distancing, limits on outdoor activity, and restrictions on nonessential travel — will stay in place. But officials may open access to more parks and allow more outdoor activities that don’t violate social distancing rules.

Even that may vary as counties could begin to set their own rules based on their number of confirmed cases, testing abilities, hospital capacity and geography. For example, Napa and Santa Cruz counties, which were not part of the Bay Area alliance but closely followed its initial order in mid-March, have since reduced restrictions on construction and beach and park access.

The health officers signaled Monday they are creating parameters that will guide further relaxing of the Bay Area order. They plan to align it with Newsom’s six benchmarks for easing the statewide shelter-in-place order that revolve around improving the state’s ability to test for the virus and limit its spread, and keeping hospitals from getting overwhelmed with new patients.

Newsom reported that hospitalizations as of Sunday increased by 1.4%, which was in line with the previous week, and that intensive-care admissions remained steady. By Monday evening, the state had topped 45,000 cases, with 45% of those now in Los Angeles County, and 1,779 deaths. The Bay Area had nearly 7,800 confirmed cases and 266 deaths.

 

People flock to Newport Beach for a break from the heat on Saturday, April 25, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

While the state continues to flatten the curve, Newsom said, the scenes of crowds flocking to Newport Beach in Orange County and Pacific Beach in San Diego in violation of the social distancing mandates were dismaying.

In the Bay Area, Ocean Beach and Alameda Beach, as well as the East Bay Regional Parks District, reported a rash of visitors on Saturday. Although he specifically referenced Southern California, Newsom cited tracking data that indicated there was “movement all across the state.”

“Those images are an example of what not to see — what not to do, if we’re going to make the meaningful progress that we’ve made over the last few weeks extend,” Newsom said. “The worst thing we can do is rest on our laurels, decide that the virus has decided to take a break and go on vacation. … Nothing’s changed. The only thing that’s changed is our behavior for the better, and that mitigated the spread.”

Newsom already has been coordinating with the governors of Washington and Oregon in efforts to reopen the Pacific Coast states and said Monday that governors from Nevada and Colorado were joining the group.

In the hardest-hit states of New York and New Jersey, part of a metropolitan region of about 32 million people, governors signaled that even limited restarting of business activities was at least weeks away.

But plenty of states elsewhere in the country already were loosening restrictions. Georgia on Monday allowed residents to dine at restaurants for the first time in a month, as more states began easing restrictions where the coronavirus outbreak has taken a relatively light toll. A few states from Montana to Mississippi also were set to reopen some businesses deemed to be nonessential.

Alaska, Oklahoma and South Carolina, along with Georgia, previously took such steps after weeks of the mandatory lockdowns that threw millions of Americans out of work.

And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he will allow his stay-at-home order to expire Thursday. His new order, which supersedes local orders, allows businesses such as retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to reopen Friday but limits their occupancy to 25%. Libraries and museums also will be allowed to open.

Abbott said he wants barbershops, salons, gyms and bars open “as soon as possible” and expects them to open no later than mid-May.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed said she supported the Bay Area order extension with a heavy heart and referenced how an initial draw down of isolation and other protective measures during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic resulted in a larger infection surge in the city.

“This is the most difficult thing I’ve had to do, is ask the people of this city to stay home,” Breed said Monday. “The fact is the numbers still are going up, so we are not out of the woods yet. I want to be careful that we don’t take steps out of frustration and that we don’t move too quickly and repeat mistakes that have been made in our past history.”

Staff writer Rick Hurd and Reuters contributed to this report.