Governor Gavin Newsom's Thursday update on pandemic-related public health orders established a new methodology and new criterion for imposing a strict three-week lockdown — and it means the Bay Area region, together with Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, is now all in this together.
The trigger for the next stay-at-home order, Newsom announced, would be dipping below a 15% threshold for intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity. And this time, rather than go county by county, the order will come down for regions as a whole, with the state now grouping counties according to the following:
- Northern California: Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity
- Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma
- Greater Sacramento: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba
- San Joaquin Valley: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne
- Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura
You'll notice that Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, which are typically not lumped in with the nine-county area, count as "Bay Area" for the state's metric-watching for the coming months. (To be clear, the two counties' health officers do caucus with the Bay Area's health officers as part of the Association of Bay Area Health Officials, which also includes San Benito County.) According to Newsom, the Bay Area is expected to hit the 15% threshold for ICU capacity by mid- to late December, if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at their current rates.
Below, via available data from the state and based on ICU bed totals published in March, you can see where each of the 11 counties stand in terms of ICU capacity. Sonoma County is in the worst position and brings the regional average down with just 8.5% capacity as of Wednesday — that's only seven ICU beds currently open in the county, up from three a few days earlier. Solano County had only 12 beds available as of Thursday, representing just 13% of its total ICU capacity. And Santa Clara County has just 16% available, while most of the remaining counties are around 25% or above.
- Alameda: 32% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 3
- Contra Costa: 21% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 3
- Marin: 17% as of Dec. 3, with 6 COVID patients in ICU beds
- Monterey: 34% average over the past 14 days
- Napa: 75% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 3
- San Francisco: 26% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 2
- San Mateo: 31% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 2
- Santa Clara: 16% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 2
- Santa Cruz: 27% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 3
- Solano: 13% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 3
- Sonoma: 8.5% of ICU beds available, as of Dec. 3
The counties with the fewest overall ICU beds — Marin, Napa, and Santa Cruz counties, which have just 120 beds between them — will likely see some of their severely ill patients transferred to neighboring counties with bigger regional hospitals as beds fill up.
Counties to watch as we move into mid-December will be Sonoma, Solano, Santa Clara, and Monterey counties, due to their currently low bed capacities and their previous track records in the state's tier system. Sonoma and Monterey counties have both been stuck in the "Purple" tier for months as other neighboring counties have moved up and down to other tiers in recent weeks. While most of the region has now been relegated to "Purple" status it may be moot. But a report released over the summer linked higher COVID case counts to farm work and agriculture-heavy counties, with Sonoma said to be following a similar pattern of virus spread as Monterey County.
Within days, Newsom's stricter stay-at-home order — which is said to last three weeks but could be extended depending on regional metrics — is likely to be triggered for most of the state, save for the Bay Area.
If and when the 15% threshold is hit, San Francisco and other cities around the Bay will need to once again shut down all outdoor dining, in addition to closing hair and nail salons, barbershops, gyms, and further limiting gatherings. Schools that are already open will stay open, Newsom said, and retail establishments will be allowed to remain open as well at 20% capacity (he noted that the distinction between "essential" and "non-essential" retail in the spring unfairly disadvantaged small businesses while big-box stores that sold food, like Walmart and Target, remained open).
As the Mercury News reports, already weary restaurateurs who only two weeks ago had to stop all indoor service are once again bracing for economic hardship.
A federal stimulus bill, which may ease some of the pain, is now looking more likely before the Christmas holiday.
Photo: Adam Niesciourik