The three-week stay-at-home orders issued at the state level for the vast majority of Californians since early December are not likely to expire as planned, and are mostly likely getting extended — but how this will work for the Bay Area remains to be seen.
Six Bay Area counties voluntarily enacted their own stay-at-home orders about a week before the state's threshold of 15% available ICU capacity was reached. The remaining Bay Area counties — San Mateo, Solano, and Napa — fell under the state order as of Friday. For San Francisco and the counties that joined in the early orders, the announced expiration was January 4, but that could be extended depending on how hospitalizations are looking.
But for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley regions, where the three weeks will be up next week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the orders will likely be extended beyond the new year.
"Based upon all the data, and based upon all these trend lines, it's very likely based on those current trends that we'll need to extend that stay-at-home," Newsom said.
There are some promising signs for the Bay Area, but nothing to latch on to just yet. On Saturday, the Bay Area had its first dip in hospitalizations in over a month, with 12 fewer patients in the hospital than on Friday. While the numbers rose again on Sunday, this could at least be a sign of stabilization, with several counties including San Francisco seeing small dips suggesting that hospitalizations may have peaked.
Meanwhile in the Southern California and San Joaquin regions, ICUs are at full capacity across the board, with 0% of beds available.
A region will be able to lift the broad stay-at-home orders and allow things like outdoor dining to resume once ICU capacity has risen above 15% and remained there for at least week. For the state's framework in this order, the Bay Area region includes 11 counties — the usual nine plus Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Back in the spring, San Francisco and other Bay Area counties were slow to allow businesses to reopen, and initial stay-at-home orders were extended twice before things began to change.
Santa Clara County remains the hardest hit with well over 1,000 new cases each day for the past two weeks, and 623 COVID patients now in hospitals — more than one-third of all the COVID patients currently hospitalized in the Bay Area. ICU capacity in Santa Clara County has been low for weeks, and they now have 139 COVID patients in ICU beds, with 11% capacity remaining available.
Top image: A mural in Venice, California. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images