Governor Gavin Newsom has lifted the remaining regional stay-at-home orders across California, returning to the county-by-county, color-coded system for reopening, and San Francisco will be allowing outdoor dining to resume in short order.
For the Bay Area, Southern California, and San Joaquin Valley regions, this means that the state-mandated public health order that took effect in mid-December has been lifted, based on rising numbers of ICU beds and projected ICU capacity above an average of 15% in the coming weeks. But what this means for specific counties in the Bay Area remains unclear — as of Monday morning we know that San Francisco will be restarting outdoor dining and letting personal services businesses like hair and nail salons reopen as well.*
"Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said former SF Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón, who is now the state’s public health officer, in a statement Monday. "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."
UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi said that the light at the end of the tunnel is there, and she does not expect there will be any further lockdown orders due to the increasing availability of vaccines.
"We did not see the surge that was predicted," Dr. Gandhi tells KPIX. "We did from Thanksgiving, and then it was not as bad at Christmas and New Year’s at all that was predicted."
An email went out to the media Monday morning from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management announcing a 1:15 p.m. virtual press conference with Mayor London Breed and Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax, after which we should have more details about what local businesses can reopen and when.
As the Chronicle reports, most California counties are returning to the most restrictive "Purple" tier today, which means that some personal services businesses like hair and nail salons will be allowed back open, along with outdoor dining. In San Francisco, the transition to reopening may not be immediate, and in past phases under the state's "Blueprint for a Safer Economy," San Francisco officials have opted to maintain stricter rules, lagging behind the four-tiered system.
As of last week, on January 19, the state average for ICU bed availability was still just 4.5%. In the Bay Area, the last reported metric was 6.5% availability, but that jumped as of Sunday to 23.4%, leading to speculation that business reopenings were imminent. Mayor Breed also hinted on Friday that as the reproductive rate of the virus continued to drop in San Francisco, more restrictions would soon be lifted.
The Greater Sacramento region was the first to have its stay-at-home orders lifted two weeks ago, but many Californians balked at the reasoning behind the decision when the region's ICU bed availability remained well below 10%. As the Associated Press reported last week, state health officials continue to play things close to the vest when it comes to their projections and how their calculated, and the decision about the Sacramento region had to do with a four-week projection of bed capacity.
It's unclear if the state will now return to the previous schedule of updating the color-tier ratings and county metrics every Tuesday. As of Monday, according to data from January 19, San Francisco was still solidly in the "Purple" tier, with 38.5 new daily COVID cases per 100,000 residents, and a 7-day average positivity rate of 4.3%.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images