Santa Clara County will allow outdoor dining, in-store shopping and outdoor religious services starting Friday as part of a new, loosened shelter-in-place order.
The new order — which this news organization first reported Monday morning — will bring the county more in line with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 guidelines for the state, along with counties around the region that have already moved to ease restrictions.
Changes include the allowance of outdoor religious and cultural services, plus protests and other constitutionally protected gatherings in groups of 25 people or less, along with outdoor dining and in-store shopping and retail with social distancing requirements, the county confirmed.
Pointing out that COVID-19 has devastated low-income and communities of color, Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement that the county has chosen to be “measured in how and when we reopen” and emphasized that the threat of the disease has not dissipated — even as officials grapple with the economic fallout of more than two months of sheltering in place.
“The global pandemic is ongoing, and we must continue to protect the health and well-being of our entire community, especially those most vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19,” she said.
Summer camps and educational activities like summer school will now be allowed for all kids in stable groups of 12 — not just children of essential workers — while swimming pools and drive-in movie theaters may also reopen. All manufacturing, logistics and warehousing businesses will also be allowed to resume operations.
A slew of “no-contact” businesses — such as shoe repair and house cleaning — may also resume.
Santa Clara County has trailed neighbors like San Mateo and Marin in easing shelter-in-place restrictions in recent weeks, instead sticking to the previous regional orders that were more restrictive than Newsom’s. Last week, Cody criticized Newsom’s approach during a Board of Supervisors meeting, telling officials that he was moving too quickly.
“The state is opening things at a very brisk clip (and) not waiting to see what the impact is,” Cody said.
Still, Cody and the public health department as a whole has faced criticism — including from the Board of Supervisors — for moving too slow on indicators for testing and contact tracing that she previously said would determine the county’s reopening timeline.
The department pointed to an increased availability of testing in the county and relatively steady case numbers as the reason for relaxing the restrictions.
As of Monday, Santa Clara County had more than 2,770 confirmed coronavirus cases and 141 deaths, compared to more than 14,300 cases in the Bay Area overall, plus 447 deaths.