Bay Area public health officers announced Monday that they "expect to move forward with additional openings" of businesses starting this week while continuing to track the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
"Each decision we make involves difficult trade-offs and affects the community’s well being in many different ways," said officials for the six Bay Area counties currently under shelter-in-place orders in a statement. "As we open additional sectors, we are relying on businesses to consistently follow social distancing protocols and public health guidance to protect their employees and customers."
Health officers will "continue to work in close collaboration on how to best protect the residents of our region" while navigating an unclear path for reopening businesses and permitting more activity during the pandemic. Residents are still encouraged to stay home as much as possible, wear face masks, wash their hands regularly, stay home when feeling ill and get tested if exposed.
Though "encouraged" by what they've seen in some areas, officials said they are "concerned about what we are seeing in others. As we move forward together, we will each make choices about what to reopen and how quickly to do so."
Data for the specific conditions of each community and a "joint assessment of broader regional trends" will be used to make those decisions, potentially giving cities in the Tri-Valley different reopening timelines from each other and allowing "sufficient time between significant changes to understand their effects."
Pleasanton has the most confirmed cases so far in the Tri-Valley -- 62 -- compared to other Alameda County communities like Hayward and Oakland, which are in the hundreds. Alameda County spokesperson Neetu Balram told the Weekly that the delay for reopening Tri-Valley businesses is part of a unified effort to avoid cross-exposure in the region.
"Although we recommend people stay home as much as possible, we know people leave their city for activities like work, food and curbside retail pick up, and outdoor recreation," Balram said. "If we allow one city to open faster than another, it creates the potential for residents of one city with more restrictions to visit another to access services and potentially expose that community. This is why the seven Bay Area Health jurisdictions are moving at a similarly slow pace, too."
Local protests this week over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died May 25 after a Minneapolis, Minn. police officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, have prompted health officials to remind the public about the importance of social distancing and continuing to wear face masks.
"As a public health department, we understand that choosing between protesting the tragedy of a man losing his life and protecting yourself from this virus that is disproportionately impacting our African-American, Latinx and Pacific Islander communities is not a choice many people are able to make," Balrum said.
Balrum continued, "We know even with adherence to physical distancing, bringing members of different households together to engage in in-person protests carries a higher risk of widespread transmission of COVID-19. Such gatherings may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations. We ask that everyone be careful. Try to be as safe as possible and wear a face covering."
Starting June 3, Contra Costa County residents can resume working, shopping inside local retail stores, outdoor socializing in small groups, and secure housekeeping services and childcare for nonessential workers. Daycare centers and summer camps will be limited to 12 children or less.
Outdoor museums can also reopen, and the order also permits services without close customer contact such as car washes, plumbing and pet grooming. Libraries can also reopen for curbside pickup service and protests of no more than 100 people will also be permitted. Religious services may resume June 15 with some limitations. Contra Costa County officials said they will also consult with the state about reopening swimming pools and outdoor dining in the near future.
“This latest step toward reopening our county is a reflection of our successful collective effort as a community to limit the spread of the virus,” said county health officer Dr. Chris Farnitano. “I know there’s a lot of frustration out there, but it’s important to keep in mind that interventions like social distancing have saved lives.”
There were 3,515 cases confirmed in Alameda County, and 1,506 cases in Contra Costa County (including patients who have already recovered) as of Tuesday night, according to both health agencies.