Santa Clara County’s health officer issued a new health order Thursday that puts in place long term measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus and warned residents that they must adapt to a new way of life as COVID-19 “will be with us for a long time.”
Dr. Sara Cody’s order requires risk reduction measures to be put in place “across all business sectors and activities” to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. Businesses must require workers to do their jobs remotely if possible; businesses are “strongly urged to move as many operations as possible outdoors,” and businesses must not exceed density limitations at their facilities. It says the total number of workers at a facility cannot “exceed one personnel per 250 gross square feet, and the total number of customers or members of the public may not exceed one person per 150 square feet of space open to the public.”
“This virus has proven time and again in communities around the country and around the world that it will come back with a vengeance if you let your guard down,” Cody said during a news conference. “We will not let our guard down here in Santa Clara County.”
The order takes effect on July 13 or whenever it is granted approval by state officials, whichever is later. High-risk businesses must remain closed as part of this order, such as: indoor dining, indoor bars, indoor swimming pools, saunas, amusement parks, nightclubs, music venues, indoor theaters, indoor playgrounds, and “Any indoor facility that is used for an activity inherently necessitating the removal of a face covering.”
“We’re all coming to recognize that certain activities just can’t be done safely at this time,” Cody said. “There are, however, other activities that we can resume in limited ways if we do them with appropriate and consistent social distancing.”
Cody said the county has reached an “inflection point” in the pandemic where it’s “crystal clear that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time.” She said county residents must adapt a new way of life in order to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe.
In addition, the order sets mandatory reporting standards for employers, requiring them to immediately report coronavirus cases to local public health officials if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 if they “were present in the workplace within the 48 hours prior to onset of symptoms or within 48 hours of the date on which they were tested.” Employers must report the case within four hours to the public health department.
The new order will allow some activities to resume in the county, such as hair and nail services, gyms, and small gatherings, as long as strict social distancing protocols are in place, she said.
Cody said that while Santa Clara County has had fewer coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents than any other county in the Bay Area over the last two weeks — and fewer than any other “urban region” in the state during that time period— the county continues to record higher daily case counts than compared to April, when she said “we all came together to flatten the curve.”
Santa Clara County has reported 4,750 cases and 159 deaths as of Thursday, according to the county’s COVID-19 data dashboard.
Cody said the order marks the beginning of a new phase in the county’s response to a pandemic that has infected 246,594 and killed 6,261 in California as of Thursday, and infected more than 2 million people in the United States.
The new health order comes a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered 19 counties with climbing coronavirus cases to close indoor restaurants, wineries, and other establishments in an effort to curb the virus’ acceleration. Santa Clara County was on the list, joining Contra Costa and Solano counties in the Bay Area.
“I am extremely grateful for his leadership in doing this. Those activities were never reopened here in our county, and unfortunately many are ones that cannot resume safely here or elsewhere anytime soon,” Cody said.
She said she understands that the “realities of human behavior” must be taken into account and hopes the new order is a guide for residents to safely navigate certain activities in the county “for the months ahead.”
Cody said health officials anticipate this new stage “will be stable for some time,” but did not provide a timeline.
In her closing remarks during Thursday’s news conference, Cody said the coronavirus has put a spotlight on the stark existing disparities in society and created “devastating social and economic consequences” in the Bay Area and beyond.
“But the only way we can get out of this is to simply stay laser focused on containing COVID-19. And I believe we can do this if we stay together,” Cody said. “I am very proud of our community and what we have been able to accomplish together over the last many months, and know that we will continue to pull together and support one another as we move forward in the weeks and months to come.”
Lauren Hernández is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @ByLHernandez