County: Stay home one more month

Playgrounds, dog parks, golf courses must close

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San Benito County officials have extended the local stay-home order to May 3, and issued a new requirement that all “essential” businesses remaining open must implement a “social distancing protocol” for the duration of the order.

The new directive is “more restrictive” than the previous one, which would have expired April 7. The March 31 order mandates the closure of public playgrounds, dog parks, golf courses and other “shared recreational facilities.”

While the prior order has been effective in reducing the rate of transmission of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 illness, it is not enough, according to county officials. There has been a significant increase in the number of positive cases from COVID-19, which is beginning to strain healthcare resources.

“This new extended Order is more restrictive than the previous order due to the increased number of cases in our county and the absolute need for us to maintain safe physical differences,” stated County Health Officer Marty Fenstersheib. 

As of April 1, there have been 21 confirmed cases in San Benito County. 

The purpose of local and statewide shelter-at-home orders is to “flatten the curve” of the illness’ spread, so that hospitals and other healthcare resources are not overwhelmed with patients.

“Extending the stay-at-home order should reduce the number of sick patients seeking care at one time, giving us time to acquire more medical supplies for providers who will be providing care to people sick with COVID-19,” stated Fenstersheib. “The extension will allow doctors and nurses to better treat those who do get sick and save countless lives.”

This order complements the indefinite statewide stay-at-home order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month.

Like the previous local order, the new order requires people to stay at home except for doing essential activities, such as grocery shopping. Essential business places will be required to post and enforce physical distancing protocols for their establishments in order to protect the health and safety of the workers and patrons. Non-essential businesses will remain closed.

The new order adds some clarifying language around essential businesses and activities, as well as some new directives, including:

• Use of playgrounds, dog parks, public picnic areas, and similar recreational areas is prohibited. These areas must be closed to public use.

· Use of shared public recreational facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts is prohibited. These facilities must be closed for recreational use.

• Sports requiring people to share a ball or other equipment must be limited to people in the same household.

• Requires essential businesses to develop a social distancing protocol before April 3, 2020.

• Funerals limited to no more than 10 people attending.

• Essential businesses expanded to include service providers that enable residential transactions (notaries, title companies, Realtors, etc.); funeral homes and cemeteries; moving companies, rental car companies and rideshare services that specifically enable essential activities.

• Essential businesses that continue to operate facilities must scale down operations to their essential component only.

“Social distancing is the most powerful tool to slow the spread of COVID-19, a virus so new that it has no approved medicines or vaccines,” Fenstersheib. “What we need now, for the health of all our community, is for people to stay home. Even though it has been difficult, we have stepped up to the challenge so far, and we need to reaffirm our commitment. We need more time to flatten the curve, to prepare our local hospital for a surge, and to do everything we can to minimize the harm that the virus causes to our community.”

Similar orders are also in effect across the six most populous counties of the Bay Area, including in Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Alameda Counties. Additional counties may issue the same or similar orders.

This order is a legal order issued under the authority of California law. All residents of San Benito County are required to comply, and it is a crime (a misdemeanor) not to follow the order, according to county staff.

Frequently asked questions will be posted in English and Spanish on the San Benito County Public Health Services website at http://hhsa.cosb.us/publichealth/ by Thursday, April 2, 2020.

To watch a video from the county Health Officer on preventing the spread of COVID-19 please go to https://hhsa.cosb.us/publichealth/communicable-disease/coronavirus/.  For more information about COVID-19, see the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html, call 211 or text “COVID19” to 211211 or visit the San Benito County Public Health Services website for updated local information at http://hhsa.cosb.us/publichealth/.

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