The state of California has announced a regional stay-at-home order in the San Joaquin Valley region—which includes San Benito County—due to the declining availability of hospital beds that may be needed to treat the growing surge of Covid-19 patients.
Starting 11:59pm Dec. 6, all business sectors other than retail and essential operations will close in San Benito County, reads a press release from state and regional public health officials. The San Joaquin Valley region also includes Merced, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Joaquin, Tulare and Tuolumne.
Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week announced that regions of California would be subject to the new stay-at-home order when a region’s ICU capacity falls below 15 percent of available beds. As of Dec. 5, the San Joaquin Valley’s ICU capacity has fallen below 15 percent, triggering the regional order.
San Benito County’s only hospital—Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital—is completely full, according to local officials.
Business activities and facilities that must close under the new order include indoor and outdoor restaurants, hair salons, gyms and indoor recreational facilities and bars, breweries and distilleries. Restaurants can remain open only for takeout, pickup and delivery. Church services and protest activities may resume outdoors, and overnight stays at campgrounds are prohibited.
“The new Regional Order is a protective measure to limit the spread of Covid-19 and support the most vulnerable community members and hospital frontline workers,” reads the press release.
The regional order will remain in effect for at least three weeks, or until Dec. 26 at the earliest. The order urges residents to stay home as much as possible to limit mixing with other households, which can lead to increased community transmission of Covid-19. The order allows access to and travel for critical services and allows outdoor activities “to preserve Californians’ physical and mental health,” the Dec. 5 press release says. “This limited closure will help stop the surge and prevent overwhelming regional ICU capacity.”
Under the new order, retail establishments may remain open indoors, but only at 20 percent capacity. Outdoor recreational facilities may remain open but cannot offer any food, drink or alcohol sales, the order says.
Hair salons, barbershops, personal care services, museums, zoos, aquariums, movie theaters, wineries, cardrooms and amusement parks must close under the order that starts Dec. 6, according to public health officials.
“Our only hospital in San Benito County is completely full,” said San Benito County Public Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci. “This is an alarming situation that could get much worse. We can only get through this if we work together. Please follow our advice to keep yourself, your family and your neighbors safe.”
County officials on Dec. 4 reported the 18th death from Covid-19. A total of 2,051 residents of San Benito County have tested positive for Covid-19 since the pandemic began in March.
For more information about the regional stay-at-home order, visit the state’s website at COVID-19.ca.gov.