A stay-at-home order went into effect Sunday night, closing outdoor dining, hair salons, barbers shops and banning gatherings of any size for the next three weeks.

The order comes as intensive care unit capacity in hospitals dwindled through the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. It effectively puts nearly 28 million California residents under shelter-in-place at their homes.

The regional order was announced Friday evening and went into effect Sunday at 11:59 p.m. after hospitals across the San Joaquin Valley Region reported that overall ICU availability fell to 14.1 %, which is below the 15% threshold that triggers the stay-at-home orders.

California Governor Gavin Newsom had announced on Dec. 3 that the stay-at-home orders would be placed on any of the five regions that fell below the required ICU availability.

The San Joaquin Valley Region includes Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties.

The Southern California Region also went under the regional order as it slipped to 13.1% ICU availability. The Greater Sacramento Region reported an ICU capacity of 14.3 on Wednesday and will be on the regional order as of Thursday 11:59 p.m.

The three regions account for 36 counties with 30,896,229 California residents, placing nearly 77% of the state’s population under stay-at-home orders.

On Thursday the state reported the San Joaquin Valley Region had fallen further with only 1.9% ICU capacity. In San Joaquin County COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen 39% in the past seven days.

Dr. Maggie Park, San Joaquin County Public Health officer, told the county board of supervisors on Tuesday that COVID-19 infections rose dramatically after the Thanksgiving holiday, with nearly 500 new cases on some days. The county has reported 28,532 confirmed COVID-19 cases since March, when the first cases were reported, including 530 deaths

Currently there are 228 COVID-19 patients in county hospitals with 53 adult cases in the intensive care. That represents 110% of the county’s total ICU capacity, with COVID-19 patients occupying 49% of ICU beds and 28 % of regular hospital beds.

A presentation by a Bayesiant, a company that provides COVID-19 data analytics to the county health department, said that COVID-19 is now the single leading cause for death in the county this year.

Park said the county is preparing for countywide vaccine disbursement that will happen in four phases based on a framework from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health. The county expects an initial shipment of five cartons of vaccines with 4,875 doses next Tuesday.

“We are finally seeing some hope in ending the COVID-19 pandemic with the distribution of a vaccine in the coming weeks,” Park told the board. “San Joaquin County positioned itself to be among the first recipients of the Pfizer vaccine because we secured the cold storage capacity needed to keep the vaccine effective.”

Two ultra-low freezers will store the vaccine at minus-94 degrees and must be administered within five days after they are moved to standard refrigeration at hospital sites.

The vaccine will be given first to health care workers in high risk positions, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, acute care hospital workers and long-term care facility residents.

During an update, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, said the potential of spreading COVID needed to be stemmed. Ghaly stressed that every non-essential activity, such as outdoor dining, carries a serious risk and it wasn’t a comment on the relative safety but an effort to keep people home.

“Right now we’re seeing such high levels of transmission that almost every activity, I should say, every activity that can be done differently and keep us at our homes, not mixing with others, is safer,” Ghaly said. “Those are going to be the tools that help us get this under control.”

The stay-at-home order in each region will be in place for a minimum of three weeks and will be lifted once the ICU availability rises above 15%. ICU availability will be assessed on a weekly basis after the initial three-week period. The county does not expect the San Joaquin Valley Region ICU capacity to rise above 15% capacity until February. Once a region is no longer under the stay at home order it returns to the tier system under the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” and is subject to restrictions assigned to each tier.

Counties making up the Bay Area Region, with the exception of San Mateo County, announced on Friday they would voluntarily begin the stay-at-home order before their counties reached the 15% threshold in an effort to curb the COVID-19 surge. Northern California is still operating above the 15% ICU capacity and not under any stay-at-home orders.

The regional order, which will be in effect through at least Dec. 28, prohibits all gatherings of any size and requires people to remain at home unless they are a critical infrastructure worker. Non-urgent medical care and dental care, along with child care and pre-kindergarten care, can still remain open. Schools that were open to in-person instruction before the order was issued may continue and bring back students under the school waiver process.

The order also mandates 100% use of face coverings and social distancing and that certain business must close immediately. Indoor and outdoor dining are prohibited and restaurants can be open for take out or delivery only. Bars, breweries and distilleries were ordered to close.

Orders to close also applied to hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, personal care services, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, indoor recreational centers, card rooms, live audience sports, museums and zoos.

Hotels and other lodging businesses are open only for critical infrastructure workers only and leisure stay is not allowed.

Grocery stores are allowed to operate at 35% capacity with other indoor retail limited to 20% store capacity with no eating or drinking allowed inside the business.

Houses of worship are allowed to conduct services outdoors only.

Outdoor playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts will remain open with use by members of the same household.

The governor did encourage outdoor recreation activities including walking, running, biking and exercise with members of the same household.

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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