Regional stay at home order lifted.jpg

The California Department of Public Health projects that San Joaquin Valley should reach above 15% ICU capacity in the next coming weeks.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the state’s stay-at-home order, issued on Dec. 3 in response to COVID-19 patients overcrowding hospital intensive care units, has been lifted.

The announcement comes as reports of hospitalizations decrease across the state but still remain high. When the state issued its stay-at-home order on Dec. 3 it was in response to intensive care unit capacity reaching its limit. The order came out as available capacity in ICU’s decreased to below 15%.

Lifting of the order returns California to Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” which establishes a four-tier system of restrictions on when and how businesses can reopen. San Joaquin County, like 54 of California’s 58 counties, is in the most restrictive purple, or “widespread” tier. It allows salons to open, and restaurants will also be allowed to open for outdoor service.

The announcement came as good news, even if it was a bit of a surprise, for a couple of the local salons in downtown Tracy. Yolanda Faasisila, owner of The Cutting Room on 10th Street, said that after having to shut down three times since last March it didn’t seem like the statistics on COVID-19 cases had improved to the point where Governor newsom would declare that businesses like hers could open up again.

“We thought for sure it would be another six weeks at least, and then all of a sudden there’s an announcement that he’s going to open up,” she said. “We’re like, what changed? It doesn’t seem like really much of anything has changed, but his mind has changed.”

She isn’t going to question the decision, though. She and the stylists in her salon were back with protective masks and gloves, with work stations spaced apart.

“We’re certainly happy to be open. It’s been difficult,” she said, adding that the eight stylists in her salon got back to work on Tuesday, and customers were glad for the reopening as well.

“They’re happy to be here and get their hair done, and they’re happy personally for us to be able to provide for our families. We do more than just hair in here. It’s the relationships that we build with each other.”

Crystal Rivera, nail technician at Mood on 10th Hair and Nail Salon about a block away, said that for her and colleagues and customers their salon is a part of life that has been missing, most recently for almost two months since the governor’s last stay-at-home order.

“We’re all creative individuals. We love being at the salon. It’s more than a job. It’s a career. It’s our love and passion,” she said. “To be able to be back and running, it means a lot, because we don’t want unemployment. We want to be able to come here and make magic. I know a lot of people are happy to have us back, and we’re extremely happy to be back.”

On Monday Newsom and California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that lifting of the order reflects improvement in COVID-19 hospitalizations and an expectation of continued improvement through February.

Newsom said that hospitalizations are down 20% over the past two weeks. The California Department of Public Health’s statistics show that on Jan. 6 hospitalizations statewide of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients peaked at 22,851. Monday that number was down to 18,039.

“We are seeing a consistent decrease, all part of our projections, all part of our understanding in terms of the impact that positivity rates have, on case rates, percentage of people that end up in the hospitals, and then a percentage still that end up in ICU’s,” Newsom said.

“Projecting four weeks forward with a significant decline in case rates, positivity rates, we are anticipating a decline, still more decline in hospitalizations and more declines in ICU’s, and that’s why we’re lifting that stay-at-home order effective immediately today,” Newsom said.

The governor’s announcement was also greeted with skepticism. The California Nurses Association released a statement following the governor’s announcement, stating that it’s too soon to relax the restrictions meant to keep people safe from COVID-19.

“Let’s be clear that even if numbers are ‘trending downward,’ we are still in the midst of the most deadly surge of COVID-19 yet. RNs have seen more patient deaths in the past few weeks than we have seen at any other point in our careers, and as frontline workers, we know better than elected officials and business leaders that it is not time to let our guard down.

The association goes on to state that nurses continue to be overworked as they contend with the most recent surge in cases, and many hospitals are still in violation of the state’s safe nurse-to-patient staffing law.

• Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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