Coronavirus: Bay Area Counties Have Opened Up More. Here's Where Your County Stands

A doctor with the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic walks by a supportive sign on a boarded-up shop in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco on March 17, 2020.  (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Updated May 23

While California relaxed its stay-at-home order effective May 8, six Bay Area counties have set their own timetables for reopening due to their adoption of targets related to a different set of metrics than the state is following. The criteria, which the counties call indicators, are:

  • A decrease or flattening of newly identified cases
  • A decrease or flattening of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, for 14 consecutive days
  • Ability to test 200 people per day, per 100,000 residents
  • A 30-day supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) at principal health care outlets
  • No more than half of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients
  • Ability to identify 90% of coronavirus cases and people who have come into contact with them, and the capacity to isolate 90% of cases and their contacts

Alameda, San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties loosened restrictions starting Monday, May 18. The new rules allow some retail stores to reopen with curbside pickup and delivery options only, and associated manufacturing, logistics and warehouse operations to resume. Contra Costa County issued similar orders that went into effect on Tuesday, May 19. The remaining county in the group, Santa Clara, announced it will also loosen its stay-at-home order with changes taking effect on Friday, May 22.

Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties opted out of the regional public health plan and are following the state road map to reopening instead.

Last week Sonoma announced an expansion of businesses that can open, provided they meet certain guidelines. On Tuesday, May 19, Napa moved further into phase 2 of reopening, allowing restaurants to reopen with safety restrictions in place. Solano County announced that it will permit in-store retail shopping and in-restaurant dining starting at 6 a.m. on Friday, May 22.

See each of the counties' current stage of reopening and their progress in meeting the individual indicators by clicking on the links below.

Alameda

Stage of reopening: The county now allows for curbside pickup at some stores and the resumption of manufacturing and logistics operations.

Progress: Officials say the county is rapidly increasing testing capacity each week, with swabs and other supplies more readily available than at the beginning of the pandemic. Alameda has been able to expand the number of people who qualify to receive tests to include those with  COVID-19 symptoms. It recently announced four new test sites with the goal of reaching underserved populations.

Maintaining a 30-day supply of protective equipment remains a challenge, with the county's health department still receiving requests from some health care facilities that can't obtain enough PPE from their usual suppliers.

Various shortages have arisen at different times, said Dr. Erica Pan, Alameda County's interim health officer.  "Most recently, there's been a gown shortage," she said. "There's definitely more demand than supply right now. In more focused outbreaks, you can request supply from another uninfected region. But because we're in a global pandemic, there's a high demand across the world."

As for contact tracing, Neetu Balram, spokesperson for the county's health department, said in an email: "At this time we estimate we are meeting our goals of reaching approximately 90% of cases and contacts and ensuring that approximately 90% of those we reach can isolate or quarantine safely. We need to continue to scale our teams up to prepare for increased cases and outbreaks as we loosen restrictions and allow more physical contact, but currently we're moving in the right direction."

  • Hospitalizations and new cases: Both have been flat.
  • Hospital capacity: The county says it is currently meeting the goal.
  • Testing: The county said in May it was roughly one-third of the way to the target of 3,100 tests per day.

Contra Costa

Stage of reopening: Contra Costa County's shelter-at-home modifications allowing for curbside retail transactions, logistics and manufacturing operations went into effect on Tuesday, May 19.

Contra Costa County Health Officer Chris Farnitano says there will be a higher bar for a broader reopening that includes gatherings of people, says Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Health Officer,.

The county is reopening courts on May 26.

You can follow the county's progress through its indicators dashboard.

Progress: County health officials said supply chain problems that initially limited testing capacity have largely been resolved. A recent surplus in testing materials allowed Contra Costa to open up testing to the entire county. Testing is made by appointment, and there is no cost to those without insurance.

The supply chain for PPE has also improved, Farnitano says, but he cautions that demand will increase as more medical and dental offices reopen.

The county is hiring dozens of “disease intervention technicians” to conduct contact tracing investigations, a spokesperson for Contra Costa Health Services said.

  • Hospitalizations and new cases: Hospitalizations have been decreasing and new cases have been flat.
  • Hospital capacity: The percentage of COVID-19 patients in hospital beds is currently just over 1 percent.
  • Testing: As of May 13,  the seven-day rolling average for the county was 51 tests a day per 100,000 residents, about a quarter of the way to the indicator goal.

Marin

Stage of reopening: Marin allowed retailers to reopen for curbside transactions and for manufacturing operations to resume starting Monday, May 18. Marin also previously loosened some restrictions, such as the resumption of construction and some outdoor businesses and activities.

Progress: County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said in May that the health care facilities in the county either had a 30-day supply of PPE on hand or can meet the goal using their current supply schedule.

To perform more testing, Willis said, obtaining enough swabs had been the main barrier, but the county now has a sufficient supply. Marin is training staff and opening up more sites to increase testing capacity.

The county is ramping up it's contact tracing resources. "We have 52 active cases currently and 15 tracers, with a corps of 33 on deck to be trained," Willis said. "Current demand matches our supply."

Willis says the county will consider reopening more low-risk businesses before strictly meeting each benchmark, providing significant progress is made.

The county has released an indicators dashboard where you can monitor the key metrics.


  • Hospitalizations and new cases: Both have been flat, but have seen a recent uptick.
  • Hospital capacity: The percentage of COVID-19 patients  occupying hospital beds is currently significantly below the maximum allowed by the indicator.
  • Testing: Willis says daily testing numbers still fluctuate and that it's "too early to say we're sustainably at our target."

Napa

Stage of reopening: With the lowest number of cases and deaths in the Bay Area, Napa County has been following the state's reopening road map and is currently in Stage 2.

The county applied for a Stage 2 variance, which enables counties that meet certain requirements to jump ahead of the state in  reopening expanding businesses and locations that can reopen, but it did not qualify under the former criteria for approval. However, the state recently relaxed those stipulations, and the variance was granted on Tuesday,  May 19.

The current criteria for obtaining a variance are:

  • Stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5% OR no more than 20 COVID hospitalizations on any single day in the past 14 days
  • Less than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days OR less than 8% testing positive in the past 7 days

The variance allows for some lower-medium risk businesses to reopen, including restaurants for dine-in eating and retail shops with physical distancing and other precautionary measures in place. Wineries and tasting rooms will remain closed for the time being.

Schools in Napa County can reopen June 1 provided they make modifications.

Progress: The county wrote the following in its Variance Attestation report to the state on May 18:

(A)lthough an anticipated outcome of further progression into Stage 2 in any jurisdiction is a likely increase of positive cases, the County has the capacity to meet the resultant public health response. Broadly speaking, the County has sufficiently flattened the curve, it has healthcare surge capacity, it will monitor local conditions, and it remains prepared to restrict its Shelter-at-Home Order, if and when necessary, in order to protect the public health of its community.

Hospitalizations and new cases: As of May 21, just one confirmed COVID-19 case was hospitalized in the county.

Testing: The county said on May 18 that positive cases confirmed by testing over the past 7 days was 0.5%, much less than the 8% threshold required for a variance.

San Francisco

Stage of reopening: Last week San Francisco tightened its directives for essential businesses, requiring that workers and customers wear face masks, among other mandates. But on Monday, May 18, the city began to relax its stay-at-home order by allowing retailers to open for curbside operations and delivery. The new rules require stores to have access to the street, so businesses in malls must remain closed. Mayor London Breed said 95% of the city's retailers will be allowed to reopen. Manufacturing and warehouse operations can also resume. The city released guidelines for reopening stores last week.

San Francisco had previously loosened some restrictions, such as the resumption of construction and some outdoor businesses and activities.

The city says it will wait until early-to-late June before considering entering the next phase of reopening. "If needed, we will dial back," said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the city's Department of Public Health, on Tuesday. "If the curve goes up or we see indication that the virus is spreading in the community at an alarming rate."

Progress:

  • Hospitalizations and new cases: The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has been decreasing, and the number of newly confirmed cases each day has flattened.
  • Hospital capacity: COVID-19 patients are currently occupying a small percentage of the city's available hospital beds.
  • Testing: The city’s goal is to conduct 200 tests per 100,000 residents each day. With a population of about 880,000 people, the city will need to increase its testing capacity to roughly 1,760 tests daily to hit this target. In early May, Mayor Breed said the city is averaging about 1,000 tests per day.  You can track test counts here

San Mateo

Stage of reopening: San Mateo County allowed retail stores to open for curbside and delivery activity, and for manufacturing and logistics companies to resume operations, starting Monday, May 18.

Progress: County spokesperson Michelle Durand said in an email in early May that the "largest hurdle to more people getting tested is residents meeting the criteria for testing." The county does not run COVID-19 testing labs, but facilitates testing through Verily's Project Baseline. People must have two symptoms or be a front-line health worker to qualify for a test.

As for health facilities having a 30-day supply of PPE, Durand said, "We don’t know where all individual hospitals are in their PPE supplies because they don’t report that to the county Emergency Operations Center. Hospitals can request PPE from the county Emergency Operations Center, but can also secure it from their own sources."

  • Hospitalizations and new cases: Both have been flat.
  • Hospital capacity: The county is under the 50% threshold for patients in COVID-19 hospital beds.
  • Testing: As of mid-May, as many as 744 tests per day have been administered in the county, which is less than half of what would be needed to meet the indicator goal.

Santa Clara (Updated May 21)

Stage of reopening: Beginning Friday, May 22, retail businesses can open for curbside pickup. The supply chain companies and manufacturers that support those businesses will be allowed to reopen, too. Everyone is required to wear masks and practice physical distancing.

About a week before the county announced those plans to loosen restrictions, County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody had informed the Board of Supervisors that it was not yet ready to do so. “If we did let up, we would see a quick return of cases, hospitalizations, and a quick return of deaths, to be quite blunt," she said.

But on May 18, Cody said the number of new cases in the county is stable, the number of patients requiring hospitalizations for COVID-19 is trending down, and testing capacity has increased, allowing the county to move ahead.

Progress: Cody said at that Board of Supervisors meeting that in terms of the health care system's ability to cope with the pandemic, "We are doing extraordinarily well." There is "plenty of capacity in our hospitals," she said, with available regular and ICU beds. She said the county was "making significant headway" in ensuring that care providers have enough protective equipment.

Cody acknowledged that the county was still “less than halfway” to its goal of 4,000 tests per day as of early May. But the rate of positive tests is around 1.5%, down from a high of 9% in early April.

“That is a very significant improvement for us,” she said. “With this progress, we can now safely take another step forward in gradually reopening.”

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, head of the county's testing task force, told the San Francisco Chronicle Thursday that the county was still significantly undertesting in the area of East San Jose, where 40% of the county's coronavirus cases have occurred.

Aside from the indicators, “other factors” including compliance with social distancing rules and quarantine directives, will guide  the decision as to when to cut back on restrictions, a county spokesperson wrote in an email in mid-May.

Officials would like to strengthen the supply chain for swabs, testing kits and protective equipment. They are also in a "huge push for expanded testing," encouraging doctors and hospitals to broaden the requirements to qualify for a test and asking people to seek testing when they are sick.

Most area hospitals have a 30-day supply of protective masks, gowns and other equipment, and the county will continue to monitor the inventory as "services are expanded," a spokesperson said.

Santa Clara County recently announced it is building a corps of 1,000 disease investigators and contact tracers who can help contain the spread of the coronavirus by calling people who have been in close contact with those who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

As of May 22, between 15 and 30 people in the county were confirmedas having been infected with the coronavirus every day, and each of those people is in regular contact with about four or five other people in their home or immediate community that they may have infected.

“Right now people tend to have very few contacts while we shelter in place,” said Dr. Sarah Rudman, Santa Clara County assistant health officer. “We expect that as shelter in place is lessened, people are going to have more contacts, and that's why we need to be able to have a larger workforce to reach those folks as well.”

The county is first redeploying other county employees, like librarians, to train for the new workforce. But to reach 1,000 positions, they're also asking for volunteers from the community.

The county says it is especially in need of people who speak languages other than English, particularly Spanish and Vietnamese.

  • Hospitalizations and new cases: Both have been flat.
  • Hospital capacity: The county is significantly surpassing the 50% target for COVID-19 patients in hospital beds.
  • Testing: Santa Clara's goal of 200 tests per every 100,000 residents per day comes out to about 4,000 tests daily. As of mid-May, the county was testing between 50 and 100 people per every 100,000 residents.

Solano

Stage of reopening: Solano County also opted out of the specific indicators adopted by other Bay Area counties.

Instead, Solano has its own road map to recovery, organizing businesses and activities into low- medium-, and high-risk categories, with designations based on “how easy it is to socially distance and to have good sanitation,” said Public Health Administrator Jayleen Richards.

On May 20, Solano was approved for a variance from the state's reopening schedule, so that it can expand which businesses are allowed to resume operations. The county will allow for in-restaurant dining and in-store retail shopping starting Friday, May 22, provided businesses meet the state's social distancing guidelines. Shopping malls, swap-meets and office-based businesses can also reopen with social distancing restrictions in place.

The criteria for obtaining a variance, which the state recently loosened, are:

  • Stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5% OR no more than 20 COVID hospitalizations on any single day in the past 14 days
  • Less than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days OR less than 8% testing positive in the past 7 days

Progress: In terms of contact tracing, Solano is already exceeding the goal set by other counties, according to Richards.

"We are doing contact tracing for 99% of all the positive cases," she said in mid-May. "We isolate them and quarantine their contacts."

Roughly a dozen people are doing contact tracing, and the county is  training 100 additional people in case of a surge, Richards said.

The county also has a month's worth of PPE and a good supply chain in place, she said.

  • Hospitalizations and new cases: The county saw a spike in cases in May with an outbreak at a nursing home. Currently, 15 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized.
  • Hospital capacity. The county rates its ICU bed availability as "good."
  • Testing: The county is currently running about 1,500 tests per day, according to Dr. Bela Matyas, the Solano County health officer. Matyas said the goal is to have the capacity to test everyone who wants one.

Sonoma (Updated May 23)

Stage of reopening: Sonoma County is following the state road map. On May 22, following the California health department's posting of the county's variance attestation form,  which outlines the county's readiness to move beyond what the state allows to reopen, Sonoma amended its public health order.

The new guidelines allow restaurants, breweries, bars, craft distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms to operate outdoors if they offer sit-down meals. Summer day camps and drive-in movies can also open, as can libraries for curbside pickup. Counseling provided by faith-based organizations can be performed in-person with members of a single household if online options are not available. All of these and other operations that are now sanctioned are subject to extensive limitations and social distancing guidelines, which you can read in the order.

Progress: In an email in mid-May, Sonoma County Communications and Engagement Coordinator Jennifer Larocque wrote the “county is meeting many of the indicators required by the state. We have attained or are very close to reaching most of the indicators laid out by the governor for regional variance."

In the area of protective equipment, Larocque said the county is "confident" of supplies available to hospitals. The county will "coordinate closely with them to determine unmet needs."

Testing is administered at the county's drive-through site and two state sites, plus hospitals, clinics and high-risk locations like congregate care facilities, homeless shelters and the county jail.

  • Hospitalizations and new cases: Newly confirmed daily cases as of mid-May ranged from three to 21.
  • Hospital capacity. The county reports meeting or being very close to the state's goal of being able to accommodate a minimum surge of 35% in new COVID patients.
  • Testing: Larocque says there's capacity for more than 700 tests per day. This appears to put the county close to or meeting the state's goal of at least 1.5 tests/day per 1,000 residents.

Reported by Peter Arcuni, Jon Brooks, Laura Klivans and Kevin Stark

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