Santa Clara construction rules eased

Santa Clara County’s new health order eases construction, some other business restrictions

Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s health officer, answers a question at a press conference April 29, 2020 in which she issued a revised shelter-in-place order extending through May 31.

Santa Clara County’s new health order taking effect Monday will allow all construction now permitted under California’s statewide health order to resume as well as certain outdoor businesses, childcare and recreational activities.

“The new order largely keeps the current restrictions and structures in place, so that means we will have to continue to together shelter in place to help combat Covid-19,” said James Williams, county counsel. The new order expires May 31.

In places where the state and county health orders are different, Williams said the stricter rules apply regardless which level of government issued the order.

The stricter-rules-apply catch means, for example, that even though playing golf is now permitted in the county order as an outdoor activity with social distancing easy to achieve, it’s still banned under the state order, so you’ll have to wait a while longer to tee off.

Childcare is only available to “essential” workers under the state order, so if you’re looking for a break from the kids at home, that’s still a no-no.

There has been increasing pressure from Santa Clara County’s construction industry and other business sectors to reopen normal activity here as soon as possible.

County health officer Dr. Sara Cody said she eased the current order’s restrictions because the county “got something of a head start on this pandemic, but through gradual and collective action – starting with voluntarily working from home and culminating with sheltering in place for the last six weeks – we have slowed the spread, flattened the curve, preserved our hospital capacity and prevented many, many deaths.”

Acknowledging criticism of her earlier order as focusing too heavily on the direct risks of the disease rather than considering the health and economic risks of sheltering in place, Cody defended her approach.

“We can see very clearly what the health impacts of Covid-19 are, how they are impacting families and the health care system,” she said. “What’s harder to see is the health impact of the shelter-in-place and the mitigation measures. So we’re measuring what we know against what we don’t know.”

She said there’s no timeline for a full return to pre-pandemic life but listed five criteria guiding her decision:

  1. Whether the total number of cases in the community is flat or decreasing,
  2. Whether the number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 is flat or decreasing,
  3. Whether there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment to protect all health care workers,
  4. Whether the need is being met for testing, especially for people in vulnerable populations or those in high-risk settings or occupations, and
  5. Whether there is the capacity to investigate all Covid-19 cases and trace all of their contacts, isolating those who test positive and quarantining the people who may have been exposed.

Because there’s no vaccine, she said “we are going to need to have protections in place for a very, very long time.”

As of Wednesday, the Bay Area has 7,947 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 279 deaths. The first Covid-19 fatality in the U.S. is now believed to have occurred on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara County, which currently has 2,122 confirmed cases and 106 deaths attributed to the coronavirus, according to data compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle.


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