San Mateo County’s health officer expressed hope Monday that progress in efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will allow for further easing of shelter-in-place restrictions prior to May 31, when the newly revised order is set to expire.
To issue such an order, the state needs to revise its health order, according to Dr. Morrow, which Gov. Gavin Newsom has indicated will happen Friday. The state is set to allow retail businesses such as bookstores, clothing stores, toy stores, florists and others to reopen for curbside pickup, and also to allow manufacturers that support those retail supply chains to resume production. Office building, dine-in restaurants and shopping malls will not be allowed to reopen.
The governor’s announcement prompted questions on how a revised state health order would influence existing, more restrictive public health orders set for six Bay Area counties through May 31, including San Mateo County.
In a statement Monday, Dr. Morrow warned of “gut-wrenching” decisions ahead as public health officials and policymakers weigh the trade offs of reopening the economy.
“The decisions I need to make about the slow reopening are based on public health considerations balanced by many other competing interests,” he said. “These decisions allow activities that, while allowing the spread of the virus, are specifically designed to slow spread in the population and therefore reduce the chance of a uncontrollable and unmanageable surge. The surge that you have seen in other places in the US and world, but, thankfully, have not seen here, was probably due to the early and aggressive action here.”
As an example, Dr. Morrow referenced how the existing Bay Area health order was revised from an earlier order to allow summer camps for kids in small groups. While that still poses a risk for the spread of COVID-19, “the balance here is the developmental needs of children, who may have lifelong adverse ramifications if these needs are not met,” he said.
Reopening decisions will be based on those considerations, but will be joined by “an aggressive containment strategy, a much more widespread testing strategy and hardening of the healthcare system with additional equipment, PPE and surge capacity,” the county health officer said.
“The next step in reopening businesses will probably be to allow those, regardless of what the business does, that can comply with and implement social distancing protocols to reopen under those procedural constraints, somewhat similar to what you now observe in grocery and other stores that are open,” Dr. Morrow said. “These businesses should now begin thinking about how this would apply to their operations and what modifications need to be made.”
To read the full statement by Dr. Morrow, go here.