Santa Clara County to implement new COVID-19 stay-at-home order

The+toiletries+aisle+at+a+Safeway+store+in+Saratoga+was+empty+on+Nov.+21%2C+as+local+residents+stock+up+on+essential+supplies+to+prepare+for+the+increased+county+restrictions.+Health+officials+issued+a+new+stay-at-home+order%2C+which+will+go+into+effect+at+10+p.m.+today+until+Jan.+4.

Anna Vazhaeparambil

The toiletries aisle at a Safeway store in Saratoga was empty on Nov. 21, as local residents stock up on essential supplies to prepare for the increased county restrictions. Health officials issued a new stay-at-home order, which will go into effect at 10 p.m. today until Jan. 4.

Santa Clara County health officials issued a temporary stay-at-home order, which will go into effect at 10 p.m. today in response to a recent surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Bay Area.

The order—which will also affect Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties, as well as the City of Berkeley—lasts until Jan. 4 and mandates the shutdown of all nonessential operations except for retail and critical infrastructure. All nonessential travel for the next month is prohibited, as well as any private gatherings among people in different households.

Schools that are currently open can continue to maintain the same operations, so any current activities on the upper school campus are not anticipated to be impacted by the new restrictions. According to Assistant Head of Student Affairs Greg Lawson, there will be no changes until winter break, but the school plans to close programs during the academic day in the first two weeks of January as a preemptive quarantine measure.

“As of now, for the next couple weeks, no changes,” Lawson said. “We’re very aware of them, we’re watching the same statistics everyone else is, we’re concerned and having lots of conversations everyday of the potential impacts.”

With a record 300 hospitalizations and over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last week, the county decided to adopt the tougher restrictions almost immediately rather than wait for Governor Gavin Newsom’s original guidelines, which called for the implementation of the order after the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity falls below 15% in the middle of the month. The Bay Area’s ICU capacity, which refers to the percentage of empty beds in ICUs, is currently at 24.1%.

It’s a constantly changing landscape, and I think my only message to everybody is wear that mask, wash your hands—all those things are making a difference, so let’s keep the larger community in a nice little bubble where everyone is trying to stay healthy.”

— Greg Lawson

After Santa Clara County moved into the Purple Tier (Tier 1) on Nov. 30, following a surge of new cases caused by Thanksgiving gatherings, upper school students experienced increased restrictions. The athletics program canceled all indoor activities, including boys volleyball open gyms, and the Honors Analytical Chemistry lab scheduled for Dec. 12 is currently being re-considered.

Distanced fitness activities are still scheduled to take place on campus, with ample hygiene and spacing as well as masks when students are not working out. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced on Dec. 1 that Season 1 sports are on pause until January at the earliest, and boys volleyball has been moved to Season 2.

Teachers who decide to conduct classes on campus are having their temperatures checked everyday and are expected to wear masks whenever they are surrounded by others. According to Lawson, there have been zero incidents of COVID-19 transmission on campus since school closed in March, as of Dec. 4.

“The health and safety of our students and teachers and everyone that works at Harker and in our entire community is most important to us,” Lawson said. “We’re not going to extend into any programming that we don’t feel like we have the safety protocols in place to manage. We’re also going to respect everyone’s individual tolerance in this situation.”

Sectors that will temporarily close include bars, wineries, hair salons and barbershops and personal services. Sectors that will continue to remain open are schools that have received a waiver, critical infrastructure, retail (limited to 20% capacity to reduce exposure) and restaurants (takeout and delivery options).

“We’ve gotten used to being able to go out and about, at least to some extent, and going back to [stay-at-home orders] is definitely rough,” senior Hari Bhimaraju said. “But at the same time, I think [it] will be a good thing, because after the shelter-in-place happened in the beginning of the virus, things got way better. The most important thing is to make sure hospitals aren’t getting overcrowded and that people are getting the help that they need.”

In his press conference last Thursday, Newsom also detailed the state’s plan for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. The state will receive 327,000 doses between Dec. 12 and 15, and the first doses will be from Pfizer, distributed to essential workers in three tiers. Details on how the vaccine will be distributed can be found here.

“It’s a constantly changing landscape, and I think my only message to everybody is wear that mask, wash your hands—all those things are making a difference, so let’s keep the larger community in a nice little bubble where everyone is trying to stay healthy,” Lawson said.