As California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state officials work to roll back the state’s shelter-in-place order in the face of mounting economic damage, the architect of the nation’s first stay-at-home order is voicing her concerns.
Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody told her county’s board of supervisors Tuesday she is “concerned” by the state’s recent decisions to allow counties to reopen in-store retail, places of worship, barbershops and hair salons.
“The state modifications are being made without a real understanding of the consequences of what the last move has been, and with the possible serious effects for health and possible serious risk of an exponential growth in cases,” she said. “So yesterday’s actions were particularly concerning.”
On Monday, Newsom announced that places of worship and in-store retail could reopen in the 47 counties that have received clearance to move into late Stage 2 of the state reopening plan. Only 11 counties — six of which are in the Bay Area — remain in early Stage 2, but analysis shows most meet the state criteria to reopen further.
After announcing modifications Monday, Newsom announced Tuesday that hair salons and barbershops — “high-risk” businesses included in Stage 3 of the reopening plan — could also immediately resume operations in counties that have gone through the attestation process. With the five-county Bay Area consortium only open for curbside-pickup retail and manufacturing, the region now lags behind the rest of the state by two stages with early Stage 3 businesses coming back online.
Cody has previously stated that revisions to the stay-at-home order should be made every two weeks to gauge the impact of previous modifications.
“Two weeks represents the longest likely incubation period of COVID-19 and we needed to see what effect the loosening of the order on May 4 would have,” she said last week after softening the order in her county. “So today is the date that we hit the two-week mark and I’m pleased to say we’ve been making progress and sustained that progress as more activity came back online.”
During the Tuesday board of supervisors meeting, Cody expressed particular apprehension toward Newsom’s new guidance for churches, which allow for gatherings as large of 100, albeit with strict physical distancing measures. The state had received a formal warning from the United States Justice Department that not allowing places of worship to open in Stage 2 was likely a First Amendment violation.
“Gatherings are of course profoundly and personally important to all of us, but our ability to contain the virus from spreading if there’s one COVID-positive individual at such a large event is quite limited,” she said. “And it would rapidly exceed even our current ambitious and unprecedented effort to establish a large case investigation and contact tracing workforce here and elsewhere throughout the state.”
While Cody has preached caution and has promised the Bay Area’s reopening will be “frustratingly slow,” federal health officials have grown more critical of prolonged lockdowns in recent days.
During a CNBC appearance last week, White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that strict stay-at-home orders could cause “irreparable damage” to the economy and people’s livelihoods if imposed for much longer.
“I don’t want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go,” he said.