Health officials in Contra Costa County said Wednesday that a slight decrease in COVID-19-related hospital stays and positive COVID-19 test results reflect progress in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and causing a slight relaxation in some social distancing rules.
"Based on what we can see, we can be cautiously optimistic that there is a gradual downtrend in county cases testing positivity rates and hospital stays," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, the district's health officer, in a statement from Contra Costa Health Services.
The average number of 7-day patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Contra Costa has decreased slightly over the past three weeks, from 103 per day on August 5 to 96 per day on Monday.
The average percentage of tests done in Contra Costa that are positive has dropped from 8.8 percent on August 6 to 7.4 percent on Monday.
In light of this improvement, Contra Costa County on Wednesday announced minor changes to its health policy to allow certain businesses to operate outdoors again. The changes that will take effect on Friday include:
– Personal care services that do not involve close contact with the face, including nail salons and massage, can be operated outdoors in accordance with government-issued industry guidelines.
– Gyms and fitness centers can operate outdoors according to their own state guidelines.
-Hotels, motels and short-term rental units (such as Vrbo or Airbnb) in Contra Costa can be opened not only for business purposes, but also for private or leisure travel.
Hair salons and hairdressers have already been given permission to do limited outdoor work in Contra Costa County with no outbreaks reported.
In Alameda County, the health officer issued a revised housing order last Friday, which will also come into effect next Friday, which will allow:
– Opening of public outdoor and paddling pools with reduced capacities and lane restrictions in order to enable physical distancing, only by appointment (water fitness courses permitted with restrictions)
– Personal service providers, including hair salons, barbershop, nail salons, skin care and waxing services, and non-medical massage, to provide outdoor services in accordance with applicable state and local regulations.
– Wineries with outdoor tasting options offer no-meal tastings.
However, Contra Costa Health Service officials are cautious about saying that key data indicators for the pandemic remain at dangerously high levels this month in Contra Costa County, although they are not increasing like they did in June and July.
"We all need to understand that this is a reason to move on and not let our guards down," Farnitano said.
The Alameda and Contra Costa counties will remain on the U.S. Department of Health's watch list as of Wednesday.
Contra Costa health authorities are encouraging companies to consider the region's poor air quality when planning reopening, as smoke is prevalent in the many forest fires in the region.
The smoky air can make doing business outdoors impractical or even unsafe, and the county has issued a smoke health recommendation urging all residents to stay indoors with the doors and windows closed whenever possible.
Previous Contra Costa health orders remain in effect. Health officials urge residents to continue wearing face covers when they go out or are around people outside their homes. practice physical distance; staying home from work or school when they are not feeling well; and wash their hands thoroughly and often.
Details on the Contra Costa update, including the full text of the order, can be found at cchealth.org/coronavirus. A summary of Alameda County's order can be found at https://covid-19.acgov.org/covid19-assets/docs/shelter-in-place/20-14c-summary-eng.pdf.
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