We knew it was coming. Less than two weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California’s skyrocketing COVID-19 case rate would trigger a stay-at-home order in the hardest-hit regions — and only 10 days after several Bay Area counties voluntarily joined the shutdown early — it’s official. As of December 16, the full area the California Department of Public Health has denoted as the Bay Area has a critical shortage of intensive care unit beds, and it must shutter several activities, including all sit-down dining.
According to the latest numbers from the state DPH, there are 200,518 reported cases of COVID-19 in the Bay Area, and 2,156 people have died. In addition, the region’s ICU bed capacity is down to 12.6 percent, which is far lower than the 15 percent threshold a region must hit to remain open.
This changes little for residents of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties, as well as the city of Berkeley. Since December 6, those counties shut themselves voluntarily, in hopes that by taking drastic action they might stem the new wave of cases. (Sonoma County followed a few days later.) The hope was to reopen on January 4.
That won’t happen now. Instead, all the other counties in the Bay Area region — Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Solano — must also shutter “nonessential” activities like outdoor dining (indoor service has been closed for most counties since November) as of 10 p.m. Thursday, as that’s when the statewide curfew (remember that?) kicks in. At that point, restaurants may only serve meals for takeout and delivery; bars, brewpubs, and wineries must close completely; and capacity at grocery stores and other retail businesses will be tightly limited.
The Bay Area shutdown will last until January 7, at least, even for areas that shuttered voluntarily. It’s likely, however, that the stay-at-home order will be in place for longer than that, as according to the state’s website, it will only “end in a region if the region’s ICU capacity projected out four weeks (from day 22 after the Regional Stay Home Order started in the region) is above or equal to 15 percent.” Then, and only then, will each county in a region be assigned one of the state’s color-coded tiers, and will be able to reopen based on whatever is allowed at that level. But with Christmas and New Year’s coming — both of which, health officers say, are likely to spur new infection spikes due to gatherings of the COVID-fatigued — it seems like it’ll be a long time before anyone in the Bay Area will be back to dining out.