San Francisco, Jan 26 (IANS) California, one of the hardest-hit states in the US by the raging Covid-19 pandemic, has lifted all regional stay-at-home orders, public health officials announced.
Although three of California’s five designated regions, including the 12-county San Joaquin Valley, 11-county Bay Area and 11-county Southern California, were still under the order as the four-week intensive care unit (ICU) capacity projections for these regions were above 15 per cent, the threshold that allows regions to exit the order, reports Xinhua news agency.
Southern California’s ICU capacity is still at zero to date while the San Joaquin Valley is up to 1.3 per cent capacity, showed data released by the state health authorities.
In December 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans for the regional stay-at-home order to contain the pandemic based on hospital capacity, which is designed to be triggered when fewer than 15 per cent of beds are available in ICU for a region.
Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions had been the first part of the state with a population of around 40 million to enter the stay-at-home order since December 6 after the ICU capacity in the two regions dropped below 15 per cent.
The 13-county Greater Sacramento Region exited the order on January 12.
The rural Northern California region which includes 11 counties has never entered the order.
Officials said that lifting of the regional stay-at-home orders will allow all counties to return to the rules and framework of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy and colour-coded tiers that indicate which activities and businesses are open based on local case rates and test positivity.
The change will allow businesses such as outdoor dining and hair salons to resume operations in some counties in the state. But the majority of the counties are still in the strictest, or purple tier.
“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a statement on Monday.
“Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”
Officials noted that “while there are positive signs that the virus is spreading at a slower rate across the state, the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over”.
They urged Californians continue to follow public health guidance and get the vaccine when it’s their turn.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Tomas Aragon, Director of the California Department of Public Health and the State Health Officer.
“Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. Covid-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognise our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
California has so far reported a total of 3,109,151 coronavirus cases 36,790 deaths.