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Stanislaus County rescinds stay at home order
Board of Supervisors ask governor to rethink reopening criteria
Stanislaus County lifted the stay at home order on Tuesday that first went into effective on March 19, when ordered by Governor Newsom (Journal file photo).

The stay at home order for Stanislaus County residents has been rescinded by Stanislaus County Public Health Director Dr. Julie Vaishampayan effective immediately and Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday that the county will not spend any resources on enforcing the governor's stay at home order.

What exactly that will mean for residents and businesses remains to be seen.

The new public health order that went into effect on Tuesday, rescinded the stay at home order for residents with a few exceptions. The public health order for self-quarantining if you have come into contact with someone diagnosed or suspected of having COVID-19 and the order for self-isolation if you have been diagnosed or likely have COVID-19 both remain in effect. The public health orders for congregated living guidelines and food and beverage manufacturing also remain in place.

The decision from the public health director and the Board of Supervisors comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new guidelines for re-opening certain businesses, with a caveat of meeting guidelines set by the state. The health director and supervisors say some of those guidelines are unreasonable and could hamper the re-opening process for weeks or months to come.

On Tuesday, Gov. Newsom announced additional sectors can open statewide as part of Stage 2, if the sectors are in counties that have met the state's requirements. These sectors include office workspaces where teleworking is not possible, outdoor museums and limited personal services, like car washes, dog-grooming and landscaping, with protections to limit the spread of COVID-19. Before these businesses can re-open the state wants them to complete an industry-specific checklist that shows they are taking steps to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

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“Thanks to the millions of Californians who stepped up and followed our public health guidance, we are flattening the curve and beginning to modify our Stay at Home order,” said Gov. Newsom. “We know that one size doesn’t fit all. We recognize that certain parts of our state have been hit harder while other regions have felt less impact from COVID-19. We will continue our active engagement with counties to begin easing the Stay at Home order only when the science, data and public health tell us it’s safe to do so.”

Only seven of the state's counties have met the guidelines to move into Stage 2 and Stanislaus County is not one of them. The guidelines want counties to show that they have increased testing and contact tracing, have plans in place to protect the vulnerable in the population and the hospitals can handle a surge in cases. The state also wants counties to have zero deaths and 56 or fewer new cases in a 14-day period.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved the opening of dog groomers, car washes, drive-in movies, and expanded outdoor activities to include fitness bootcamps, yoga and other activities that did not use shared equipment and could social distance.

The move was done in anticipation that the governor would be granting more autonomy to the local jurisdictions and that a broader plan of re-opening the local economy would begin. But that turned out to not be the case.

"Unfortunately, last Thursday afternoon we learned the State was not going to be providing counties with that local decision-making authority unless they met specific metrics handed down by the State," said Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Chair Kristin Olsen. "Two of those metrics, according to our public health officer, are unreasonable and will not be achieved today nor for the foreseeable future."

Olsen said the county is joining other counties in asking the governor and the state health department for a variance on the criteria. In the meantime, the county will not enforce the state's stay at home order, with the exception of mass gatherings.

The criteria that the county is having difficulty meeting is the number of new cases and zero deaths and that is largely due to a couple of cluster outbreaks, including the one at Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which accounts for more than half the deaths in the county from COVID-19. The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported 22 deaths as of Tuesday, 14 of which are from the center. Additional clusters have been traced back to a Safeway distribution center in Tracy that resulted in 56 cases and one death for Stanislaus County and a funeral, which led to more than two dozen positive cases. Olsen said the cluster cases account for 71 percent of the deaths and 25 percent of the positive cases.

Dr. Vaishampayan said the cluster cases are not giving an accurate picture of community transmission in Stanislaus County and that the risk of catching coronavirus while out shopping is relatively low as long as social distancing and hand-washing/hygienic practices are kept up, as well as the use of face masks.

Stanislaus County currently has 517 positive cases, with 22 deaths and 380 presumed recovered. In the last 24 hours the county has recorded nine new cases and one death.

Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center announced on their website that they had retested some of their residents and staff and that the number of positive cases stood at 100 residents and 49 staff members and that 14 former or current residents had died from the virus.

Of the 517 cases, 371 people got coronavirus from direct contact with an infected individual, while 130 got it from community transmission where the point of infection is unknown. Another 16 people got it from traveling to an area where COVID-19 is known to be circulating.