A server greets diners in a Shared Spaces outdoor dining area outside Napper Tandy’s Irish pub at 24th Street and South Van Ness Avenue in the Mission District on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders lifted as ICU capacity improves

Change in rules could allow outdoor dining to resume in San Francisco

State health officials on Monday lifted regional stay-at-home orders across the state, including the one affecting the Bay Area, based on four-week projections that show intensive care unit capacity should reach above 15 percent.

The announcement issued Monday by the California Department of Public Health means that all counties will return to the previous framework of color-coded tiers governing which activities and businesses can open.

“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement. “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 recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”

Individual counties are still free to set rules stricter than those imposed by the state. San Francisco, which was in the purple tier before the regional order was issued, has generally chose to be more conservative than the state in its rules, but had allowed outdoor dining and indoor salon services, among other activities.

Local sources suggest the city could allow the resumption of outdoor dining as soon as this week, with some restrictions.

A group of restaurant workers demonstrated outside City Hall in December. The shutdown of outdoor dining during a regional stay-at-home order has been particularly controversial, with restaurants in some parts of the state filing lawsuits. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A group of restaurant workers demonstrated outside City Hall in December. The shutdown of outdoor dining during a regional stay-at-home order has been particularly controversial, with restaurants in some parts of the state filing lawsuits. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Health officials say residents should still wear masks when they leave their homes, maintain physical distance of at least six feet, wash their hands frequently, avoid gatherings and mixing with other households and get the vaccine when they are eligible.

The change in state restrictions comes after mounting controversy over the outdoor dining ban, which has provoked strong resistance from the restaurant industry and some lawsuits, and general criticism of the stay-at-home orders.

Critics have complained that the state never explained exactly how its four-week ICU projections were being made, and the orders have been inconsistently applied. Sacramento, for instance, has never reached the 15 percent threshold required under the order, and yet it was lifted in that region on Dec. 13.

The Bay Area has generally done better than other regions in terms of COVID-19 case loads, and ICU capacity was reported at 23.4 percent this weekend. Southern California still had no ICU capacity and the San Joaquin Valley region only 1.3 percent, according to state data released Saturday.

-This is a developing story and will be updated. Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

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