Contra Costa County health officials on Tuesday credited strong compliance with shelter-in-place orders for enabling relaxation of some of those rules as part of an extended novel coronavirus health order expected to be made public Wednesday.
Those officials also said this is no time to let up with that social isolating in the fight against the spread of the virus, despite the disruption and pain it has brought.
"It's also done exactly what it was intended to do," to flatten the curve of infections and hospitalizations across Northern California, Anna Roth, the county's health director, told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. "We've led the way on the best types of responses. We are saving lives."
Neither she nor anyone else at Tuesday's board meeting revealed what restrictions will ease up as part of the new joint health order to be issued by Contra Costa, Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, along with the city of Berkeley.
The order extends the region's shelter-in-place order from May 3 through May 31. Mention was made Tuesday, however, of allowing some "lower-risk activities" to resume.
Contra Costa County, as of Tuesday morning, has had 842 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus since March 3, when the first case in the county was reported. There have been 25 deaths in Contra Costa County from the coronavirus.
Roth said that since the first shelter-in-place orders took effect last month, high level of compliance among Bay Area residents with those orders, plus quick action by county health departments around the Bay Area, have helped minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
But several officials stressed that fighting the coronavirus is a marathon, and not a sprint.
Roth said two keys to resuming a semblance of "normal" life is more testing and a robust "contact tracing" effort to identify people who may have come into contact with an infected person, and learn more about those contacts to test those contacts for coronavirus, and isolate them if necessary.
Roth said county health workers are testing about 300 people a day. That number needs to increase eightfold and be at about 2,400 tests per day to glean enough information about infections to best use treatment resources and, ultimately, allow the reopening of the area economy.
County Administrator David Twa told the supervisors Tuesday that it could well take 18 months for regional employment levels to return to the levels of late 2019. And whatever "normal" was then, Twa said, will almost certainly be different going forward.
To adhere to that timeline, Twa said, "It's important to stay the course" and maintain the shelter-in-place order through at least the end of May.
Supervisors echoed that sentiment Tuesday. Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said she knows the success Contra Costa and other Bay Area counties have had in minimizing infections and deaths from the coronavirus will prompt calls to reopen the economy and society in general.
Not so fast, she and others stressed.
"We understand that people are frustrated and angry," Mitchoff said. "But we need to stay the course."