On Thursday, California reached the unfortunate milestone of 1 million COVID cases statewide. With transmission and hospitalizations on the rise, health officers representing counties across the Bay Area are tightening local rules for high-risk indoor activities where the virus can spread more easily.
Contra Costa Health Services today issued an order to close, effective Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 8 a.m.:
- Indoor dining
- Indoor fitness centers
- Concession stands at movie theaters
Dine-in restaurant and gyms reopened at reduced capacities when the county entered the state’s red tier in late September. But recent increases in COVID cases and hospitalizations make the closures necessary to help contain spread of the virus.
“Indoor interactions at restaurants, movie theaters, and indoor gyms and fitness centers are high-risk activities,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County. “And given what we’re seeing happen across the country and the region, we must act now.”
Diners at restaurants remove their masks to eat or drink, as do movie patrons when snacking on food from concession stands. People also breathe heavily while they exercise at indoor gyms, increasing the risk of droplet and aerosol transmission of COVID-19, which can be only partially reduced by wearing a face covering.
Contra Costa recently moved from the state’s orange tier to the more restrictive red tier because of an increasing number of cases in the county. Meanwhile, hospitalizations in Contra Costa have returned to levels not seen in several weeks. On Nov. 11, 50 people with COVID were hospitalized in the county – the highest number since September.
“I’ve said this many times before, but it’s so important I can’t repeat it enough: The best way to protect against COVID-19 is to wear a face covering whenever you are near people who do not live with you, and whenever you go in a building that is not your home,” said Dr. Farnitano.
Health officials are especially worried about people gathering indoors with the holidays coming up and may consider other closures in the days and weeks ahead. Contra Costa County, which is now in the red tier, could move into the state’s most restrictive tier, the purple tier, within the coming weeks. If the county moves into the purple tier, schools that haven’t reopened will have to remain closed until the county moves back into the red tier or until they receive a waiver from the state.
“Our hope is that this new health order will slow down the spread of COVID so schools will have a better chance to reopen,” Dr. Farnitano said.