With Monterey County hospitals full of COVID-19 patients, the county’s health officer has decided to voluntarily opt into the state’s new “Regional Stay Home Order.” This move follows five other counties in the Bay Area who also opted in early.
Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno signed a local order Wednesday afternoon in response to increased transmission and hospitalizations. It will align the county with the state’s new Regional Stay Home Order, which Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week. It’s triggered when a region drops below 15 percent ICU capacity. That happened last weekend for San Joaquin Valley, which includes San Benito County, and Southern California. Now, Monterey County is not waiting.
Locally, the order will take effect Sunday night at 10 p.m. and continue until 6 a.m. Monday, January 11. Dr. Moreno does have authority to extend the order.
The order means stay home except for essential activities like going to the doctor’s office. It also means hair salons, movie theaters and wineries must close; restaurants can only do take-out; and grocery stores and retail shops must operate at reduced capacity.
The news broke just after Monterey County’s four hospitals sounded the alarm in a special briefing Wednesday.
Dr. Martha Blum with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula painted a dark picture.
“We've seen a rate of increase unlike anything we saw in the summertime or even back in March when the pandemic first arrived in Monterey County,” Blum said.
Cases from Thanksgiving gatherings are just starting to show up in local hospitals and Blum said it’s going to get worse.
“The reality in many cases is that we just don't have enough of the staff to support huge increases that we're anticipating in the next couple of weeks,” she said.
Dr. Allen Radner with Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System echoed those concerns. He said there’s a lot of nuance to ICU capacity and that hospital beds can be turned into ICU beds. He said the main concern is staffing.
“It's almost impossible to acknowledge and thank the health care providers who work in the hospitals right now,” Radner said. “This has been months and months in very scary times. They're worried about themselves, their families. People are coming in and working extra shifts and doing just an incredible job.”
When hospital leaders were asked whether this order would help, all said yes.
Dr. Craig Walls with Natividad said the community needs to understand that we’re in the thick of the pandemic.
“The way we've heard about it in other parts of the country and other parts of the world,” Dr. Walls said. “And really all the citizens of Monterey County need to be a part of the solution. We are all in this together.”
With a vaccine on the horizon, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno said at first, it will only come out in small amounts and only a small percentage of residents will have access to it.
“Certainly not enough to allow us to lower our guard and mix with other households,” Moreno said.
Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System is one of the many organizations that supports KAZU.
The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office says they’ll be filing violations of the new stay-at-home order that have been investigated by law enforcement agencies.
Violations of these public health orders carry potential criminal and civil liability and businesses that violate these orders are liable for civil penalties for unfair competition.
The office says they’ve responded to over 300 complaints over the last nine months.