Tulare County back to stay-at-home order

Tulare County ICU bed availability falls to 22.3% while Fresno and Kings counties have no beds available

CALIFORNIA – The San Joaquin Valley region, one of the five areas of the state being monitored for their intensive care unit (ICU) bed availability, came under a stay-at-home order as of Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

The region initially fell below the 15% ICU bed availability threshold that triggered the order on Friday, Dec. 4. According to the state’s web site, covid19.ca.gov, the region had just 5.6% of their ICU bed available as of Tuesday at press time.

The San Joaquin Valley region is made up of Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties. Tulare County currently has 22.3% of their ICU beds available, as of Tuesday, Dec. 8. That was a 22.8% change from the prior report from Wednesday, Dec. 2. Fresno and Kings counties have zero beds available in their ICUs, where as Kern has 7.1%.

Under the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) order issued by acting public health officer Dr. Erica Pan, the regional stay-at-home order is supposed to help ease the burden on the unit. And it reinstates many of the aspects of the stay-at-home order put in place during the spring.

The order states that for a region with less than 15% ICU bed capacity:

  • All gatherings with members of other households are prohibited;
  • People living in the region shall stay home except as necessary to conduct activities associated with the operation, maintenance or usage of critical infrastructure;
  • Worship and political expression are permitted outdoors, consistent with existing guidance for those activities
  • Critical infrastructure sectors may operate and must continue to modify operations pursuant to the applicable sector guidance;
  • Guidance related to schools remain in effect and unchanged—schools that have previously reopened for in-person instruction may remain open, and schools may continue to bring students back for in-person instruction under waivers;
  • All retailers may operate indoors at no more than 20% capacity and must follow the guidance for retailers—all access to retail must be strictly metered to ensure compliance with the limit on capacity;
  • To promote and protect the physical and mental well-being of people in California, outdoor recreation facilities may continue to operate.

Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, public information officer, Carrie Monteiro issued a press release on Saturday, Dec. 5 noting that the stay-at-home order was taking effect on Dec. 6 at 11:59 p.m. According to the press release, the order requires that Tulare County residents stay at home as much as possible, prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes operations for certain sectors and requires 100% masking and physical distancing in all other sectors allowed to operate under the order.

“COVID-19 continues to spread at alarming rates in Tulare County, and most concerning are the number of people needing to be hospitalized,” Tulare County public health officer, Dr. Karen Haught said. “It is imperative we take these protective actions in order to not overwhelm our local hospitals. The measures we all need to take is to avoid any gatherings outside our household, wear a face covering, social distance, and wash our hands. These are vital to decrease transmission.”

Kaweah Delta Medical Center has had to spearhead efforts to quell the surge of COVID-19 patients coming into their hospital by cutting elective surgeries and modifying their visitation policy—as seen on this week’s Business section.

“As you know, the situation with COVID remains very fluid and as conditions change we have to make decisions to better protect our community, our patients, and our healthcare team,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Delta’s Chief Executive Officer. “Unfortunately, conditions have worsened locally, so we do need to move forward with changes to reduce the risk of somebody bringing the virus into our Medical Center inadvertently.”

The order states that once a region falls below the 15% threshold, the terms of it will be in place for at least three weeks, and will continue in the CDPH’s four-week projections of the regions’ ICU bed capacity is greater than 15%. A four-week adult ICU bed capacity projection will be issued approximately twice a week. If after three weeks from the date the stay-at-home order takes effect—which for the San Joaquin Valley region would be Dec. 6—the CDPH’s four-week projections of the region’s total available ICU bed capacity is more than 15% the terms of order will be lifted.

After the terms of the order are lifted, the state will return to the color tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Businesses that have been affected the most by the stay-at-home order have been restaurants. Many local eateries were financially wounded during the spring shutdown, and barely began to recover after they were allowed to reopen with outdoor dining. But now they are restricted to pickup and take-out orders. Some have made explicit calls to action over social media.

Downtown Rookies in Visalia shared a post over social media imploring people to eat out if they can, or else the restaurant may not survive.

“We are severely underestimating the number of restaurants that are on the brink of closing. The majority are in grave and imminent danger. If you can afford to, get take out, buy gift cards,” the post stated. “Your favorite spots are in trouble this very second! Don’t wait, they don’t have time…now through the next few months, do everything you can if you want these places to survive this pandemic.”

Members of the community in Visalia decided to take a “stand” after organizing an obscure protest against the state’s order, while attempting to help downtown restaurants. Pacific Treasures in downtown Visalia shared a post over social media that called for diners to, “bring their own chair” and order from their favorite restaurant.

“Remember we can ‘protest’ with respect to our law enforcement that we love and show that outdoor dining can be safe while supporting local restaurants,” the post stated.

Not as prominent in the CDPH’s order was the supplement attached on Dec. 6 that restricts grocery stores. According to added text to the regional stay-at-home order, “stand-alone grocery stores where the principal business activity is the sale of food may operate at 35% of capacity.” Stores must also be strictly metered to ensure compliance with the limit on capacity.

The Southern California region also fell below the 15% threshold. Their ICU capacity was only at 10.9% as of Monday afternoon. The Bay Area region was still well above the threshold with 25.7%; Northern California was at 28.2%; and the Greater Sacramento area was at 20.3%.

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