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California lifts regional stay-at-home order for all regions

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Los Angeles, Jan 26 (IANS) California lifted all regional stay-at-home orders in the most populous state in the US, public health officials announced on Monday.

Although three of California’s five designated regions, including 12-county San Joaquin Valley, 11-county Bay Area and 11-county Southern California, were still under the order, state officials said four-week intensive care unit (ICU) capacity projections for these regions are above 15 percent, the threshold that allows regions to exit the order.

Southern California’s ICU capacity is still at zero to date while the San Joaquin Valley is up to 1.3 per cent capacity, showed data released by the state health authorities.

The California Department of Public Health tweeted on Monday that 4-week ICU projections ending February 21 in Southern California, San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento and Northern California will rise to 33.3 per cent, 22.3 per cent, 25 per cent, 27.3 per cent and 18.9 per cent, respectively, the Xinhua news agency reported.

At the start of last December, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans for the regional stay-at-home order to contain the pandemic based on hospital capacity, which is designed to be triggered when fewer than 15 per cent of beds are available in ICU for a region. Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions had been the first part of the state with a population of around 40 million to enter the stay-at-home order since December 6 after the ICU capacity in the two regions dropped below 15 per cent.

The 13-county Greater Sacramento region exited the order on January 12. The rural Northern California region which includes 11 counties has never entered the order.

Newsom said in a news conference on Monday that the state has seen some flattening of the curve but is still “not out of the woods”.

“We are in a position projected four weeks forward with a significant decline in the case rates, positivity rates, we are anticipating still more decline in hospitalisations and more declines in ICUs,” the governor said, noting “that’s why we’re lifting that stay-at-home order effective immediately today.”

Officials said that the lift of regional stay-at-home orders will allow all counties statewide to return to the rules and framework of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy and color-coded tiers that indicate which activities and businesses are open based on local case rates and test positivity.

The change will allow businesses such as outdoor dining and hair salons to resume operations in some counties in the state. But the majority of the counties are still in the strictest, or purple tier.

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly in a press release from the California Department of Public Health.

“Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”

Officials noted that “While there are positive signs that the virus is spreading at a slower rate across the state, the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over.” They urged Californians to continue to follow public health guidance and get the vaccine when it’s their turn.

“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Tomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health and the State Health Officer.

“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.”

The California Department of Public Health reported 24,111 new Covid-19 infections and 429 more deaths on Sunday, pushing its cumulative cases up to 31,09,151 with 36,790 related deaths. The Golden State became the first state in the country to register more than 3 million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic earlier this month.




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