OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Alameda County health officials announced late Friday night they were being forced to once again prohibit outdoor dining during a surge of new cornavirus cases across California.
For several weeks, local residents have been able to enjoy a meal with social distancing and outside seating at local restaurants as Alameda County health officials began rolling back COVID-19 restrictions.
Nowhere was the rush to outdoor dining more visible than in the city of Alameda. Workers re-striped a segment of Park Street to cordon off space for outdoor dining and shopping.
Crews created two lanes instead of four between Tilden Way and Encinal Avenue to allow space for maintaining physical distance from one another to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Oakland city officials issued a statement Saturday saying they were joining local residents in being frustrated by the latest development.
“In the midst of the changing regulatory environment, the City of Oakland has consistently relied on public health guidance provided by Alameda County,” the statement read. “This latest information from the County is confusing and contradicts the previous Alameda County Health Officer Order allowing outdoor dining, and we share your frustration.”
“As the largest city in the county, with the greatest number of small and low-income business owners and largest communities of color, the impacts of this confusion fall heavily on Oakland. We are in contact with the State and County to resolve this and provide clarity for our community.”
While Alameda County is not on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist, it has yet to ask Gov. Gavin Newsom for a variance from his phased reopening of businesses. San Francisco, Santa Clara and other Bay Area counties have applied for and been granted variances.
The current surge in the state of new cases impacts the businesses that can and cannot be open in counties without variances.
“Today we learned the state issued updated guidance, dated July 9th, prohibiting outdoor dining in non-variance counties, which includes Alameda County. While Alameda County’s Health Officer Order allowed for outdoor dining, under this stricter state guidance, all restaurants, wineries and bars in Alameda County may only be open for drive-through or pick-up/delivery options,” the Friday night release stated.
Health officials said they will begin working in filing for a variance.
“Our decision to permit outdoor dining was based on the Health Officer’s assessment that outdoor activities, with appropriate protective measures, carry less risk than indoor activities,” the release said. “At the time, many other counties had applied for a variance alongside or shortly after opening outdoor dining without consequences, and Alameda County took that same approach.”
“At that time the State did not differentiate dining guidance by indoor/outdoor as it now does. With the new guidance dated yesterday and enforcement actions observed last week in Santa Clara County, the State is demonstrating a new approach. We are moving toward obtaining a variance from the State, and a letter of support for a variance is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.”
At mid-week press conference, Newsom warned county officials across the state that some restrictions may be reimposed. He noted that he was not happy with the continuing rise in cases and the state’s positivity rate.
“We’re looking at a 7.1 percent positivity rate … You’re seeing a doubling, sometimes tripling of a positivity rate in some other states compared to California — by the way, I’m not pleased with a 7.1 percent positivity rate … but in other states that positivity rate is substantially even higher,” Newsom said. “As a consequence testing is increasing, testing supply constraints are starting to present themselves again.”
Newsom blamed the increasing spread of COVID-19 on behavior of individuals refusing to follow the state’s instructions to help reduce the spread of the disease.
“We’re doing this because we’re seeing hospitalizations rates grow … It’s because people are not wearing their masks. People are not, for many different reasons and many different circumstances, practicing the physical distancing that they should and they must, in order to mitigate the spread of this virus,” Newsom said.
Alameda County has been the hardest hit of all Bay Area counties during the pandemic. It also has lifted the fewest of the strict restrictions imposed since mid-March.
As of Friday, the county has had 7,485 total confirmed cases since the outbreak began. There has been 147 deaths and more than 140 county residents were currently hospitalized with the virus, 57 of those are in the ICU.