By Joe Vazquez

REDWOOD CITY (KPIX) — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge and fill up hospitals, officials in San Mateo County are now urging folks from neighboring counties to stay out.

“We are in a public health crisis with alarming rates of COVID-19 transmission,” said Michael Callagy, the San Mateo County Manager in a statement emailed to KPIX. “While we absolutely support our local businesses serving our local community, we do not want non-essential travel and non-essential activities, such as crossing counties for an outdoor restaurant or salon. This is the time to stay close to home.”

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San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow decided last week that his county would not join five other Bay Area counties in preemptively declaring a stay-at-home order, in a regional effort to flatten the curve.

Since then, people from other parts of the Bay Area are leaving their restricted counties to take advantage of the fact that San Mateo County continues to allow hair salons and outdoor dining to continue operations, officials said.

“We have become a potential regional coronavirus hub,” said San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa. “Our health officer is not in alignment with the other health officers and so what has happened is that there are many people coming in to use our malls at Christmas time. We’ve seen the long lines. We’ve seen people packed together and so my message to the greater community is, ‘you respect your stay-at-home order in your own county. Please respect our ‘stay out’ order in San Mateo County.’”

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It’s not official, of course. Anyone can still go to San Mateo County.

Also, Supervisor Canepa said some business owners are upset with him for urging people to stay away during this COVID surge because the owners are desperately trying to stay afloat. But there folks who agree with the Supervisor.

“Yeah, I say stay where you are,” said Cheryl Fugate of Daly City, who was enjoying a beverage at an outdoor table at the Westlake Shopping Center. “We have kept our numbers really quite low here. Stay away, please!”

Canepa said the region’s Intensive Care Unit capacity is shrinking by the day. The county web site has ICU capacity at 14.5%. The Bay Area has 6% capacity.

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Canepa said he expects more restrictions from the state as the Bay Area capacity inevitably shrinks, perhaps by the end of the week.