By John Ramos

ST. HELENA (KPIX) — As California’s stay-at-home order continues, businesses and health experts alike are demanding to see the data that justifies it. So far, state officials are keeping it to themselves.

Last week, California surprised everyone by allowing restaurants and businesses in the Sacramento Region to reopen. According to state officials, data models projected that the region’s ICU capacity would reach the threshold of 15 percent in the next four weeks although it hasn’t yet.

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Then, on Saturday, the Bay Area’s ICU capacity suddenly and without explanation jumped from 6.5 percent to 23.4 percent. Cynthia Ariosta, director of operations Tra Vigne Pizzeria in St. Helena wondered about those numbers.

“How come that model didn’t predict the Bay Area all of a sudden being at 23% this weekend? So, again, it’s just arbitrary,” Ariosta said.

Ariosta is part of an alliance of nearly 100 North Bay restaurants and wineries which have filed a lawsuit to lift the outdoor dining ban. Many spent tens of thousands of dollars to create an outdoor dining space and they’re now demanding to see the data that proves they should remain closed.

“Without anyone else being able to look at this data — whether it’s local officials or doctors or even us business people to be able to predict a reopening. Where is it? Where is this data? How’s it being used?”

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So far, the state has refused to release it, reportedly telling the Associated Press that the data is complicated and might be “misleading” to the public if they should see it.

Dr. Lee Riley is a professor of infectious disease at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. He says with open data, medical experts can do a better job informing the public.

“If we don’t have more transparency, I think it’s going to contribute to this kind of distrust of information coming from the government,” Dr. Riley said.

Dr. Riley questions whether outdoor dining is really that dangerous.

“We need more data. What’s the evidence that these outdoor dinings contribute to transmission? We have those types of data for indoor dining but I’m not familiar with any real data suggesting that outdoor dining contributes to most of the transmissions,” he said.

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The restaurants’ spokesperson says their lawsuit likely will not be resolved until after the closure order has been lifted. If successful, she says it could prevent unwarranted shutdowns in the future.