Alameda County Health Department

Health officials issued a press release July 11, indicating Alameda County will prohibit outdoor dining, but local leaders announced they will wait for further details to arrive early next week before adjusting enforcement.

On July 10, Alameda County officials learned the state issued updated guidance on July 9, prohibiting outdoor dining in non-variance counties, including Alameda County. According to a press release from the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), the county’s health officer order allowed for outdoor dining, but under this stricter state guidance, all restaurants, wineries and bars in Alameda County may only be open for drive-through or pickup and delivery options.

“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,” said Neetu Balram, public information manager, in the release. “At that time, the state did not differentiate dining guidance by indoor (and) 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.”

As the county seeks further clarification, the City of Livermore is keeping business in line with current standards, at least over the weekend.

“While the press release has new information, neither the county nor the State of California has issued new legal orders,” the city posted in a message on social media. “Therefore, (the) City of Livermore will not be adjusting enforcement this weekend, and First Street will remain closed throughout the weekend. Downtown businesses will be notified should the situation change. On Monday, the city will reach out to both the county and state for further clarification.”

Livermore Downtown Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to the economic health and vitality of downtown Livermore, posted an additional message from City Manager Marc Roberts regarding Alameda County Health Press Release.

“While the press release is confusing and unhelpful, it is not a new order, nor has the State of California issued a new order this evening” read the post attributed to Roberts. “In addition, the guidance referred to at the state level is not an order. So, at this point there is not a valid state or county order to shut down outdoor dining, and I am not going to independently issue a local order. The state has chosen to issue orders to shut down facilities in other counties and may choose to do so for Alameda County in the future. However, at this point the city will not be making any changes to our operations over the weekend.”

Currently, county officials are moving toward obtaining a variance from the state – an application to the state to move ahead with reopening. A letter of support for the variance is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s board of supervisors’ meeting. Alameda County hit pause on reopening on June 29, due to rising case rates and hospitalizations, and delayed plans to apply for variance.

“While the data have not become more favorable, applying for a variance is a procedural action that would provide us with the flexibility to ensure that we can continue to allow the activities that the health officer determines are lower risk for our community,” said Balram. “Approval of a variance is not an indication that we will pursue additional reopenings of other industries or sectors at this time. We plan to continue to make reopening decisions based on our COVID-19 indicators and data, science, and disease conditions in the county.”

While individual cities in the county may not be enforcing any new state guidance this weekend, businesses and patrons should keep in mind that ‘strike teams’ of state inspectors contacted thousands of California businesses over the recent Independence Day weekend as an effort to enforce coronavirus restrictions in the wake of surging case numbers.

Members from 10 agencies make up the strike teams, and officials say they sent letters to every employer, or about 350,000 businesses, warning that they could face fines or potential criminal prosecution if they failed to implement a new statewide requirement to wear face coverings.

For updated state guidance for restaurants providing takeout, drive-through, and delivery, visit https://bit.ly/303HbkD.