After a weekend of confusion following unclear state guidelines regarding outdoor dining, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted during a July 14 meeting to file a variance attestation with the state, which was approved on July 15.
According to a press release from the Alameda County Public Health Department, the Oakland Zoo can now open for outdoor activities with appropriate safety measures in place and outdoor dining can formally resume, though officials ask resident to note that face coverings are required at all times and may only be removed during the physical act of eating or drinking.
“Additionally, today is Alameda County’s third day on the state’s county monitoring list, which means that we are subject to restrictions per state health officer orders issued on July 13,” reads the release. “The state requires that beginning today, places of worship can hold outdoor services only and will not be able to hold indoor services; and indoor malls will be required to close. This does not impact other indoor retail at this time.”
Despite the quick approval, the county will not move any further along the reopening schedule.
“We will remain paused in our reopening plans and will continue to align with the state’s orders for monitoring list counties,” officials say in the release. “We are updating our local orders and communication materials to reflect these changes and reduce confusion. It is critical we all do our part to save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19. Residents and those who work in
Alameda County can help by staying home as much as possible and, especially when you’re sick, wearing a face covering whenever you leave home, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from anyone outside of your household and washing or sanitizing your hands frequently. Our city partners have a role to play in enforcement and ensuring local businesses and residents are educated on health and safety practices and compliance with both local and state orders.”
County supervisors previously considered filing the variance in late June, but they pulled back as coronavirus cases increased.
"(The approval was) something that we had hoped would come earlier, but we are so grateful the supervisors passed it," said Alameda Business Association’s Kathy Weber. "We appreciate their confidence, and we trust that local businesses will do what's best for their customers.”
On July 9, Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopening guidelines, and Alameda County health officials followed suit on July 11, indicating the county would prohibit outdoor dining. Within hours, several Alameda cities confirmed they would not enforce the new guidelines without further clarification.
While the decision to back the variance was difficult to make, District 3 County Supervisor Wilma Chan takes pride in the fact that the county did their due diligence before applying.
“We are still going to be very cautious, but we are really doing this right now to continue to permit outdoor dining and the opening of outdoor activities at the Oakland Zoo," said Chan, who did have some reservations about cities allowing outdoor dining over the weekend. “We had cities that said, ‘Whatever; we’re not going to do what the county want us to do.’ I think (city noncompliance) is a problem.”
She went on to ask for better enforcement of county rules for local businesses, and for firmer consequences for cities that do not comply. This included possibly restricting county money allocated to cities for coronavirus-related items, such personal protective equipment.
For more information about the state orders, visit covid19.ca.gov/roadmap-counties/.
For more information about county orders, visit acphd.org/2019-ncov.aspx.