Alameda County now allows outdoor social bubbles as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Monday marks the start of the first full week with social distancing bubbles now part of the new norm in Alameda County.

“We’re now allowing you to a few contacts outside your home. To allow you to have a have that social connection, and be around each other outdoors. Again adults with face coverings and social distancing. But we want people to have that next layer of social interaction,” said Dr. Erica Pan, interim public health officer for Alameda County.

The social bubble concept allows up to a dozen people from one or multiple households to gather together outside. But they cannot mix or merge with another bubble. It’s another step to ease COVID-19 fueled shelter-in-place restrictions.

In Contra Costa County, leaders are allowing businesses to offer in-store shopping, and restaurants to offer outdoor dining. The president of the county board of supervisors said great progress has been made slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s moving forward. But again, they’d like to move a little faster if we could. As safely as possible of course,” said Stewart Bambino, president & CEO of the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce.

Religious services of up to a dozen people indoors, and 100 people outdoors are now allowed. Officials credit early implementation of shelter-in-place orders with savings thousands of lives.

“I think what this really speaks to is the tension between the needs for society to get back to work. For people to get back to their jobs. For businesses to get up and running; people to get paid, and the desire to maintain some semblance of control of social interactions to minimize the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Mark Schwartz, a biotechnologist at San Jose State University, who tracks the spread of COVID-19 and the response by local municipalities.

Through a virtual conference Monday morning, Santa Clara County officials are pressing for more contact tracing and testing before the next phase of reopening can move forward.

Santa Clara County supervisors said the speed reaching a full reopening depends on how they can increase the speed of testing and contract tracing. There are also concerns protests and demonstrations over the past week-plus could lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases, and less progress toward a full reopening.