Bay Area construction workers going back to jobs with new rules

Under new public safety guidelines, construction projects of all sizes will be allowed to resume in many parts of the Bay Area as long as there are safety measures in place.

Like thousands of others, commercial plumber Cecelia Cervantes is eager to get back on a job site after the shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

Starting next week, she'll be able to practice her trade again.

"As a single mother of two wonderful kids, I want and I need to work to support my family," said Cervantes. "But at the same time, I worry it will not be safe to go back to work."

Now, a new public health order covering six Bay Area counties, will allow residential construction, as well as commercial and public works projects to resume.

The caveat is there must be strict safety regulations in place.

"Today's announcement is an important step toward normalcy. And although there will be some who will question why didn't this happen sooner, I am not one of them," said Will Smith of the IBEW, the union for electricians.

In Santa Clara County, construction officials and labor leaders say they gave input on the new rules, which include using personal protective equipment and social distancing.

"Nobody today is saying we're doing this because there is no risk," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. "We're doing this saying we have figured out a way to go forward."

Shifts will be spread out for construction workers too, and in some cases, there will be inspectors on site.

"Today's order takes a measured approach, rooted in science and strikes that balance," said Ben Field of the South Bay Labor Council.

The order also gets thousands of people back to work, including 25,000 union members in Santa Clara County alone.

"I'm thinking that this kind of movement today is going to give the general public some hope and a shot in the arm in terms of morale," Cortese said.

The new health order takes effect on May 4.


"That's what we want, the economy going back and we're going to be safe," said Cervantes.