California adjusts under new restrictions and confusion

If you're having a hard time keeping up with the changing health guidelines, you're not alone.

From doctors to business owners, many people are trying to adjust to the latest stay-at-home order that most of the Bay Area is under.

"I think there's a lot of confusion," said Rachel Michelin, President and CEO of the California Retailers Association.

Her association represents about 60 large national businesses.

Michelin says the seemingly ever-changing guidance based on different regions means she is constantly asked one common question from retailers.

Coverage: Coronavirus in the Bay Area

"Explain to me what's going on in California?" said Michelin. "Just before this call, I was e-mailing with one of my member companies, a large national retailer, who is getting different information coming out of L.A. County than what's coming out of the state."

Michelin says the retailers are some of the lucky ones this round because they've been able to stay open at a reduced 20% capacity.

Under the new regional stay-at-home order, the state has been divided into five regions: Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

The stay-at-home order lasts three weeks once the ICU bed capacity drops below 15%.

Health Officers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties along with the City of Berkeley preemptively implemented the order on Sunday, December 6.

While the state has created the regional stay-at-home order, this time it's a lot different than March.

You can still do outdoor activities like golf or exercise, or attend outdoor church services.

Grocery stores are limited to 35% capacity, while restaurants have been restricted to take-out food only.

Businesses that must remain closed under the new order include bars, personal services, hair salons, museums, movie theaters and playgrounds.

"I think we need to crack back down. Because we're heading into another wave," said Cliff Anderson of Santa Clara.

Travel has new restrictions as well.

The state is urging Californians not to travel unless it's essential, but it's not a mandate.

However, the state has restricted hotels to only allow essential workers to stay there.

The California Hotel and Lodging Association says as of Monday, only essential workers can make new reservations.

A representative for the association said hotels would inform guests when making the reservation and upon their arrival about the regional rules, but that they would not be the ones to enforce the state restrictions.

"I think the confusion is leading to a lot of variation in activity and that's not good for us, but good for the virus," said UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

The professor of medicine says the changing guidelines are confusing for health professionals as well, including himself.

He wonders if he can continue the regular walks he and his father have been taking for the past few months, because his father is not an immediate member of his household.

Dr. Chin-Hong notes first responders are anxious as they are seeing first-hand the ravages of the coronavirus, adding that the public doesn't see the brutal reality of life in the ICU because of patient privacy laws that limits the images the public sees.

"My hospital, we've seen a 4-fold increase since the middle of October to now with overall admissions including the ICU. And it's really breathtaking the rate of increase," said Dr. Chin-Hong. "I just can't wait to get my vaccine."

The infectious disease specialist adds it's important to remember the enemy is not public health or elected officials, but rather the virus.

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