Santa Clara County health order allows some reopenings with stricter mask rule

Santa Clara County on Thursday announced a new health order to establish uniformity in every sector and at every level. 

Under the new order, hair and nail salons, gyms, and small gatherings are permitted, but only with strict social distancing protocols in place, consistent use of face coverings, and significant capacity limits.

The new order also indefinitely prohibits indoor activities like dining and swimming where face masks would be removed. Events at theaters and arenas are also not planned to reopen. 

 "It's crystal clear that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time," said Sara Cody, the county's health officer. 

Health officials have long said the focus needs to be on creating a new normal rather than reverting to a pre-COVID-19 era. Cody said the only way to do that is by establishing clear criteria on how to execute that. 

"This marks the end of a phased reopening and a new phase that will be stable for some time," Cody said. 

The order will not take effect until July 13, or as soon as the state gives their approval whichever is later. 

Santa Clara County has fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents than any other Bay Area county, but Cody said the number of infections is rising along with hospitalizations. 

“Our approach from the outset of the pandemic has been careful, based on constant assessments of relevant data, and also the evolving scientific understanding of the virus,” Cody said. Adding, "Today’s order offers a long-term containment strategy that we believe will need to remain in place for the coming months.”

The new order follows Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement on Thursday, ordering Santa Clara County, along with 18 other counties on the state' "watch list", to stop some indoor operations, including movie theaters, family entertainment centers, and dine-in services. 

But Santa Clara County never gave clearance for any of those activities to resume.