Barbershops and hair salons have resumed indoor service as of Monday in San Mateo County after Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed a new county monitoring framework on Friday.
The changes are part of a new tiered system called “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” which replaces the “monitoring list” used previously to regulate the state’s openness based on many factors. The new system uses just the case rate and positivity rate to categorize counties and determine where they sit on a path to slow reopening.
After little more than four weeks of monitoring due to worrisome COVID-19 metrics, San Mateo County falls into the most strict “purple” category. That means risk is “widespread,” but the county will be able to make tweaks to its operations soon. Starting Monday, indoor retail can operate at 25 percent capacity and hair salons and barbershops can resume seeing customers indoors. The state’s website shows San Mateo County reporting 8.6 new COVID-19 positive cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 4.8 percent.
Counties showing widespread risk, including San Mateo County, are not authorized to reopen schools for in-person instruction without a waiver from their local health department, which is only available to elementary schools. Once the county has been in the “substantial” risk or “red” tier for two weeks, schools can follow state guidelines for a safe reopening.
The state’s website says the California Department of Public Health will reassess the indicators for each county weekly, starting Sept. 8, but that counties must stay in their current tier for at least three weeks and cannot skip tiers. To be eligible for a new tier, a county must show qualifying metrics for two consecutive weeks.
San Mateo County reported 7,978 total cases on Friday, with 131 deaths since the pandemic began. But county health officials continue to warn that the accuracy of the data may be affected by problems with state data. Confirmed positive cases are trending down, but are highest among younger age groups.
County Manager Mike Callagy and Health Deputy Chief Srija Srinivasan said the numbers appear stable, and given the amount of surge beds and ICU beds, the county health systems are ready for an influx of new cases should they appear. Callagy said it appears local residents are abiding by social distancing, limiting gatherings and wearing masks.
“We are doing everything right,” Callagy said. “Our numbers have not moved one way or another very dramatically for weeks now.”
In his most recent statement released Aug. 6, County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow wrote that he disagreed with the state’s decision to place the county on the monitoring list due to flaws in data collection and analysis by the state and because the businesses closed due to the watchlist aren’t the main sources of community spread.
“I feel the state has made the wrong ‘diagnosis’ and therefore is prescribing the wrong ‘treatment’ for San Mateo County,” Morrow wrote.
Callagy said that area testing is improving, with turnaround times down to just a few days, partly due to Verily opening its own lab site on Aug. 24 to more quickly process tests. Verily testing is still limited to 500 per day in the county. To keep turnaround times low, residents with symptoms and insurance should continue to get tested through their primary care doctor, Callgy said.
“They’ve really started to catch up,” Callagy said. “That is great news because that is the information we need to get back to our contact tracers so they can do their job and try to prevent the spread.”
Verily testing will be held Sept. 1 in Half Moon Bay at Our Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church at 565 Kelly Ave. The site was moved from Cunha Intermediate School in anticipation that schools may reopen sometime in the fall.
“We want to make sure we have a more solid point to operate out of,” Callagy said.