Coast is slowly reopening
County authorities further loosened restrictions on beaches, houses of worship and retail businesses on Friday. The new regulations take effect on June 1. Libby Leyden / Review

The rules have changed again. San Mateo County announced today that starting June 1, churches and in-store retail can open. And beginning this weekend, the prior regulations on beaches — like timing and what you can bring — have been lifted.

After the city of Half Moon Bay announced that beach parking lots and restrooms will reopen this weekend, all prior regulations on beaches are over — aside from social distancing and mask requirements.

At a press briefing Friday, County Manager Mike Callagy said under the county’s shelter-in-place order, residents are still discouraged from visiting the beach. But he called on those who do come to stay aware and distanced.

“We’re asking people to use common sense,” Callagy said. “... What we’re really concerned about is folks inundating the stores and streets of Half Moon Bay and Pacifica. That would be untenable.”

Callagy said the decision is driven in part by encouraging data from the county showing decreasing hospitalizations, but said it’s also a matter of practicality. He said authorities simply couldn’t enforce the previous rules prohibiting car access to beaches and parks west of Highway 1 between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. nor the banning umbrellas, chairs, coolers and other items.

Also in the new order, churches and other places of worship can reopen as long as they create safety plans, encourage vulnerable staff to stay home and limit attendance to 25 percent capacity or fewer than 100 people, among other regulations. Retailers can now welcome in-person shoppers as long as they continue to also allow curbside pickup and abide by a list of rules.

The county also issued new guidance for pool reopenings, safe car celebrations and protests. Socially distanced protests that are 100 attendees or fewer or fill 25 percent of a room’s capacity are allowed. This order, too, comes with a warning:

“Such gatherings may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations,” the order reads. “In particular, activities like chanting, shouting, singing, and group recitation negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing.”

Childcare establishments and camps are now required to keep groups together for a minimum of three rather than four, weeks. Chief Deputy County Counsel David Silberman said that decision was also driven by feasibility, but reiterated a need for caution.

“None of this stuff is safe,” Silberman said. “Everything we do that increases exposure puts people at risk.”

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