The San Mateo County Health Department is preparing to apply for a variance to modify its shelter-in-place order to go beyond current state regulations. It would be the first reported Bay Area county to do so. The Board of Supervisors will meet via videoconference at 9 a.m. on Friday to vote on issuing a letter in support of County Health Officer Scott Morrow’s application.
County Public Information Officer Preston Merchant said approval by the Board of Supervisors is the first of several steps required to reopen beyond the state. If the board votes in support of the variance Friday, he expects the state will make a decision on granting it next week. That would be followed by a revised county health order outlining the changes.
Merchant said that because variances have been granted in 53 counties across the state, he thinks it’s highly likely the state will approve San Mateo County’s application.
Missing from Friday’s agenda is an update from any county health officer prior to the vote, and it’s not clear if proof that the county has hit the required metrics for approval of a variance will be made public at that point. Over the past few weeks, county leaders have suggested that the county is close to meeting the state’s requirements for a variance, but had yet to achieve some metrics, like decreasing hospitalizations and new cases.
But County Manager Mike Callagy said at a recent press briefing the county’s hospitalization numbers have been going down as it increases testing, contact tracing and the personal protective equipment supply.
“Basically on any given day, we might meet most of the measures or even all of the measures, but what the state is looking at is what has our trend been either for the last seven days or the last 14 days,” Srija Srinivasan, deputy chief of San Mateo County Health, said at the press briefing earlier this week.
Outside of the Bay Area, almost every county in California has now moved beyond the state, which is currently in “early Stage 2” of its Resilience Roadmap plan to reopen. Up to this point, San Mateo County has attempted to be more strict or aligned with the state — and seeking a variance would be the first indication the health department wishes to open further.
“Currently, the county does not allow dine-in restaurants, hair salons and barber shops, museums, gyms and fitness centers hotels for tourism and travel to open,” a county update reads. “If approved by the state, the variance would allow Dr. Morrow to issue a new health order that, when he deems appropriate, could open additional businesses with restrictions that may include social distancing, face coverings and additional health precautions.”