By Kathy Chouteau
Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) issued an order today to close indoor dining, indoor fitness centers and concession stands at movie theaters in Contra Costa County to contain the spread of COVID-19. The move, which is effective Tuesday, comes on the heels of Thursday’s grim milestone of 1 million COVID cases statewide in California.
With transmission and hospitalizations on the rise, Contra Costa County joins other counties across the Bay Area that are constricting rules for high-risk indoor activities where the virus can spread more easily.
In September, when Contra Costa County entered the state’s red tier, dine-in restaurants and gyms were given the green light to open at reduced capacities. However, County health officials believe the closures in these areas are crucial toward containing the virus’ spread.
“Indoor interactions at restaurants, movie theaters and indoor gyms and fitness centers are high-risk activities,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County. “And given what we’re seeing happen across the country and the region, we must act now.”
Regarding their reasons for the closures, County health officials cited restaurant diners and movie theatre patrons removing their masks to eat and people breathing heavily while exercising at indoor gyms—which increases the risk of droplet and aerosol transmission of COVID-19.
An increase in the number of COVID-19 cases recently prompted Contra Costa County to roll back from the state’s orange tier to the more restrictive red tier due to an increasing number of cases. According to CCHS, hospitalizations in the county have spiked to levels unseen since several weeks ago. Two days ago, 50 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in the county—the highest number since September.
“I’ve said this many times before, but it’s so important I can’t repeat it enough: The best way to protect against COVID-19 is to wear a face covering whenever you are near people who do not live with you, and whenever you go in a building that is not your home,” said Dr. Farnitano.
County health officials are considering moving back to the state’s more restrictive purple tier in the weeks ahead as the holidays grow closer and concerns deepen over people gathering indoors. If that happens, schools that haven’t reopened will remain closed until the County returns to the red tier or until they receive a state waiver.
“Our hope is that this new health order will slow down the spread of COVID so schools will have a better chance to reopen,” said Dr. Farnitano.
Learn more about the County’s work to stop the spread of COVID-19 here.