Sacramento County on May 19 received the go-ahead from state public health officials to allow more businesses to reopen. Residents throughout the county, including Elk Grove, can once again dine at local restaurants.

With the state’s approval, restaurants in the county will be permitted to reopen their dining rooms on May 21, and can thus operate during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, noted Sacramento County Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson.

Also allowed to reopen are retail businesses with 10 or fewer employees, child care, day care and family care facilities, outdoor museums, art galleries, theaters and outdoor gyms.

Full public transportation will additionally be permitted, and small offices may also reopen if employees cannot work from home.

These changes were granted by the state in response to the county’s request to move further into the second stage of California’s Resilience Roadmap related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Beilenson addressed the state’s approval of that request.

“The California Department of Public Health set out clear and specific criteria for this attestation, and Sacramento County has demonstrated that we have the ability to protect the public and essential workers and can move further into Stage 2 (of the state’s reopening plan),” he said. “It remains critical that people continue to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing, follow good hygiene and cleaning practices and stay home when they are sick.”

During their morning meeting on May 19, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors unanimously supported the reopening of these business operations.

A day earlier, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that local health jurisdictions could move more quickly through the second stage if counties could demonstrate their abilities to maintain control of the spread of this coronavirus. The state also changed some of their guidelines for counties to prove they can adequately test, hospitalize, and tract down county residents who test positive for COVID-19.

Counties need to report low and stable data, as well as sufficient COVID-19 preparedness to obtain this variance.

Among Sacramento County’s low figures include 94 reported cases of COVID-19 from May 3-16. With a county population of 1.5 million, that number translates to an average of six or seven cases per day during that period.

There are currently 15 people in hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms in the entire county, and all of the county’s deaths in the past two weeks have occurred in long-term care facilities.

With the supervisors’ agreement that Sacramento County meets the state’s criteria to advance further into Stage 2, the county submitted a letter of attestation to the state for approval. The state responded affirmatively several hours later.

The businesses that will be permitted to reopen, must abide by certain conditions.

In the instance of restaurants, there are 12 pages of conditions pertaining to staff and the interaction with their customers, sanitation and hygiene. Servers are also required to wear face masks.

With social distancing requirements and subsequently less available seating, some dining establishments could decide to expand their outdoor seating to increase their allowable occupancy.

Eateries would have the option to obtain emergency temporary use permits to expand outdoor seating within areas that are currently reserved for other uses, such as parking. Those areas would also be subject to social distancing requirements.

Fitness centers will be allowed to reopen, with a maximum of eight people present in the facility at any given time, and the practicing of social distancing. Large gymnasiums will remain closed.

As for swimming pools, only lap swimming, with every other lane closed, will be permitted.

Also included in the county’s reopening plan is an allowance for religious services and special ceremonies such as graduations to be held in a drive-thru fashion.

Outdoor gatherings such as funerals, weddings and family gatherings are limited to a minimum of 10 people, with strict social distancing.

However, no nonessential gatherings of friends are permitted during the current Phase 2, which Beilenson told the county board of supervisors on May 19 will probably continue until the early fall, “September or so.”

He estimated that Phase 4, which includes large gatherings with 100 people or more, will not begin for about a year.

“(Phase 4) probably won’t be all the way until we get a vaccine,” he said. “The vaccine is at least a year off, maybe more. But it will be a period of time before we get to that (stage). Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s just my strong supposition as to how it plays out.”

Beilenson added that with the upcoming reopenings, the numbers of COVD-19 cases in the county will increase.

“There’s going to be more infections as we open up,” he said. “There are, because we’re going to have more face-to-face contact. So, we’ve got to keep a very close look on it.”

In a May 19 interview with the Citizen, Supervisor Don Nottoli expressed his desire for the county to continue to progress through this pandemic.

“We’re still months away, obviously, if not longer,” he said. “I think it’s (about) managing all the components and the risks factors. Public health is the primary responsibility of county government, but also state and federal (governments).

“I’m hopeful and I sincerely appreciate all the work people have done to make those adjustments. Hopefully advancing this (stage) over the next few days begins to loosen that up in a way that people feel like we’re making progress, and that we will get there over a reasonable amount of time.”