Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 12 announced that the state lifted its stay-at-home order for the 13 counties in the Greater Sacramento region.

This region was placed under the highly restrictive order for roughly a month, due to a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections as well as a decline in available Intensive Care (ICU) units.

As of Jan. 12, the state reported that the region’s ICU capacity was 9.4%, which is below the 15% capacity that’s required for the state to end a stay-at-home order for a region. However, the state public health staff recently projected that the Greater Sacramento region’s ICU capacity will rise to 19% over the next four weeks.

“We’re starting to see the rate of growth in our hospitalizations beginning to decline,” Newsom announced on Twitter. “So much so that today, effective immediately, we are pulling the Greater Sacramento region out of the stay-at-home order.”

Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County’s public health officer, considered the announcement to be a “surprise.” A few hours after the governor’s statement, she delivered an update on the county’s COVID-19 situation to the Elk Grove Unified School District board.

Kasirye said that her staff previously believed that the local region’s stay-at-home order would remain in place for a few more weeks.

“That’s why I’m saying this is such a whirlwind today,” she told the school board.

Kasirye’s staff the next morning revised their county’s public health order.

Local restaurants can now serve customers outdoors, hair salons and barbershops can reopen, gyms and fitness centers are allowed to operate outside, and grocery stores can operate at a 50% capacity.

“We know that definitely a lot of businesses will be anxious to release some of the restrictions they’ve been under,” Kasirye said.

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen told the Citizen that the governor’s announcement was “welcome news” for the economy and small businesses.

“We are ever so slowly starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “Let’s all do our part to keep each other healthy and thus help our businesses as well. Wear your mask, avoid large indoor gatherings, and maintain social distance.”

Sacramento County returns to Purple Tier status

Although the stay-at-home order was lifted, Sacramento County returned to the most restrictive Purple Tier 1 status under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy Plan. The county was placed in that tier last November when COVID cases began to steadily rise.

In order for the state to advance Sacramento County to the less restrictive Red Tier 2 status, the county must have a 5-8% test positivity rate as well as a case rate of 4-7 new daily cases per 100,000 residents in a seven-day average.

As of Jan. 13, the county’s case rate was 52.5 cases per 100,000 residents and the test positivity rate was 7.1%, according to the county’s public health staff.

Schools that are currently closed for in-person instruction must wait until Sacramento County stays in the Red Tier for two weeks before the county can approve their waiver to reopen. Campuses can also reopen if their local county has a COVID-19 case rate of less than 28 cases per 100,000.

Between March 2020 and Jan. 13, Sacramento County had 75,236 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,031 deaths, the county public health staff reported. Of those cases, they estimated that 60,943 “likely recovered,” or 21 days have passed since those patients tested positive for COVID-19.

Elk Grove, as of Jan. 11, reportedly had 8,395 COVID-19 cases and 84 deaths since last March. This marks an increase of 654 cases and 12 deaths since Jan. 6.

During her presentation to the Elk Grove school board, Kasirye shared details about Sacramento County’s COVID-related deaths. She said that about 80% of them were over age 65, and that roughly 50% of deaths were residents from congregate settings. The public health officer said there was a zero percent fatality rate for children in the county.

“The highest risk is the elderly in congregate settings,” Kasirye said.

What's now allowed to open and operate

Sacramento County’s public health staff revised their COVID-19 order for the county on Jan. 13. Here are the Purple Tier 1 restrictions:

•The following places can operate outdoor only: family entertainment centers, gyms and fitness centers, movie theaters, museums, places of worship (maximum 25% capacity or no more than 100 attendees), playgrounds and recreational facilities, restaurants, and wineries.

•These places can operate indoors: all retail (maximum 25% capacity), grocery stores (50% capacity), hair salons, barbershops, hotels, libraries (maximum 25% capacity), nail salons, personal care services, and shopping centers such as malls and swap meets (maximum 25% capacity).