Covid-19, novel coronavirus 2019
Novel Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) (CDC Image)

MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County is enacting the state’s latest health restrictions early to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and patient overflow at area hospitals after monitoring local and regional intensive care unit (ICU) capacity.

On Wednesday, the county’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new order from Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County health officer, that implements the terms of the regional stay-at-home order issued last week by the state.

The new order takes effect countywide at 10 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13, and lasts for four weeks, until 6 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 11.

“Standing here today, in the middle of this pandemic, with the storm raging around us, I think it’s the appropriate steps,” said chairman Chris Lopez, District 3 supervisor, at Wednesday’s board meeting. “I want to applaud Dr. Moreno for all that he’s done, from the beginning of this pandemic, to keep Monterey County in the condition that we’re in today — which is a lot better than we would’ve been if we didn’t have the leadership of Dr. Moreno and all the folks at the health department.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult year for everybody in our community, and this decision is not one that we take lightly,” Lopez continued.

On Dec. 3, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a new stay-at-home order based on adult ICU bed capacity in five California regions. Newsom said much of the state would likely be under the new order within the next few days if ICU capacity falls below 15%.

The Bay Area — the region in which Monterey County falls — was predicted to reach that point in mid- to late-December, while Northern California, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California would do so by early December.

“If we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said.

Five Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin and Santa Clara — preemptively adopted the regional stay-at-home order last Sunday, despite the ICU capacity being above 15%. On Monday, the Bay Area region’s ICU capacity was 25.7%, but that quickly dropped to 20.9% as of Wednesday.

ICU availability in the Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions has already fallen below 15%, triggering the stricter stay-at-home order in those areas.

Once the new order takes effect, private gatherings of any size will be prohibited, and all but essential services and businesses will be closed. Only essential travel will be allowed, as well.

Monterey County has remained in the most restrictive tier (purple) of the state’s reopening plan since the summer; however, the purple tier still allowed restaurants, gyms and other businesses to offer outdoor services. When the new order is triggered, those activities will be prohibited.

Wineries, bars, hair salons, barbershops and personal care services must also close.

Schools that have received waivers can remain open, while retail businesses can stay open at 20% capacity. Restaurants can only provide carryout and delivery services.

The new order will remain in effect locally until Jan. 11, and can be extended or lifted by the county’s health officer as needed.


In Monterey County, confirmed cases of Covid-19 increased by nearly 1,400 in just the past week, including 253 new cases reported Monday, 238 on Tuesday and another 126 on Wednesday.

This brings the countywide total to 16,966 cases since tracking began in March. In addition, there are currently 112 hospitalizations and a total of 146 deaths — including an alarming 10 deaths reported Wednesday — in the county.

“It’s hitting home,” Lopez said. “Having a big number like 10 today hit the chart, in terms of deaths, those are families, those are 10 chairs that are no longer at Christmas dinner.”

Salinas has the most confirmed cases at 8,686, followed by South County at 4,785, Peninsula/Big Sur at 1,801 and North County at 1,694, as of Wednesday’s latest report from the Monterey County Health Department.

Within South County, Soledad and Greenfield have the most cases — 1,678 and 1,229, respectively. King City is next with 1,012 cases, followed by Gonzales with 674, Chualar with 95, San Ardo with 64 and San Lucas with 17. There are also 16 cases classified as “other.”

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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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