SAN BENITO COUNTY, Calif. (KION)--California Department of Public Health Officials have placed San Benito County on the COVID-19 County Data Monitoring Project watch list in response to elevated disease transmission.
Health officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said Tuesday the county has remained on the watch list for three days, which means starting this weekend things like bars and dine-in restaurants will be off-limits.
“These indoor spaces are probably the riskiest things, and those are spaces by its very nature you have to take your facial covering off,” Ghilarducci said.
San Benito County is exceeding the state’s 14-day case rate threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 residents. The 14-day case rate equals the total number of cases diagnosed and reported over a 14-day period divided by the number of people living in the county. This number is then multiplied by 100,000.
Using this metric, San Benito County is allowed up to 64 cases but as of July 6th, they have recorded 67 cases and are now on day three of the monitoring list.
As seen in Monterey County, if the county remains on the watch list for 3 or more consecutive days, the state will require that San Benito County close all brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs -- both indoors and outdoors -- for at least three weeks. In addition, the State will require closure of indoor operations for dine-in restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, and cardrooms. Outdoor operations may continue with appropriate modifications.
“The restaurant industry in general is struggling, and this is just another obstacle in our path,” Owner of Houligans restaurant in Hollister Jill Goodwin said.
Since dine-in restaurants opened, about two-thirds of Houligans business has been in-person. Having to move to just take-out (or outdoor dining) will be mean having to reduce staffing levels and limits much needed tips for the employees.
“It's going to be half their hours. I worry for them,” Goodwin said.
A local registered nurse said she's not surprised the county is on the "watch list," because of the behavior of some of the residents and the way county officials have responded.
“We have recommendations, but there’s no enforcement behind the recommendations,” Hollister resident Melissa Gong said.
Gong said many people are defying wearing masks. She cites a rally with live music that called for lifting of more restrictions a few weeks ago.
There are currently zero people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county, but Gong worries if cases continue to trend upwards the county's hospital won’t be able to handle it.
“We don’t have access to advanced critical care services if someone does get really sick. We’re then taxing other counties medical infrastructure,” Gong said.
According to Ghilarducci, the added restrictions will begin over the weekend. They will last at least three weeks.
The county continues to encourage people to wear a face covering when out in public, staying physically distanced from people outside of your household, washing hands frequently, and staying home when sick will assist in stabilizing the case rate and protect the most vulnerable populations.