Clarifications about gatherings and other COVID-19 business restrictions in San Mateo County

by Linda Hubbard on July 16, 2020

John M. Hutar, President & CEO of Visit San Mateo County/Silicon Valley issued the following statement on July 15:

“After their June 17 announcement, San Mateo County officials are referring all questions regarding COVID-related business closures to the State. Their position is that the June 17 action moved guidance on this matter to the State (you may have noticed the County has stopped issuing health directives related to COVID).

“While no explicit direction was given by San Mateo County regarding gathering, the official I spoke with was kind enough to walk me through key sections of the State’s site. The section regarding gatherings has been changed since June 17 and now reads:

“‘State public health directives prohibit professional, social and community gatherings. Gatherings are defined as meetings or other events that bring together persons from multiple households at the same time for a shared or group experience in a single room, space, or place such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, or other indoor or outdoor space. They pose an especially high danger of transmission and spread of COVID-19.

“‘On May 25, 2020, in an effort to balance First Amendment interests with public health, the State Public Health Officer created an exception to the prohibition against mass gatherings for faith-based services and cultural ceremonies as well as protests. Those types of gatherings are now permitted indoors so long as they do not exceed 100 attendees or 25% of the capacity of the space in which the gathering is held, whichever is lower.

“‘State public health directives now do not prohibit in-person, outdoor faith-based services or protests as long as face coverings are worn and physical distancing of 6 feet between persons or groups of persons from different households is maintained at all times. All other gatherings are prohibited until further notice, except as otherwise specifically permitted in state public health directives (including in applicable industry guidance).

“‘Crowds and limited physical distancing increase the risk for COVID-19. If you attended a protest, remember that confidential, free testing is available. Find a testing location near you. If you test negative it does not mean that you may not develop COVID-19 later on. Therefore, it is advisable that you self-isolate for 14 days, if possible.'”

“Click here to reference Permissible Gatherings section for future updates.

“The section “What is Allowed to Be Open in My County?” states (Note: San Mateo County is currently an attested county not on monitoring list.):

• Hotels (for tourism and individual travel)
• Dine-in restaurants (outdoors only)
• Wineries and tasting rooms (outdoors only)
• Family entertainment centers (outdoors only)
• Zoos and museums (outdoors only)
• Cardrooms (outdoors only)
• Hair salons and barbershops
• Casinos
• Gyms and fitness centers
• Campgrounds and outdoor recreation
• Personal care services, like nail salons, body waxing and tattoo parlors

“Click here to reference this section for future updates.

“The only permissible gatherings currently on the State site refer to religious gatherings. Unlike Santa Clara County, San Mateo County has no explicit directive regarding outside gatherings. Many cities within San Mateo County have implemented street closures to accommodate additional restaurant dining which, in effect, creates a gathering. [Photo is of closed Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park.]

“I realize the information is coming from many directions and not necessarily straightforward. Rather than possibly misinterpret, I feel it’s best to share the information with you that is available and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and encourage you to regularly check the State’s site for updates.”

Photo by Linda Hubbard (c) 2020


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