*Outdoor gatherings between three or fewer households for two or fewer hours are permitted under both the prior and current Sacramento County orders.

In early December, the California Department

of Public Health created five regions and began issuing stay-at-home orders based on the overall capacity of hospital intensive care units in each area. The state reassesses capacity numbers each week, and releases counties from the order only when four-week projections show that more than 15% of regional ICU beds will be available for new patients.

So far, four of five of the state’s regions have been put under the new type of stay-at-home order.

The Greater Sacramento Region, which includes 13 counties, is the first to have the order lifted, based on a projected ICU capacity of 19.1% in four weeks. The region now goes back to the purple or widespread tier, as defined by the Blueprint for a Safer Economy that counties were following prior to the regional stay-at-home order.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Twitter post Tuesday that the region is getting past the holiday surge and case rates are looking better.

But some health experts worry the change is preemptive, and that loosening restrictions will lead people to take too many risks.

“I’m very concerned about the fact that we have not seen yet the full effect of Christmas, and we certainly have not seen yet the full effect of New Years,” said UC Berkeley epidemiologist Dr. John Swartzberg.

“Let’s keep things where they are through January. If the trend we’ve seen in the last week continues to hold, we can pretty confidently make some changes.”

Swartzberg said he understands that Newsom has business interests to accommodate, but that opening restaurants and other businesses will give people a sense of optimism around the virus that could be detrimental.

“If you’re hearing things are better, people are going to accept that and take more risks,” he said. “And now is not the time to be risk-taking.”

Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases for UC Davis Health, says that people who plan to partake in newly-allowed activities still need to use precautions such as mask-wearing and physical distancing. He says if you go out to eat, you should only do so with your immediate household.

He says the state’s forecast of greater than 15% capacity at local hospital intensive care units in the Sacramento region a month from now should be enough cushion to safely begin reopening.

“We need to be flexible,” Blumberg said. “If we do see a sudden surge in cases … we need to reverse course. Flexibility is what it’s all about right now, to be able to respond and make sure it’s safe for everybody, but also to respond to pandemic fatigue.”

When California initially put stay-at-home orders in place last March and then lifted them in May, Newsom faced criticism for loosening restrictions too quickly. The summer surge that followed marked a high for case rates at the time, but the spike occurring now is far worse.

Three other California regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, remain under stay-at-home orders and will not be able to reopen businesses until their ICU capacity meets the threshold.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Dr. Dean Blumberg. It has been corrected.

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