We’ve all heard how we’re in “stage two” of reopening and what that means for businesses, but does that mean other restrictions have changed or loosened? We chatted with Placer County public health officer/director Dr. Aimee Sisson for clarification about what the continued statewide stay-at-home order means now.  

Can I hang out with my friends now? Can my children meet up with friends?

We are currently in stage two of the state’s Resilience Roadmap. The state’s website says: “The California Department of Public Health has determined that all public gatherings with people who are not members of your household — in any indoor or outdoor space — should be postponed or canceled to curb community spread of COVID-19. State agencies are not issuing permits for any gatherings — of any size, or any kind — at this time. Gatherings will be permitted again once public health officials determine they can be conducted in a manner consistent with public health and safety. In the meantime, please postpone or cancel your gathering, and consider whether you can find alternative ways to host your event that do not require an in-person, physical gathering.”

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We all know about keeping 6 feet apart, and the recommendation of wearing a mask. What other practices do you recommend?

Washing your hands frequently, and for at least 20 seconds, remains a tried and true method of disease prevention! Wash your hands before putting on your face covering or touching your face in any way, before and after eating, and after touching surfaces used by others like doorknobs. Higher risk individuals (over 65 or with serious medical conditions) should continue to stay home and minimize errands by getting groceries delivered or asking for help from friends or family. Anyone who feels ill — even very minimally ill, like a sore throat — should stay home, and we’d encourage them to get tested for COVID-19. Our OptumServe testing sites, including the site in Kings Beach, now offer appointments regardless of symptoms.  

What about going out to eat? How does that work?

Restaurants are adhering to state guidelines that require tables to be at least 6 feet apart, along with other safety precautions such as requiring face coverings for servers. For now, only go out to dine with other members of your household. Face coverings are recommended before and after eating, such as when entering and ordering.

How about a road trip? Can I go? And how far?

On the California Department of Public Health website there is a list of activities that are not permitted in stage two. Included on that list is “Hotels/lodging for leisure and tourism — nonessential travel.” 

Outdoor recreation is allowed, but according to the state website, “Californians should not travel significant distances and should stay close to home.”

When will the stay-at-home order be lifted?

The governor has already begun modifying the stay-at-home order. Placer County is under the state order and so restrictions cannot be looser than those established by the governor and his staff. But, the county did qualify for a variance to move more quickly through stage two of the state’s Resilience Roadmap , enabling such businesses as in-store retail and in-restaurant dining to resume with modifications. The governor has not provided a clear timeline for movement from stage two to stage three, though he alluded to the possibility of some stage three businesses reopening in early June. Stage four is the final stage of the state’s roadmap and represents the complete lifting of the order. This would be when mass gatherings could resume, and is likely not to occur until there is a vaccine.  

HERE COMES THE SUN: Though certain nonessential businesses can open during stage two, masks are still strongly encouraged in public places, even as spring blooms and the weather improves.

Can you comment on what science says about the wearing of masks? There’s been a lot of chatter about whether masks are effective and people referencing different studies.

The phrase we say in public health is “my face covering protects you; your face covering protects me.” The main role of face coverings is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well (if they are presymptomatic or asymptomatic but infectious). Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these strategies and when worn properly.

The act of speaking generates droplets that vary widely in size, and these droplets can hold infectious virus particles. It is true that a cloth face covering will not contain every single virus particle, as critics point out. But the science shows that face coverings can reduce the number of droplets expressed, which reduces overall opportunity for transmission. 

~ Dr. Aimee Sisson, Placer County public health officer and public health director