Gatherings of ‘Social Bubbles' Allowed Under Loosened Shelter Restrictions in Alameda County

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Starting Monday, Alameda County residents can gather in "social bubbles," and childcare providers and some businesses can resume operations under certain conditions, health officials announced this week.

The county's relaxed shelter-in-place orders will allow small outdoor gatherings of residents from different households. The social bubbles can consist of up to 12 people and should be maintained for three weeks, according to the revised orders issued Friday by Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan.

To limit contact, participation is limited to one social bubble at a time, and social distancing and face coverings are still encouraged.

Childcare providers may resume care to all children, not just children of essential workers, under certain conditions, according to the county health department.

Other facilities affected include educational institutions, which can resume career internship and pathways programs; libraries can open for curbside pickup of books and other media; certain businesses with limited contact, such as pet grooming and appliance repair can provide services.

The orders align with the city of Berkeley's health agency, which is separate but coordinating with Alameda County.

Outdoor museums, outdoor restaurant dining, religious services, and other outdoor activities like fitness classes are expected to resume in future relaxations of the county's helter-in-place restrictions.

"As we move forward in Stage 2 of the reopening plan, we increase the level of exposure to infection among Alameda County residents," Dr. Pan said. "This is still a highly contagious virus and medically fragile residents and our disproportionately impacted communities are still at high risk for this disease."

As of Friday afternoon, Alameda County reported 3,725 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest number any county in the Bay Area. Thus far, 101 people have died from the virus in the county, according to the health department.

Residents should strive to maintain six feet distance from those outside their household, wear face coverings, practice good hand hygiene and stay home whenever possible, county health officials said.

In addition, the county is requiring face coverings to be worn during physical outdoor activities, such as walking, running and biking when residents are within 30 feet of people outside their household.

Those people with a written exemption due to a medical condition, health concern or disability, or anyone who has trouble breathing are not required to wear a face covering. Children under 12 years old are not required to wear a face covering, and any child 2 years old or younger should not wear a face covering, health officials said.

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