Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody issued a new health order on Thursday that would move the county from a phased opening plan to a risk-aversion plan for coming months.

If approved by the state, the plan would allow more businesses to open as long as they follow strict physical distancing guidelines. The plan would take effect July 13 or within two days of state approval.

“We are at a point in this pandemic where it is crystal clear that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time,” Cody said. “And so, we need to adapt to a new way being, a new way of living that keeps us all safe and allows us to do some of the things that we miss and cherish.”

“The goal is to try to set a new normal for what we can expect when we enter any business facility or engage in any activity.”

James Williams, Santa Clara County counsel

Several core principles now drive county requirements: outdoors is safer than indoors, more physical distance is safer than less physical distance, fewer and briefer contacts are safer than longer contacts, and face coverings should be worn consistently. The county’s proposed guidelines would require businesses to complete a new social distancing protocol on the county website and have one worker for every 250 square feet in total and one for every 150 square feet of space open to the public.

The Santa Clara plan requires employers to report COVID-19 positive cases at work sites, which enables faster investigation and contact tracing, and it encourages them to maximize telework.

“The goal is to try to set a new normal for what we can expect when we enter any business facility or engage in any activity,” said County Counsel James Williams.

Both hospitalizations and positive cases of COVID-19 have risen in recent weeks in Santa Clara County, but it has had fewer cases per 100,000 residents than any other county in the Bay Area or urban region in California, Cody said.

Countywide, 2 two percent of all COVID-19 tests are producing positive results, but in East San Jose and among Santa Clara’s Latino residents, the rate is 4 percent. So the county has teamed with local nonprofits to speak with small business owners and members of the Latino community.

The county’s Public Health Department will soon release several specific mandates related to personal services like hair and nail salons, athletic and religious gatherings, gym and fitness centers, public transit, construction, hotels/motels, food facilities, agriculture and children’s activities.

Until the new health order is approved, the regulations from the current health order issued on June 5 will remain in place.