A sign denoting the Monterey County line. (Photo via J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

Monterey County will be joining suit with other Bay Area counties in implementing the state’s regional order before it is required in an effort to preserve critical hospital bed capacity and curb the spread of COVID-19.

Starting Sunday, Dec. 13 at 10 p.m. Monterey County will adhere to the most recent state directives released on Dec. 3 closing sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail, require restaurants to close outdoor dining and prohibit private gatherings of any size.

However, the state’s order is not mandated until the region falls under 15 percent ICU capacity – a number the Bay Area has not reached yet.

Monterey’s order is in effect until Monday, Jan. 11 at 6 a.m. unless adjusted by the state or the county’s health officer Dr. Edward Moreno.

“I have been closely monitoring data including ICU bed capacity for both the Bay Area Region and our county. While our region has fared better than others, regional and local trends are changing,” Moreno said. “The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in our counties has dramatically increased in just the past couple of weeks.”

Monterey County has not been immune to the surge in COVID-19 cases. The county has raked more than 1,000 positive cases each week for the last three weeks, but in the first week of November, there were less than 500 cases, according to the county’s dashboard.

Of the 105 positive cases hospitalized on Dec. 7. 42 were in intensive care units — leaving the county with 15 ICU beds available (26 percent of capacity available).

“We are at risk of exceeding our hospital capacity sooner than the State anticipates, imperiling our ability to treat not just COVID-19 patients but patients suffering from trauma, strokes and heart attacks as well,” Moreno said.

State data predicts that over the next week, the Bay Area’s regional ICU bed capacity will fall under 20 percent and by Dec. 24 will be operating with only 8 percent of ICU beds available. By the new year, the demand for ICU beds may exceed the supply.

“I understand the profound impact these restrictions will have on businesses and the daily lives of our residents, but it is time for us to implement restrictions to preserve hospital bed capacity, support our health care workers, and protect human life.”

Monterey County will join five Bay Area counties in adopting the state’s regional order before meeting the threshold.

Already, three of the state’s five regions, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, have already met the state’s threshold of less than 15 percent ICU capacity, triggering the implementation of the governor’s order.

The Bay Area, which includes Monterey county, currently has 20.9 percent of ICU beds available in the region and Northern California has the highest ICU capacity available at 27 percent, according to state data.

For more information on the state’s regional health order, visit: https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/.