A sign above an empty freeway, imploring people to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo via Flickr)

California’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order for the Bay Area is likely going to continue beyond Friday, an Alameda County public health official said Tuesday.

“My best guess is it will be continued,” county Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss told the county’s Board of Supervisors at their regular meeting Tuesday.

But Moss said hopefully it will just be days later when the stay-at-home order is lifted. The order must be lifted for the Bay Area as a whole and whether it is lifted is based on the availability of intensive care beds in the region.

In Alameda County, the availability of intensive care unit beds is well above what state officials want to see before lifting the order, but the Bay Area’s capacity was just at 7.9 percent as of Sunday.

Capacity must meet or exceed 15 percent before the stay-at-home order will be lifted, county health officials said.

The officials expect to hear from the state on Wednesday or Thursday about the projections for ICU bed capacity. California health officials determine when the region meets or exceeds the 15 percent capacity threshold based on a state formula.

Moss said that when Alameda County comes off the state’s stay-at-home order, it will likely go back on the purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which provides the strictest guidelines for economic activity in the county.

The rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the county appeared to have leveled off after mid-December, Moss said. But he suspects cases will rise again because of holiday gatherings.

Hospitalizations have also leveled off in recent days as a change in hospitalizations trail a change in the number of cases.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, 53,714 people in Alameda County had tested positive for the coronavirus and 656 people had died due. Those numbers include figures reported by the city of Berkeley, which has its own public health department.

Countywide as of Monday, 424 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 and 109 were in intensive care. Just over 25 percent of intensive care beds were occupied by people with the coronavirus, according to public health data.

As of Sunday, 131 ICU beds were available in the county, public health officials said.

Vaccination for the coronavirus is moving ahead, with 40 percent of doses administered so far. That compares with about 35 percent statewide.

Colleen Chawla, director of the county’s Health Care Services Agency, told the board that vaccinating people has been challenging logistically.

It’s not as easy as setting up a large vaccination clinic, she said. Health officials must choose people to vaccinate based on the priority list established by the state.

Doses of the vaccine continue to arrive in the county in shipments of 2,000 to 3,000 one to two times per week, Chawla said. As of Sunday, the county had received 60,075 doses.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.