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Here we go again – another shutdown for county region
Smart phone users received this emergency alert from the state relating to the stay at home order.

Stanislaus County fell under a Regional Stay Home Order this week because of a surge of COVID-19 cases nearly overwhelming area hospitals dealing with patients.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday new stay-at-home orders for regions with ICU capacity that falls below 15 percent. Stanislaus County hit that this week.

The regional stay-at-home order follows a statewide curfew implemented Nov. 21 that asked residents to remain at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The stay-at-home order closes bars, wineries, personal services, hair salons and barbershops. Retail stores, malls and shopping centers will be allowed to remain open, but with occupancy set at 20 percent. Restaurants will only be allowed to do take-out or delivery. 

Critical industries, like grocery stores, will be allowed to remain open.

The order prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail, and requires 100 percent masking and physical distancing in all others.

Newsom said he was pulling the emergency brake on the state’s tier program as California continues to log record daily COVID-19 cases that threaten to swamp the state-s health care system. The rates are expected to grow significantly in the coming weeks as health experts expect a wave of cases from those who gathered during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The order splits the state into five regions, with Stanislaus County in the San Joaquin Valley region. When a region reports ICU occupancy below 15 percent the stay-at-home order will go into effect and last for three weeks. As of Monday, the Valley had an ICU capacity at 13.1 percent, placing it under the drastic order. In Stanislaus County there were five adult ICU beds available on Friday.

The order is not expected to impact schools, which are being allowed to remain open.

“Guidance for school districts allows those that have already reopened the option to remain open even under a stay-at-home order,” the Stanislaus County Office of Education wrote on their COVID-19 website. “School districts will be allowed to conduct in-person and other previously allowed hybrid and small group instruction models without modification.”

Any school districts that did not get a waiver to reopen or reopened during the period when Stanislaus County was in the red tier would not be allowed to open at this point. 

“The governor’s order does not impact schools that have already reopened for in-person learning, with or without a waiver,” Ceres Unified School District Supt. Scott Siegel stated.

More than 3,000 elementary students from CUSD returned to campus this past month as part of a hybrid schedule.

“Guidance for school districts allows in-person hybrid and small-group instruction models without modification,” Siegel said. 

“CUSD will continue to stringently observe the health and safety protocols outlined in our Reopening & Safety Plan, which include recommendations from state and local health officials for the wearing of masks, physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, and other measures.  

As we approach the holiday break, which begins December 18, it remains crucial to wear masks outside the home, avoid gathering with non-household members, and to stay home (and keep children home) when sick. This is a difficult but necessary step in reducing the transmission of illness, reopening schools for all students, and regaining a sense of normalcy. I know we all look forward to that time.”

To allow for social distancing, a hybrid schedule is being used by CUSD to minimize the number of students on campus at a time.

Students attend school in one of two groups. Group A attends classes in person on Mondays and Thursdays.  Group B attends classes in person on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The regular bell schedule is being followed.

Group A — 1,557 pre-kindergarten through second grade students — was welcomed back to school on Nov. 2.

Group B (1,532 students) returned to school on Nov. 3.

In-person instruction for students in grades 3-6 began the week of Nov. 16.

Group A (2,096 students) and Group B (2,043) returned to campus on Nov. 16 and Nov. 17, respectively.

The guardians of 245 K-6 students have opted for independent study.

The Ceres School Board unanimously approved a plan on Oct. 8 to re-open CUSD’s elementary campuses for partial in-person learning.

Residents are being asked to stay at home unless out to buy groceries, go to pharmacies or are essential workers. Above all else, state health officials are imploring residents to not gather with people outside their household, especially indoors.

Like the previous stay at home order in March, area law enforcement agencies will be using education rather than arrests or citations to reach compliance on the order from residents and businesses.

As of Monday, Stanislaus County has had 24,461 positive cases, 1,780 probable cases, 239,323 negative tests for a testing positivity rate of 13.1 percent. The county has deemed that 446 persons have died from COVID-19. As of Monday, 2,744 are presumed active, 21,271 presumed recovered.  A total of 226 persons were hospitalized with a confirmed case of the virus while 49 are in ICU beds. Adult ICU beds were at 5.8 percent availability.

Dale Butler contributed to this article.