Jan. 25 (UPI) -- State health officials in California lifted statewide regional stay-at-home orders Monday, and Gov. Gavin Newsom was expected to drop some COVID-19 restrictions as state intensive care unit hospital capacity was expected to increase.
Health officials said hospital capacity was predicted to be greater than 15% in the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California and the Bay Area, according to four-week projections. The Sacramento region exited the stay-at-home order on Jan. 12 and the Northern California region never entered the order, a press release from the California Department of Public Health said.
"Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives," Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement. "Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it's important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner."
The new loosening of restrictions means gyms and other businesses may reopen and restaurants may be able to resume outdoor dining, although county health departments will have the final say.
Newsom has been repeatedly criticized for COVID-related lockdowns, and the Democratic governor is the target of a new Republican recall campaign.
"California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we've been hoping for," said Mark Ghaly, health and human services secretary. "Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the healthcare system to the degree we had feared."
Because positive case rates remain high across most of the state, the state's Hospital Surge Order remains in place to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, the health department said.