San Francisco counties extend shelter-in-place orders through the end of May

A group of San Francisco-area counties are planning to extend shelter-in-place orders through the end of May as health officials work to address the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. 

The directives, which were initially set to expire on May 3, will ease restrictions for a limited number of low-risk activities, public health officers from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties said in a joint statement.

But the officials stressed that "prematurely lifting" social-distancing requirements "could easily lead to a large surge in cases." They are expected to offer more details about the updated order later this week. 

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"Thanks to the collective effort and sacrifice of the 7 million residents across our jurisdictions, we have made substantial progress in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, ensuring our local hospitals are not overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, and saving lives," the statement said. "At this stage of the pandemic, however, it is critical that our collective efforts continue so that we do not lose the progress we have achieved together."

In addition to the revised order, health officials are planning to release new information on how counties will track the spread and response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The six counties have been under quarantine measures since March 17, two days before California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Ivory poaching changes evolution of elephants California regulator proposes ban on oil drilling near schools, hospitals, homes Biden says he would tap National Guard to help with supply chain issues MORE (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order. 

Several states, from Colorado to Georgia, began easing social distancing restrictions and allowing certain nonessential businesses to open last week. Newsom has said he won't begin easing restrictions in California until his office sees a drop in hospitalizations for at least 14 days.

As of Monday, California had reported more than 43,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,724 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials say the U.S. needs to ramp up its testing capacity and have a comprehensive contact tracing program in place in order to safely reopen. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Fauci says it's recommended to get same vaccine for COVID-19 boosters The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat MORE, the government's top infectious diseases expert, said over the weekend that the U.S. will need to double its testing capacity over the next several weeks. 

"Testing capacity is limited and expanding slowly, and vaccine development is just beginning," the Bay Area health officials said. "We expect to be responding to COVID-19 in our communities for a long time."