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San Mateo Health Officer Says New Bay Area Restrictions Are ‘Style Over Substance’

San Mateo County’s health officer is defending his decision not to join several Bay Area counties in instituting the COVID-19 stay-at-home order until he’s required to by the state.

On Dec. 4, five Bay Area counties — San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Marin — imposed the new restrictions in an effort to contain the latest surge of coronavirus cases.

In a statement, Dr. Scott Morrow said these restrictions are largely symbolic.

“It appears to be style over substance, without any hint of enforcement, and I simply don’t believe it will do much good,” Morrow said.

And while Morrow said he believes people should continue to follow health care guidelines, he doesn’t think these new orders will impact those who don’t want to follow them.

“I think people should stay at home, avoid all non-essential activities, wear masks, and not gather with anyone outside their households,” he said, “I’ve been saying this for about 10 months now. If you didn’t listen to my (and many others) entreaties before, I don’t think you’ll likely change your behavior based on a new order.”

He also argues that some restrictions, like those on businesses and public spaces, do not appear to be major drivers of transmission, and said the new state framework “is rife with inexplicable inconsistencies of logic.”

Some local officials have been critical of Morrow’s decision.

“When people know that they can’t do certain things in San Francisco and San Jose, and they know that they can in San Mateo county, people think that we are somehow safe,” said San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan.

Read the full statement here.

—Michelle Wiley (@MichelleEWiley)

Copyright 2020 KQED