Drive-through celebrations and car parades nixed in Santa Clara County

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Santa Clara County residents who thought they could shift their in-person celebrations to the car had a rude awakening this week when officials explicitly prohibited any vehicle gatherings. That includes the likes of car parades, caravans and drive-through graduations.

County health officials extended the area's shelter-in-place orders through May 31 alongside a handful of other Bay Area communities. Though some restrictions have been lifted on businesses, officials added explicit prohibitions and clarifications around activities that have previously taken place as the coronavirus has pushed people indoors.

Officials addressed the new rules in a Frequently Asked Questions page on the county's website.

"The order prohibits all public and private gatherings with people who do not live in the same household or living unit, except for the limited purposes allowed in the order. Parades, ceremonies, and similar gatherings with people outside your household are not allowed, even if everyone stays in their cars," the page reads.

The county previously told residents not to visit friends or family members outside their households.

The county also addressed rules about the wearing of masks, which are required at businesses. Though the use of face coverings is encouraged elsewhere in public, they are not mandatory, officials stated.

Ahead of Mother's Day, officials also noted that flowers may be purchased from essential retail businesses like grocery stores or from farmers markets, nurseries and online stores, but flower shops will remain closed.

Santa Clara County was an early hotbed of coronavirus cases and remains one of the counties with the highest infection rates in the state. Nearly 2,300 people in the county have been infected with the virus and 126 have died, including five reported Tuesday.

As nearby Northern California communities have eased restrictions, and some businesses have gone so far as to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom's closure orders, the counties of Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara, as well as the city of Berkeley, extended their stay-at-home orders and cautioned against moving too quickly to reverse course.

"You can still see that it's still gone up pretty significantly in recent times," Dr. Jeffrey Smith told the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors earlier this week. "There's a lot of talk in California about relaxing shelter-in-place [orders]. I just want to point out that we're still, in California, going up dramatically. So there's no clinical evidence that shelter-in-place [orders] should be relaxed at this point."

Though Newsom has given the green light for counties to start lifting restrictions on certain businesses, he and other public health officials continue to warn of the dangers of reopening too much of the state too quickly.

"We have to maintain the core construct of our stay-at-home orders," Newsom said this week.

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