Construction is legal again, per a new shelter-in-place order. Photo: Pete Rosos

Construction and a few more outdoor activities are permitted under a new shelter-in-place order, Berkeley and six Bay Area counties announced Wednesday.

The new order extends the shutdown until the end of May and lifts restrictions on all construction, some “outdoor businesses,” and some shared outdoor recreation spaces. Otherwise, the basic facets of the stay-at-home order, originally issued mid-March, remain in effect. The new rules begin Monday.

“This impact of the virus has been hard for many of us, but we are now on a path for steady progress, which now allows some low-risk activities to return,” said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Berkeley’s health officer, in a regional statement around noon. “This virus is still in our communities. We need everyone to shelter-in-place apart from the few exceptions – and wear a face covering when out.”

The order allows businesses that primarily operate outdoors — such as nurseries and gardening companies — to serve the public, and relaxes rules for skate parks and other recreational activities that don’t involve shared equipment. The order makes it clear that restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating don’t qualify.

“This initial, measured easing of some restrictions is designed to set the stage for a gradual resumption of activity and prevent rapid, exponential growth of cases that could overwhelm hospitals for a particular jurisdiction or the region as a whole,” the joint statement said.

Since the initial shelter-in-place order was announced, confirmed COVID-19 cases in the affected jurisdictions have jumped from 258 to 7,273, according to the statement. Deaths have climbed from 4 to 266. (However the expansion in testing since the initial order — and the continued shortage in tests — means those figures and trends do not reflect the full picture.)

The health officers have also shared the long list of “indicators” they will track when determining when to lift or relax the shelter-in-place order.

That decision will be based on whether the case number and hospitalizations decrease, whether health care workers can adequately access protective equipment, whether there is sufficient testing availability, and “whether we have the capacity to investigate all COVID-19 cases and trace all of their contacts, isolating those who test positive and quarantining the people who may have been exposed.”

“These indicators will be critical to decisions in the coming weeks and months about when and how to ease shelter-in-place restrictions,” the statement said.

Berkeley and other jurisdictions announced Monday that this extension, and well as the minimal easing, would be coming this week.

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...