As coronavirus cases increase, San Jose mayor announces plan to protect renters
Mayor Sam Liccardo addresses the novel coronavirus at a news conference in San Jose. Photo by Nadia Lopez.

The number of coronavirus cases in California continues to rise, including in Santa Clara County, which has seen 10 new cases in just two days — bringing the total number to 32 confirmed cases by Saturday.

The global pandemic is forcing more residents across the state to stay home and avoid public spaces, events and the workplace. But the stakes for many are higher in the Bay Area, as the region grapples with its crippling housing and homelessness woes.

To prevent the effects of the coronavirus from exacerbating the region’s crises, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Friday announced a proposal to adopt a moratorium on the evictions of residents and businesses who can’t pay their rent because of lost income resulting from the virus, hours after the city declared it had progressed to the “stage four” level of its pandemic response plan.

Under the plan, the city will begin actively cancelling city-led events and public gatherings, activate its emergency operations center, provide daily reports on the status of the virus’ spread, and further extra precautions and safety measures.

A snapshot from Mayor Liccardo’s COVID-19 memo show the different levels of response.

“We know there are going to be considerable economic impacts,” Liccardo said during a news conference Friday. “This is an effort to work collaboratively with our landlords to ensure that no one is pushed out the door.”

The City Council on Tuesday will discuss the measure, which if approved, would be in effect for 30 days, with the possibility of an extension each month. The moratorium would protect residents who cannot make rent on a home or business by preventing landlords from evicting them. To qualify under the moratorium, residents must notify their landlords either before or on the day their rent is due, as well as provide the city with documentation that they have faced a substantial loss of income due to the virus.

“In many cases, there will be no income at all and we just need to do everything we can to keep everybody afloat during this tough time,” Liccardo added. “We’re going to get through this, but we’re going to get through it together.”

Landlords who fail to comply could face penalties and fees. City officials Tuesday will discuss a potential 120-day period for residents to make up for the unpaid rent.

Public health officials confirmed the four new individuals who tested positive for the virus, known officially as COVID-19, were three men and one woman — one of which who came into contact with a previously confirmed individual. Two people are hospitalized, while the other two are isolated at home. Of the total cases, the majority involve individuals coming into contact with other known cases or are travel-related. Eight cases are under pending investigation.

As part of stage four precautions, city officials are also encouraging “social distancing” where residents can work from home.

Tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google, have announced they will continue to pay hourly and subcontracted workers who stay home their regular wages.

“We call on the rest of the industry to follow suit so the two-tiered nature of the tech economy does not cause a public health crisis,” said Jeff Barrera, a spokesperson for labor coalition Silicon Valley Rising, in a statement.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a state of emergency to mobilize resources to combat the growing rate of new cases, while county officials have called for new measures such as canceling large public events and being vigilant about personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.

Canceled events

As of Friday afternoon, the Pathways to Climate Smart Career Fair and State Sen. Jim Beall’s Women of the Year 2020 event were cancelled.

On Saturday morning, officials announced next week’s films and events for Cinequest, the city’s premier film festival, will be canceled. The second week of the Cinequest events, which included a 30th anniversary festival, will be rescheduled for Aug. 16 to Aug. 30.

Cinequest organizers said canceling events that took more than a year to plan has been a “real financial hardship” on the 501c(3) nonprofit behind the popular film festival.

“The coronavirus news hit hardest just as our annual two weeks of revenue began,” co-founders Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell said in a statement, adding that they’ll seek financial help from the city or state.” A big drop in our expected box office revenue occurred immediately. We’re aware we cannot replenish our costs associated with rescheduling and re-producing what took us a year to bring together in the first place.”

The Housing Trust Silicon Valley’s annual Investor Briefing, a prestigious affordable housing event scheduled for Friday, was also cancelled. It’s unclear whether the event, which was one of the largest fundraisers for affordable housing and drew major players in tech and philanthropy from across Silicon Valley, will return later this year.

“It was a disappointing decision to make given the knowledge that would have been shared from the stage by our amazing lineup of speakers and that would have been shared as connections were made among our incredible group of attendees,” Housing Trust Silicon Valley CEO Kevin Zwick said Friday. “However, we, along with many others in our community, are heeding the call all do our part to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of everyone.”

At the national level, the House on Wednesday reached an agreement for $8.3 billion of funding to help combat the rising rates of the virus, which was approved by the Senate a day later. As of Friday afternoon, 14 individuals have died from the virus, while more than 225 cases have been confirmed around the country, according to NBC News. There are an estimated 100,000 infected people worldwide, spanning across nearly 90 countries.

Symptoms to recognize

The virus presents flu-like symptoms, including fever, fatigue, cough and body aches, but could produce shortness of breath and difficulty breathing when it progresses. In some cases, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported.

According to county officials, the majority of infected patients are mild cases, but the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are the most at risk of developing severe symptoms.

“I want to remind the public that the vast majority of people who become infected with COVID-19 do not become seriously ill, and fully recover. We are making these recommendations to protect the most vulnerable members of our community from the virus, and slow its spread,” Sara Cody, the county’s Public Health Officer, said in a statement Thursday.

Symptoms may appear in as little as a couple of days or as many as up to two weeks after initial exposure.

Protecting against the virus 

According to county officials, the best way to prevent against contracting the disease is to abstain from touching the face and to thoroughly wash hands.

  • Use proper hand hygiene including washing hands with soap or using hand sanitizers. 
  • Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose and mouth because one way viruses spread is when you touch your own mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue, sleeve or arm. Do not use your hands.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as countertops and doorknobs.
  • Keep away from others who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

The Centers for Disease Control also suggest avoiding public transit, ridesharing services, cleaning “high- touch” surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables frequently.

For more information on preventing the spread of the virus, read the county’s list of recommendations on its website.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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