Coronavirus LIVE BLOG: ‘We’re not waiting for anything,’ Governor says with or without federal funding, state will distribute vaccines
Gov. Gavin Newsom updates the state's response to the coronavirus at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, Calif., Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

As of Nov. 22, Santa Clara County reported 31,103 confirmed coronavirus cases and 464 deaths.

California had 1,110,370 positive cases and 18,726 deaths as of Nov. 22. However, health officials have warned recent figures have been underreported due to issues with the state database to input new test results.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an indefinite shelter in place order for the state but has eased some restrictions by allowing certain businesses to operate outdoors.

4 p.m. Nov. 23 ‘We’re not waiting for anything,’ Governor says with or without federal funding, state will distribute vaccines

In quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed the federal government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for providing only $28 million to fund vaccine distribution in California.

“$28 million is simply inadequate,” Newsom said. “The second round of funding needs to be substantially greater.”

The state has only earmarked $16 million of the federal funding, from which it will allocate $6 million to distribution staff and $10 million to local healthcare providers for distribution planning.

Healthcare workers will be first on the list to access vaccines in the first phase of distribution, Newsom said, but Pfizer and Moderna will send their vaccines to healthcare providers and not the state government.

But the state government is working to purchase 16 ultra-low-temperature freezers, 11 transport containers and 61 smaller freezer to distribute statewide.

To pay for it all, Newsom said he is prioritizing money for vaccines in the state budget that he will submit to the state legislature in January 2021 and drawing as much money as possible from federal stimulus funding.

However, the governor said whether or not California receives enough federal funding to distribute vaccines, the state will not allow any delays as the executive branch of the federal government transitions to President-elect Joe Biden.

“We’re not waiting for anything. We’ll be creative. We’ll find the resources,” Newsom said. “We obviously need more support from the federal government, particularly as we get into phase two and three.”

4:30 p.m. Nov. 19: State health secretary breaks down COVID-19 surge, purple tier curfew

California had a 51.3% increase in its COVID-19 case rate from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7, more than 20% higher than a spike in June, according to state COVID-19 data.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services, said the state’s case rate has not peaked yet and is still on the rise.

“This doesn’t necessarily tell us where this will end,” Ghaly said. “Some states across the nation have seen this double in just a week.”

Ghaly said the rise in cases is tied to a variety of reasons.

“There is no single culprit,” Ghaly said. “It’s a combination of factors, certainly the colder weather, more mixing, which comes with more opening, not just of places indoors and places where you can mask, but places that are indoors that don’t have an easy time masking the whole time. And, of course, greater travel.”

Everyday activities are now higher risk, Ghaly said, and people must minimize social interactions to avoid COVID-19 infections.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a curfew for purple-tier counties, in which all non-essential businesses and gatherings must stop from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Nov. 21 and ending Dec. 21.

People can still go to the grocery store, walk their dogs and buy takeout during the hours of the curfew, Ghaly said.

He added that health officials are trying to avoid further restrictions.

2:30 p.m. Nov. 19: Governor orders curfew for purple tier counties, including Santa Clara County

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Twitter a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for counties in the most restrictive purple reopening tier, which includes Santa Clara County. The curfew will take effect Nov. 21 through Dec. 21.

“Together — we can flatten the curve again,” Newsom said in the tweet.

All nonessential work and gatherings in purple-tier counties must stop from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Newsom said.

Santa Clara County, like dozens of others across California, is experiencing a spike in its COVID-19 case rate that shifted the county to most restrictive purple tier for reopening on Nov. 17.

Case rates are surging statewide and 41 counties with 94% of California’s population have regressed to the purple tier.

Noon Nov. 18: Stay home for the holidays, county says 

People need to avoid gathering with others outside of their household to prevent COVID-19 transmission, county representatives said during a news briefing Nov. 18.

“Right now as we continue to move into the holiday season, we know that we as humans like to connect with others, we like to be and interact with one another,” county spokesperson Ricardo Romero-Morales said. “If we want to continue to do that next year this is the year where we have to protect each other.”

For Thanksgiving and other holidays, families should celebrate with members of their own household.

If families choose to meet with members outside of their household despite the county’s recommendations, Romero-Morales said that the gatherings should take place outside, require masks and social distancing and be limited to three households.

Although the county is asking essential workers to get tested for COVID-19 at least once a month, Romero-Morales said it is not a preventative measure against COVID-19 infections while traveling.

“We just want to remind people that testing is not a ticket for you to travel since we don’t know the people you’re going to be interacting with at your destination,” Romero-Morales said. “In the timeframe that you got tested from the point that you received your result you might be in contact with other people that you don’t know their status.”

11:30 a.m. Nov. 18: Santa Clara County Office of Education offers testing to its staff

The Santa Clara County Office of Education will offer free routine testing to its staff, according to a news release.

“While we have adopted regular behaviors and practices that minimize the spread of this disease, as of yesterday, we have moved back into Purple or Widespread Tier as defined in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which is a sign that we still need to remain vigilant,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan in a news release. “Implementing the safety measures, like routine testing for staff, is necessary for the gradual reopening of schools to in-person instruction within the coming months, and it demonstrates our dedication to providing staff and students with a safe and healthy learning environment.”

Santa Clara County district staff will also have access to free routine testing from the office of education.

The office of education said the routine testing can reduce the spread of COVID-19 by identifying asymptomatic people carrying coronavirus and provide a more accurate picture of positive cases in the county.

6:30 p.m. Nov 17: Santa Clara County to increase testing in response to soaring case rate

The county is testing more than 9,000 people per day for COVID-19 and plans to increase testing capacity in response to the spiked case rate reported in mid-November, said County Testing Officer Marty Fenstersheib.

The highest testing positivity rates – the percentage of all COVID-19 tests reported positive – are in East San Jose and Gilroy, according to county data.

San José Spotlight recently published a series highlighting the areas in San Jose with the highest COVID-19 cases per capita, including the East San Jose and downtown ZIP codes of 95122, 95113 and 95116.

“East Side positivity rates has been have been fairly stable during October,” Fenstersheib said. “But now, as we’ve said before, it has been increasing. We are moving from around 3.5%, which I reported last time, to now nearly 6%. South County is also seeing an increase in positivity reported 2.5% at the last report, and now nearly 5%.”

The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds offers COVID-19 tests. File photo.

Fenstersheib said the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds will increase its COVID-19 testing capacity from 2,500 to 3,000 tests per day and private health care providers such as Stanford Health Care and Kaiser Permanente have also increased their testing.

By mid-December, the county plans to increase testing at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds to 5,000 tests per day.

Fenstersheib said despite the testing increases, the surge in the county’s case rate plunged it into the state’s most restrictive purple reopening tier.

“We know that testing has previously enabled us to be adjusted out of a more restrictive to a less restrictive zone,” Fenstersheib said. “But because our rates are going up so quickly and are so high and the state average of testing is going up, we were not able to adjust our rate to allow us to move anywhere out of purple.”

4 p.m. Nov. 17: New surge in COVID-19 case rate is ‘steeper and faster’ 

Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 case rate briefly bottomed out in October, but within a week in mid-November county data showed numbers rising faster than previous surges, health officials said.

“The rate of rise has been steeper and faster than any other wave we’ve experienced either here or elsewhere in this state,” County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said.

Cody said she and other health officials predict increased hospitalizations and cases will result in more deaths.

The health officer added that case rates are disproportionately higher in East San Jose and Gilroy. Case rates are higher for Latinx and African American people in the county, Cody said.

The increased case rate is not a result of increased testing, Cody clarified, adding that it’s a “true increase in the incidence of this disease.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said case rates are increasing statewide and 41 counties with 94% of the state’s population are in the state’s purple reopening tier, which means counties have widespread COVID-19 transmissions and the most restrictions.

“The increase we’re seeing here is mirrored across the state and the region. We’re not an island so we have to work in collaboration with others,” Cody said. “The Bay Area in general had been able to keep the case rates lower and longer than in other regions.”

11 a.m. Nov. 11: How to know if businesses are following county health order

Beatrice Santiago, Santa Clara County’s Business Compliance Unit lead, said both business owners and customers have a role to ensure health order compliance during a news briefing on Nov. 11.

“When a business operates in compliance, it let’s the community know that they take their obligations seriously,” Santiago said. “That they are making every effort to slow the spread of COVID.”

To know establishments have submitted social distancing protocols to the business compliance unit, she said patrons should check that businesses have a paper with an orange check mark taped to their doors – the county’s seal of approval.

County spokesperson Ricardo Romero-Morales added that some compliance papers may be printed in black and white, and that people should check that the paper says the county approved its protocols in October.

If businesses are not following social distancing protocols, Santiago said people can report any violations on the county’s website.

Santiago said the Business Compliance Unit prioritizes education first, but will fine and penalize businesses if health officers find evidence of a violation.

Depending on the risk of the violation, Santiago said businesses may receive a grace period to correct their protocol or receive an immediate fine if their practices are egregious enough.

Noon Nov. 6: Safety protocols bolstered at Santa Clara County testing sites

Testing Branch Director Chrissy Cheung dispelled concerns about being exposed to COVID-19 at testing sites in Santa Clara County.

“We take great care in ensuring safety for all of the residents and people who come to our testing centers to get tested,” Cheung said. “We make sure that there is enough space at our testing centers so that people can be physically distanced at least six feet apart especially when they’re waiting in line, when they’re waiting to get tested, when they’re filling out any paperwork.”

Cheung added that everybody is required to wear a mask and testing staff has divided where asymptomatic people go for testing and where symptomatic people go.

“The ones where you walk into a test site, where you have to park and get of your car and go into a test site, we only test asymptomatic people there. So if you are sick, we actually have to turn people away from those sites,” Cheung said. “We do have options for people who are sick … our fairgrounds site. It’s predominantly a drive-thru site. Because it’s a drive-thru and you’re enclosed in your car, it makes it safe for people who are going to these test sites if you’re symptomatic.”

Santa Clara County health officials announced they had surpassed administering 1 million tests on Nov. 2.

People who are sick or exposed to someone with COVID-19 should find testing as soon as possible, Cheung said, and frontline workers, who have to work away from home and interact with multiple people should be tested at least once a month.

10 a.m. Nov. 2: Santa Clara County surpasses 1 million COVID-19 tests

Santa Clara County Public Health officials announced they had surpassed administering 1 million COVID-19 tests, largely through the fairground site that serves 2,500 residents daily.

“That is a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19,” said Betty Duong, County of Santa Clara Emergency Operations Center spokesperson.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 testing officer, said testing has aided the county in keeping its infection numbers low.

“Our positivity rate is under 2% for the county as a whole,” Fenstersheib said.

Santa Clara County has a 1.5% positivity rate as compared to San Mateo and Alameda counties, which each have a 1.6% positivity rate. Contra Costa has a 1.9% positivity rate. San Francisco County has a higher per person rate of testing and a lower positivity rate of .8% but is half the size of Santa Clara County.

Fenstersheib said county health, which did the bulk of the testing, is doing 7,000 to 8,000 COVID-19 tests per day. He said although the county initially had difficulty in getting tests and meeting demand, health providers have stepped up, especially following an order requiring them to.

“Testing is one tool in combating the pandemic,” Fenstersheib said. “If we don’t know who is infected, we can’t keep that infected person from exposing someone else.”

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center also has increased its testing. Kimberly Soria, a clinical coordinator, said the medical center was responsible for more than 30% of COVID-19 testing in the county. Soria said that in addition to testing being fast and painless, insurance is not required.

The county has targeted COVID-19 critically affected communities and positioned testing locations in most cities. Testing is free regardless of immigration status and insurance. Although patients may be asked to provide insurance information, so insurance companies may be billed, patients won’t be charged.

Fenstersheib said essential and frontline workers who should be tested monthly..

3 p.m. Oct. 31: Celebrate Halloween, Día De Los Muertos without getting COVID-19

Lowest Risk

The safest way to celebrate Halloween and Día De Los Muertos this weekend is to stay inside and do activities with fellow household members, health officials say.

To celebrate the holidays with the least risk for COVID-19 exposure, families and roommates can organize a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt, carve pumpkins, compete in a virtual costume contest, watch a drive-in movie, visit an outdoor pumpkin patch, cook together and create altars to honor loved ones, according to county guidelines.

Moderate Risk

People who choose to trick-or-treat outside can reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 by following local and federal health guidelines.

Below are a list of guidelines from the CDC and county and for people who choose to go outside and trick-or-treat – socially distanced and with protective masks.

For people giving out candy

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • One way trick-or-treating outdoors where trick-or-treaters and residents are socially-distanced.
  • Set up a curbside pick up station with individually bagged treats for kids to take at edge of yard or driveway.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask.

For trick-or-treaters

  • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Parents: supervise young children using hand sanitizer.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.
  • Make your cloth or surgical mask part of your costume.
  • A costume mask is NOT a substitute for a cloth or surgical mask.
  • Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult.
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Stay six feet apart from trick-or-treaters outside of your household.

Below are a list of activities prohibited or high-risk. These include door-to-door trick-or-treating, indoor parties and haunted houses.

High Risk

  • Trick-or-treating from door-to-door and receiving candy from people directly.
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19. Doing so can bring COVID-19 into the area and threaten the residents’ lives.

Prohibited

  • Attending a crowded party held indoors or outdoors.
  • Sharing, eating, drinking, speaking loudly or singing amongst others outside of your household.
  • Haunted houses or indoor mazes.
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots.

11:30 a.m. Oct. 30: Court order requested to stop maskless gatherings at a San Jose church

Santa Clara County officials are seeking a court order to stop Calvary Chapel San Jose from violating the county’s health order by hosting indoor church services with 600 people without masks or social distancing.

Under the county health order, indoor gatherings for religious purposes are capped at 100 people, masks must be worn and people must maintain social distancing.

“The obligation to preserve and protect life is at the heart of all major faiths,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen. “We are grateful that virtually all religious congregations in the county have adapted their services to not risk the safety of their congregants or the community. All of us are making difficult sacrifices that are saving lives.”

According to a news release, county officials spent months trying to convince church leaders to follow the rules, even issuing fines.

“After church officials made clear they had no intention of ending their dangerous conduct, the County Counsel and District Attorney filed the request for a court order,” the release said.

County officials say church services and other large gatherings without social distancing and masks cause super-spreader events.

County Counsel James Williams said that most churches have been complying with public health orders and the actions of Calvary Chapel leaders forced the county to make this decision.

“To keep our residents safe, and to allow schools, churches and businesses to reopen and stay open, we need everyone to do their part,” Williams said in the news release. “We cannot allow any organization in our community to willfully and repeatedly violate these orders, while everyone else, including other churches and religious organizations in the county, are complying.”

The Superior Court scheduled a hearing for the case on Nov. 2.

7 p.m. Oct. 29: If you’re using a Santa Clara County vote center, come early

Santa Clara County officials say the safest way to vote this year is by mail, but vote centers will still have stringent health and sanitization measures in place when they open on Halloween.

About 100 vote centers, including Levi’s Stadium, San Jose State and the headquarters of the county registrar of voters, will be scattered throughout the county.

Eric Kurhi, a spokesperson for the county registrar, said people who intend on using vote centers should come at the earliest time possible when each one opens on Oct. 31 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

“The longer you wait, the more likely if there is going to be a line, that’s when there is going to be a line,” Kurhi said. “So we would say that, yes, the earlier the better if you’re doing it in-person.”

In other words, don’t wait until 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Kurhi said county workers will be sanitizing everything each voter touches in the center, including the voting booths, tables and every part of the voting machine down to the stylus pen.

Voters can also submit ballots and receive assistance curbside from their car.

“If they need a ballot, if they need a replacement ballot, they can still come up, not have to enter the vote center,” Kurhi said. “If they’d rather not wear a mask or if they just don’t want to, they can vote curbside, and we will have staff come out, find out what they need to get done and facilitate the process just like if they had gone inside the vote center.”

The spokesperson added that voters can also submit their ballots in about 100 county drop boxes, which are handled by county staff and taken straight to headquarters of the registrar of voters.

The county will be releasing more guidelines throughout the next few days.

11 p.m. Oct. 28: Santa Clara opens playgrounds citywide

Playgrounds in Santa Clara will open citywide on Oct. 28, according to a news release.

“We know the importance of play for the health and wellness of Santa Clarans, and we are excited that new health orders allow the City to reopen playgrounds for our community to enjoy,” Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said in the release. “With so many parents at home with their children doing remote learning, it’s even more important to get outside and let kids be kids, but we have to do it safely.”

The playgrounds are open under health and safety protocols to reduce COVID-19 transmissions.

People on the playgrounds are responsible for wearing masks, sanitizing their hands and making sure they don’t overcrowd playgrounds, according to the release.

Additionally, the release says city workers have sanitized equipment and installed hand sanitizer dispensers for the public at each city playground.

2 p.m. Oct. 27: On-campus COVID-19 case reported at San Jose State

San Jose State officials announced in a mass email that a person positive with COVID-19 was on-campus in Duncan Hall on Oct. 20.

“After learning of the report, the building was cleaned and sanitized with a deeper level of sanitation performed for affected spaces, including high touch point areas like door handles, stairway railings, elevator buttons and bathrooms,” according to the email.

SJSU officials learned of the case on Oct. 23, according to the email. But it is unclear whether the person infected with COVID-19 is a student or staff member at SJSU.

SJSU officials have reported the case to Santa Clara County and have notified people in contact with the infected person, the email says.

If students or staff on campus test positive COVID-19, SJSU officials say to report it using this website.

4 p.m. Oct. 26: Database shows at least three COVID-19 ‘superspreader’ events happened in South Bay

A database from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England shows three COVID-19 “superspreader” events – incidents where one person spread the disease to dozens of people during one gathering – happened in the South Bay.

At the Canyon Springs Post-Acute nursing home in San Jose, at least 141 people tested positive for COVID-19 during a superspreader event on March 20.

At the Ridge Post Acute (Mt. Pleasant Nursing Center) in San Jose, at least 59 people tested positive for COVID-19 at a superspreader event on June 4.

ProPublica data shows Ridge Post Acute has had 35 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths among staff and residents and Canyon Springs Post-Acute has had 2 COVID-19 cases and 0 deaths among staff and residents since May 8.

In Santa Clara, the Valley House Rehabilitation Center had at least 93 people test positive for COVID-19 at a superspreader event on March 25.

Since May 8, Valley House Rehabilitation Center has had 134 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths among residents and staff, according to ProPublica data.

4 p.m. Oct. 24: Santa Clara County Fairgrounds expands testing capacity

Health officials announced they are expanding testing at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.

Testing capacity will increase to 2,500 tests per day by next week, according to a news release.

“We’ve been well above state and county goals for months, and we’ve seen a lot of interest in our mass testing site at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds,” said County Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib. “It’s very encouraging and a benefit to the health of the county that residents are continuing to prioritize COVID-19 testing, and are taking the time to get a quick, simple test. In addition, high testing numbers help allow more of the county to move into less restrictive state tiers.”

The county is also continuing appointment-only testing in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Morgan Hill, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Milpitas.

On Oct. 30, the county will also be providing testing at Project MORE’s hALLoWELLness LGBTQ+ clinic event at Local Color. Additionally, community partners plan to provide flu vaccinations and wellness toolkits.

A list of testing locations is attached below.

Appointment-only – Schedule appointments here.

San Jose
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Parking Lot A (across from the blue arch) – Drive-through, bike, and walk-up appointments
Across the street from the Fairgrounds main entrance, 344 Tully Road, San Jose
Appointments Tuesday-Friday, Oct. 27 – Oct. 30, 12 to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunnyvale
Murphy Park, 260 N. Sunnyvale Ave., Sunnyvale
By appointment only for Monday, Oct. 26, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Morgan Hill
Morgan Hill Council Chamber Building, 17555 Peak Ave., Morgan Hill
By appointment only for Tuesday, Oct. 27, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Los Gatos
LGS Adult Recreation Center, 208 E. Main St., Los Gatos
By appointment only for Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saratoga
Saratoga Friendship Hall, 19848 Prospect Road, Saratoga
By appointment only for Thursday, Oct. 29, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Milpitas
Milpitas Sports Center, 1325 E. Calaveras Blvd.
By appointment only for Friday, Oct. 30, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

POP-UP TESTING SITES – No appointments needed and only for people without symptoms

San Jose
Emmanuel Baptist Church, 467 N. White Road, San Jose
Tuesday to Friday, Oct. 27 – Oct. 30, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Gilroy
South County Annex (formerly Del Buono Elementary) – 9300 Wren Avenue, Gilroy
Tuesday to Friday, Oct. 27 – Oct. 30, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Gilroy
San Ysidro Park, 7700 Murray Ave., Gilroy
Wednesday, Oct. 28, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.

San Jose (in conjunction with Project Move’s “hALLoWELLness” event)
Local Color, 27 S. First St., San Jose

Appointments preferred, first-come availability for drop-ins. Friday, Oct. 30, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Schedule an appointment here.

2:30 p.m. Oct. 23: California Telephone Access Program continues remote services

During a virtual briefing held by the county’s public health department, Carmen Garcia, an outreach specialist from the California Telephone Access Program, said the program will continue remotely despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program provides free specialized phones for deaf and disabled people and has put in place COVID-19 prevention modifications to their services, Garcia said.

“Our goal is to ensure everybody can stay connected especially during this pandemic,” she said. “I think we’ve all recognized our telephones are a lot more important.”

The program has no age or income requirements to meet, but people must have telephone service they are using already and a doctor’s note to receive the free devices.

“If you have a hearing loss we want to make sure you can still call and request your refill,” Garcia said. “If you have a hard time seeing small numbers on your phone we want to make you can still call your friends and family to check on them or for them to check on you.”

4:30 p.m. Oct. 22: CDC redefines close contact

Health officials with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention say close contact for transmitting COVID-19 includes brief encounters throughout the day that add up to 15 minutes in a 24-hour-period, contrary to their prior definition which was 15 continuous minutes of contact.

The CDC’s redefining of close contact is based on an infection of a correctional officer at a Vermont prison, who was infected after having multiple brief encounters with six inmates, according to a CDC news release.

All six inmates tested positive for COVID-19, and the security guard tested positive a week later, despite wearing a mask and gloves from the inmates during his interactions.

However, CDC officials said video showed inmates not wearing masks while the officer interacted with them during several minute-long encounters throughout the day.

“In correctional settings, frequent encounters of more than 6 feet between IDPs and facility staff members are necessary,” the news release says. “Public health officials should consider transmission-risk implications of cumulative exposure time within such settings.”

6 p.m. Oct. 21: San Jose enters phased approach for playground reopenings

Under new health guidelines, parents and kids can use more than 290 playgrounds in San Jose on Oct. 23. while wearing masks, sanitizing hands and equipment before every usage and social-distancing, according to a news release.

“Parents and caretakers are responsible for ensuring that their children are playing safe and following all of the rules,” the news release said. “Do your part to protect your family and others against COVID-19 by following these guidelines.”

Parks and recreation officials also say children should not share toys on the playground and should stay home if a family member is sick.

However, it is unclear how San Jose will enforce these health restrictions at the playgrounds, though officials said the city will continue monitoring conditions at parks and facilities.

The reopening is part of a phased approach parks and recreation officials are taking to open more amenities for families in San Jose.

11:30 a.m. Oct. 21 County pushes for asymptomatic people to be tested

If you’re exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms, Santa Clara County has one message for you.

Get tested.

“People who have been exposed include people who have had 15 minutes of continuous contact or intermittent contact as well,” said Indira Fonseca, the manager of the county’s COVID-19 call center.

Fonseca added even with a mask, it’s still possible to be exposed.

The county recommends essential workers get tested at least once a month, she said, but no more than every two weeks.

A COVID-19 infection cannot affect people’s employment status, Fonseca said.

She said employees and employers can contact the county’s business call center or office of labor standards and enforcement for more guidance on COVID-19 in the workplace.

4:30 p.m. Supervisor criticizes Santa Clara County executive’s comments on stadium closures

Santa Clara County CEO Jeff Smith’s scrutiny and criticism of the state’s decision to reopen stadiums in orange-tier counties drew the ire of county Supervisor Susan Ellenberg.

After Smith described professional sports games as “super-spreader” events, Ellenberg said the statements were inappropriate and not thought out during a county meeting on Oct. 20.

“Dr. Smith, you just called an NFL game a ‘super-spreader event’ and declared it was unconscionable to think of playing these games with any fans there,” Ellenberg said. “I think that the statements were not well thought out, not appropriate and I think they are going to create significant controversy and concern.”

However, Smith listed various reasons games would be more risky.

“The changes in the state’s guidelines regarding professional sports are, in our opinion, really quite dangerous,” Smith said. “If you just do the math, 20% of the capacity at Levi’s Stadium means just under 14,000 people could attend a football game there.”

Smith said the number of spectators coming from areas outside Santa Clara County with high COVID-19 positivity rates to watch a football game could be disastrous for the state and the county.

“If you look around the county and around the region within 150 miles of this region, there are areas and communities that have positivity rates for COVID that are in the 8% range,” Smith said. “Ours in this county happens to be around 1%. But if you do the math, that means 250 to 1,000 people out of those 14,000 people will be infected.”

He said eating, drinking, screaming and congregating at the stadium will increase the spread of COVID-19.

“They’ll be infected, they’ll be at the stadium screaming, yelling,” Smith said. “They’ll be unmasked during the time period that they’re eating. They’re going to be going to the restroom. They’re going to be congregating. They’re going be infecting other individuals.”

3 p.m. Oct. 20: San Jose State administrators discuss deficits and COVID-19 precautions

Facing an indefinite COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing student enrollment and a dearth of state funding, San Jose State administrators say they have a $92 million deficit.

“We have a $92 million problem here at the university. That is primarily COVID expenses related to about $43 million in housing, dining, parking, things like that,” said Charlie Faas, SJSU vice president of finance and administration during a virtual town hall. “We have international student issues, that enrollment is down …  and state budget cuts are about $25 million of those numbers.”

According to the university budget, SJSU has earmarked $69 million in budget reserves to be used for the next two school years.

The school has a total of $161 million in reserves, the budget says. However, Faas added tuition will not be decreasing anytime soon.

“The outlook is grim,” Faas said.

SJSU has had a total of 51 positive cases of COVID-19 since March on and off campus, said Dr. Barbara Fu, SJSU’s acting medical director.

Patrick Day, vice president of student affairs, said students attending class on campus should be tested regularly, however, SJSU has no testing sites available on campus.

Fu and Day said administrators are exploring ways to provide testing on campus, but did not detail any specific plans.

2 p.m. Oct. 20: Stadiums and theme parks remain closed off to people in Santa Clara County

Fans of the San Jose Earthquakes, San Francisco 49ers and other teams that play in Santa Clara County won’t be allowed to see games at a stadium anytime soon, health officials say.

“We must all continue to prioritize reducing the spread of COVID-19, creating conditions that will allow our businesses, schools, and other community organizations to operate safely,” a county news release said.

Theme parks will also remain shuttered, according to the release.

During a virtual news briefing Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said large-scale parks with capacity of more than 15,000 people, such as California’s Great America in Santa Clara, are high-risk settings and can not open until the counties they are located in hit the lowest-risk yellow reopening tier. Even then, capacity will be limited to 25%.

California’s Great America’s capacity fits up 30,000 people. Park officials announced in August the Santa Clara theme park would remain closed throughout 2020.

Stadiums may resume operations in the orange tier – which is Santa Clara County’s current status – at 20% capacity. However, Santa Clara County officials are not allowing audiences to convene for any local sporting events.

“As we see COVID-19 rates rising in states across the U.S., and as we enter the winter months when risk will increase, we cannot take chances with the health and wellbeing of our community and forfeit the many sacrifices that have been made to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

2 p.m. Oct. 19: California in advanced planning to do vaccine distributions with CDC and DOD

Governor Gavin Newsom announced California has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense for advanced planning on vaccine distributions.

“We have long been in the vaccination business, our experience in mass vaccinations makes us a unique partner for the CDC and the DOD based on the scale and scope of vaccinations that occur on an annual basis here – on typical due course – in the state of California,” Newsom said.

Newsom said a state logistics task force has coordinated with federal, regional and local health officials on implementing vaccine plan.

In addition, California also formed a “scientific safety review workgroup” of health experts who will conduct independent reviews of vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Recent surveys have found people lack confidence and trust in the federal government to approve a vaccine.

Planning for vaccine distribution consists of setting up vaccination clinics, vaccine storage, handling, administration and documentation, according to the CDC. Distribution within “large-scale facilities” such as stadiums and arenas would require more planning.

Newsom said pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna are anticipating vaccine releases in November and December, but the number of vaccines will be limited and directed to vulnerable populations and first responders.

10 a.m. Oct. 19: San Jose Mayor signs letter for more resources to safely reopen schools

Mayor Sam Liccardo signed a letter with 12 other mayors of California cities, urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond to direct COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment and contact tracing programs to schools in order to get students back in the classroom.

“When the history of this pandemic is written, it will reveal that school shutdowns imposed far greater harms to our children than COVID-19 ever did – particularly for children from low-income families,” Liccardo said. “The lost years of education, mental and emotional anguish, social isolation, limited access to exercise, play, and nutritious food will have impacts that will be felt for a generation, and we need a statewide commitment to get our schools open safely.”

Although Santa Clara County is in the orange reopening tier, which allows the reopening of schools, many school districts such as San Jose Unified School District have opted to continue with remote instruction.

The letter said while the mayors said they understood the severity of opening schools too early, they said keeping them closed for too long would take a toll on students who are low-income, unhoused or foster youth.

Each of the mayors who signed the letter were part of the Big City Mayors Coalition, which includes the mayors of the 13 largest cities in California including San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Below are the letter’s list of suggested resources for schools to reopen safely:

  • Direct rapid testing and other testing resources to schools;
  • Provide schools with PPE guidance and resources, support for making physical accommodations to school sites and expand contact tracing programs;
  • Work with stakeholders statewide to develop uniform standards on priority student populations, testing and contact tracing protocols, site selection and staffing guidance in addition to setting a timeline for the reopening of elementary schools, with the opportunity to quickly expand to secondary schools;
  • Prioritize serving students with special needs, Title 1 students in low-income neighborhoods, children of essential workers; and students who have experienced homeless and/or youth in the foster/kin care system, and early learners (K-2nd grade). 
  • Actively gather, analyze and distribute data from the full range of schools that have received waivers to re-open to develop best practices that could be applied in a public school setting. 
  • Establish and provide funding for partnerships with cities and counties to develop creative solutions for using underutilized spaces such as libraries, recreation centers and other public venues to provide safe and supervised spaces for students to access remote instruction and educational support. Funding options must provide consideration to the staff and necessary extra training to support this option.

6 p.m. Oct. 17: Santa Clara County releases COVID-19 Halloween guidelines

State health officials have warned people from going trick-or-treating or having traditional Halloween and Día De Los Muertos gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Santa Clara County released guidelines and suggestions for socially distanced activities to do instead.

The guidelines say it’s safest to stay home and create activities such as scavenger hunts for candy and pumpkin carving.

For Día De Los Muertos, the guidelines suggest to stay home and create altars for dead loved ones.

However, they still listed certain activities under the low-risk category such as going to an outdoor pumpkin patch or participating in a drive-in movie night.

Under the moderate-risk category was a modified form of trick-or-treating in a grab-and-go format. People would leave candy in separate baggies for pickup in front of their houses.

The guidelines say traditional trick-or-treating, in which kids receive candy by hand is high risk and could lead to COVID-19 transmissions. In addition partying and large gatherings are also high-risk activities.

Read the full guidelines here.

6:30 p.m. Oct. 16: San Jose lawmakers to review extension of food distribution agreements

Nonprofit food providers may continue receiving funds from San Jose until Dec. 30 to supply meals and groceries to people experiencing food insecurity because of COVID-19, according to a city memorandum.

Under an agreement with Santa Clara County, San Jose leaders are in charge of distributing food throughout the county.

“In late September 2020, the county asked the city to continue meal delivery services to vulnerable homeless residents and residents in isolation and quarantine locations inside and outside of San Jose, with reimbursement by the county for non-San Jose residents,” wrote Assistant City Manager Kip Harkness and Budget Director Jim Shannon.

San Jose lawmakers on Oct. 20 will decide on extending agreements with Catholic Charities and World Central Kitchen to continue receiving up to $1.3 million and $3.5 million in funding for food distribution, respectively, until Dec. 30, the memorandum says.

Hunger at Home, Team San Jose and The Health Trust may receive funding increases of $452,795, $1.4 million and $365,290, respectively, and an extension to their agreements to year’s end with city leaders’ approval.

6 p.m. Oct. 15: San Jose State to host forum on continuing on-campus operations

San Jose State administrators plans to host a virtual forum on Oct. 20 to discuss how on-campus classes and operations will resume in spring semester, 2021.

“San Jose State is impacted greatly by the pandemic and its impact on the state budget,” Papazian said during a virtual town hall on Oct. 13. “Layoffs are our least preferred option at San Jose State and we continue to look for creative solutions to our financial challenges without resorting to layoffs.”

To ease financial burdens on SJSU, Papazian said the school will release plans for an “early exit program,” similar what to other California State University campuses have.

Papazian did not outline any details of the plan, but Early Exit Programs at other campuses give severance pay to employees voluntarily leaving their positions by the end of fall semester, 2020.

Chancellor Timothy White announced San Jose State will continue with remote classes in Spring 2021.

Despite Santa Clara County moving into the moderate-risk orange reopening tier, Fall 2020 in-person commencement is canceled and it is still unclear if Spring 2020 commencement will be in-person.

Register for the next virtual forum here.

Noon Oct. 14: Eat, pray and social distance indoors under orange tier in Santa Clara County

Restaurants, churches and movie theaters can reopen indoors as Santa Clara County has moved to the moderate-risk orange tier, but businesses still need to submit their social distancing protocols to health officials for approval.

Social distancing and mask requirements will still be in effect, with exceptions for people eating inside.

“For indoor gatherings, an example would be if you’re attending a religious ceremony you cannot take off your face covering if you are indoors,” said Indira Fonseca, the manager of the county’s COVID-19 call center. “If you are outdoors you can remove your face covering.”

Businesses and churches can reopen indoors at 25% capacity or up to 100 people, whichever is fewer.

Church leaders would be required to record who attends their events to make contact tracing easier if someone at the gathering tests positive for COVID-19.

11 a.m. Oct 12: Gardner Health Center and county increase testing at Mexican Heritage Plaza

COVID-19 Testing Coordinators at the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose say they aim to increase testing as they have exceeded their initial capacity.

Although a Santa Clara County health briefing on Oct. 12 had information that the site was not meeting its testing capacity of 300 people and could close, site coordinators said the information was outdated from a pre-recorded interview.

“We’re exceeding capacity and we want to push for more,” said Jessica Paz-Cedillos, the executive director for the school of arts and culture.

Paz-Cedillos said the county cleared the site to conduct 400 tests each week.

Maribel Montanez, the director of development at Gardner Health Services, said the organization plans to keep the site open until at least February 2021.

Gardner Health Services is currently footing the bill to provide staff to conduct testing and to rent the space at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. Meanwhile the county provides testing kits and laboratory work for the site.

A county spokesperson confirmed there was a mistake in the briefing.

“The county of Santa Clara has no intentions of closing the testing center at Mexican Heritage Plaza,” the spokesperson said. “While we have seen an increase in testing, there’s still room for more.”

The site is open every Wednesday from 1-7 p.m.

Noon Oct. 7: Registrar explains how voting will work during pandemic

Voters have options on how to submit their ballots for the Nov. 3 general election in Santa Clara County, said County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey.

Although Bushey said it’s safest to vote by mail, more than 100 in-person vote centers will open across the county from Oct. 31-Nov. 3. In addition, the registrar’s office in San Jose is already open for in-person voting and other services.

“People need replacement ballots, we provide language assistance at vote centers and I have heard ‘my dog ate my ballot,’ ” Bushey said.

Vote center staff will wear personal protective equipment and sanitize vote machines after each use to prevent COVID-19 transmission, Bushey said. Voters are required to wear masks in the centers, and free masks will be available for use at each location.

The mail-in ballots will also have free postage stamped on the envelope and voters can track their ballots through a state-run website and the county registrar’s website.

Voter registration ends on Oct. 19, but people can still submit their ballots under conditional voter registration, which means they would go to a vote center and mark their ballots and registration forms on the same day.

3 p.m. Oct. 5: County to allow indoor dining if it moves to lower-risk reopening tier

If Santa Clara County enters the lower-risk orange tier for reopening, restaurants can resume indoor dining at 25% capacity, county officials said.

Social distance and mask protocols will still be in effect, said County Counsel James Williams during a news conference on Oct. 5.

Williams said the county could enter the orange tier by Oct. 13, which means the revised order will take effect on Oct. 14.

Businesses will have to submit revised social-distancing protocols that reflect the revised order, Williams said.

1:30 p.m. Oct. 5: Estheticians allowed to open indoors

Santa Clara County is lifting restrictions on licensed estheticians and other skin care professionals who were previously prohibited from operating due to the coronavirus.

County public health officials on Sunday afternoon made the change that will now allow facial services to resume.

Previously, the county allowed hair and nails salons to reopen for both indoor and outdoor services, but left estheticians off the list. Officials said the close contact between an esthetician and client receiving a facial carried a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.

The businesses still must follow strict safety guidelines, including requiring face coverings for staff and clients, limiting the number of people inside, maintaining a distance of six feet or more and stringent cleaning and sanitation requirements.

Read the full story here.

1 p.m. Oct. 2: Binational Health Week goes online

Binational Health Week is an international movement to improve the health and wellbeing of underserved Latinx communities in America, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it must go virtual.

“We’re planning health fairs that are virtual. We’re planning workshops that are also virtual and we’re also going to be focusing on COVID-19 services,” said Ricardo Romero-Morales, Santa Clara County’s Binational Health Week Coordinator.

Romero-Morales said the virtual series of events would happen throughout October and educate Latinx communities in Santa Clara County on how to access health care for COVID-19 and other illnesses.

“There’s a lot of fear in our community regarding how to access services,” Romero-Morales said. “Their immigration status might be one of those fears. We also have the language barriers that could be also another fear or even how to pay for medical services.”

Romero-Morales said the virtual fairs would walk people through medical processes.

“Especially now during COVID-19, if we get sick, how do we seek those services, how do we go to the (emergency room), what should I expect to see,” he said.

The county will work with the nonprofit Sourcewise to educate the medicare beneficiaries on accessing their benefits.

“The main goal is to help them understand their medicare benefits,” said Steven Rubalcaba, who works in Sourcewise’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program. “Medicare beneficiaries are typically 65 years or older.”

Rubalcaba said people can enroll for Medicare from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 and Sourcewise will be hosting virtual training shops to people about enrolling for Medicare.

Below is a list of events happening during the next few days of Binational Health Week.

10/3/2020
09:00 AM – 01:00 PM
10/3/2020
09:30 AM – 12:00 PM
10/3/2020
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
10/6/2020
09:30 AM – 10:00 AM

Santa ​Clara ​County ​Board ​of ​Supervisors ​Chambers

2 p.m Sept. 30: Santa Clara County says private hospitals have to do more testing for move to a lower-risk tier

Santa Clara County remains in the substantial-risk red tier two weeks after moving from the highest risk purple tier.

This means the county has not lowered its COVID-19 case rates enough to open more business that would be permitted to operate in the orange tier, despite having a testing positivity rate that would qualify for the orange tier.

“When two metrics fall into two different tiers, it’s going to be the more stricter tier,” said county spokesperson Betty Duong during an online livestream.

The county must lower its case rate to 1-3.9 positive cases per 100,000 people and its testing positivity rate to 2-4.9% to be in the orange tier.

But the county’s case rate is still at 5.9 per 100,000 people, despite its testing rate being at 2.2%.

County officials said hospitals need to increase testing in order to calculate a more accurate case rate.

“The county is doing its part, we are testing more than our fair share,” Deputy County Executive David Campos said during the livestream. “If these private health hospitals actually tested at the level we wanted them to test, we probably would be in the orange today.”

11 p.m. Sept. 28: Education officials advise students and staff to do personal screenings for fever

K-12 schools reopening for in-person classes are not required to do temperature checks on students and staff returning to campus, according to the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

“We originally started with temperature checks early on when we were learning about COVID,” said David Putney, the alternative education director with the county education office. “The Public Health Department has clarified that the use of temperature checks in not as effective at the school setting.”

Putney said faculty members and families of students should conduct personal screenings for fever before going to school and remain home if they have a fever over 100 degrees.

Each school will hand out a “screening sheet” to students and staff before they go to campus, he said.

“It’s more effective and it also helps empower everyone to be part of the solution with COVID-19,” Putney said.

He added the schools will have guidelines in place for people to wear masks and wash their hands on campus.

7 p.m. Sept. 27: COVID-19 case rates drop in Santa Clara County Latinx community

Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said that case rates have started to drop in Santa Clara County’s Latinx community after being disproportionately high for months. The announcement came during a virtual meeting with La Raza Roundtable de California on Sept. 25.

“The rates among the Latinx community were really soaring in July. They were across the county, but particularly steep in the Latinx community, and to some extent in the African-American community,” Cody said. “We are now seeing the rates decline, not just across the county, but most steeply among the Latinx community.”

State data showed the case rates for the county’s Latinx community reached about 30 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents daily in July. In early September, case rates dropped to 10 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

Throughout the pandemic, Latinx people have accounted for about 57% of cases and 34 percent of the deaths in Santa Clara County, according to county data, while only making up about 26% of its population.

Cody said crowded and multi-generation housing contributed to the high rates of COVID-19 transmission among Latinx people during the summer.

In addition, many essential workers faced difficulties obtaining adequate COVID-19 protection because of “structural reasons,” Cody said.

Although case rates were disproportionately high in East San Jose and parts of Gilroy, Cody said that case rates for Latinx people were higher than others no matter where they lived.

1 p.m. Sept. 23: New partnerships to help communities hardest hit by COVID-19

Santa Clara County has partnered with numerous community organizations to educate small businesses on how to follow health protocols and prevent COVID-19 transmission.

The community organizations include Working Partnerships USA, the Sí Se Puede Collective, the Community Health Partnership and African American Community Service Agency.

Community organizers say the partnerships will ensure multi-lingual outreach to the people hit hardest by the pandemic – a majority of whom are Black or Latinx.

“During our promotora training, one of the community leaders shared a story of how a friend of hers tested positive for COVID, but without symptoms,” said Cynthia Colmenares, a community health warrior with the Si Se Puede Collective. “She thought that she could go back to work, she was given information, but she wasn’t sure until she heard from this community leader, that she knew and trusted, that she needed to stay at home.”

People learning about public health guidelines must have confidence and trust in the organizers educating them, Colmenares said.

County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said case and testing positivity rates have gone down in the hardest hit areas of East San Jose and Gilroy, and the county’s partnership would help local leaders understand how they needed to improve testing and outreach.

1 p.m. Sept. 22: Testing sites expand outside of San Jose

Santa Clara County and local hospitals have expanded testing outside of San Jose.

El Camino Health will be offering free testing to people who live, work or go to school in the healthcare providers’ district, which includes most of Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Sunnyvale and small sections of Cupertino, Santa Clara and Palo Alto.

Testing is appointment only.

  • El Camino Health’s Mountain View Hospital, 2500 Grant Road, Mountain View (Sept. 22 – Sept. 25  from 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.)
  • Murphy Park, 260 N. Sunnyvale Avenue, Sunnyvale (Sept. 22 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:20 p.m.)
  • Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts’ Rehearsal Studio, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View (Sept. 23 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:20 p.m.)
  • The Assistance League of Los Altos, 169 State Street, Los Altos(Sept. 24 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:20 p.m)

In addition, the city of Santa Clara will offer free testing at Central Park Library. Testing is appointment only, but no insurance is required. People can schedule appointments using this website.

  • Central Park Library, 2635 Homestead Road, Santa Clara. (Sept. 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

County Supervisor Joe Simitian said the county would offer free testing at seven cities in his district, including Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Saratoga and Sunnyvale on specific days in October.

No health insurance or doctor’s note are required, but people must schedule appointments using the county’s website.

  • Cupertino Senior Center – 21251 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino (Oct. 7 and Oct. 21)
  • Los Altos Youth Center – 1 N. San Antonio Rd, Los Altos (Oct. 15)
  • Los Altos Hills Town Hall – 26379 W. Fremont Blvd., Los Altos Hills (Oct. 2)
  • Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts – 500 Castro Street, Mountain View (Oct. 6 and Oct. 20)
  • Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium – 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto (Sept. 25, Oct. 9, and Oct. 23)
  • Saratoga Friendship Hall – 19841 Prospect Road, Saratoga (Sept. 29 and Oct. 29)
  • Murphy Park – 260 N. Sunnyvale Avenue, Sunnyvale (Sept. 28, Oct. 16, and Oct. 26)

1:30 p.m. Sept. 21: County plans to expand quarantine shelter program

For people who are unsheltered or can not isolate at home, Santa Clara County leaders plan to expand their quarantine shelter program to more cities in the South Bay said County Supervisor Cindy Chavez at a news conference, Sept. 21.

The program opens up motel rooms to quarantine infected people who can not isolate, up to $5,000 of rental and financial support and at-home support for people who can isolate, but need assistance such as grocery delivery, according to county documents.

The program has allotted $13,249,877 to pay for the motels, at-home support and rental assistance, the documents say.

“Every city, no matter how wealthy, does have a population that is in the margins, or even unhoused completely,” said Saratoga Mayor Howard Miller at the news conference. “And it’s important even in a city like Saratoga to make sure that those people do the right thing.”

Saratoga, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Milpitas, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Gilroy are all participating in the program already, Chavez said.

So far, the county has placed 384 people exposed or infected with COVID-19 in the motels and has referred 552 families to receive rental assistance.

The services will be available until Dec. 31 if approved by the county board of supervisors on Sept. 22.

Chavez said contact tracers have identified many of the people who need the county’s support, but added that those who haven’t been reached out to can call the county at 408-808-7770 to access quarantine services.

2 p.m. Sept. 18: Here’s how Santa Clara County schools can reopen

If Santa Clara County remains in the red tier for the rest of this week, schools can hold in-person classes on Sept. 23.

But the final decision to reopen campuses is up to each district, according to the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

“That’s a vital nuance,” said David Putney, the office’s Alternative Education Director. “It’s all local control, local education agencies here in the county will be making their decisions based on their own school community, in the public school environment, in the private and also in the charter school environment.”

San Jose Unified School District has already announced classes will be online through Dec. 31.

For the districts that reopen, each school would have to form a reopening plan that would be reviewed by the county and state, according to Putney.

If districts decide to bring students back together, Putney said schools should break up classes into socially-distanced cohorts, in which the same group of students stay together throughout the school day.

The cohorts are like a social bubble, Putney said, and added that it would be an important tool in contact tracing if a student within one is infected.

“If a student does test positive then the school would be informed immediately, hopefully by the parent and the public health department,” he said. “The student or staff member would be informed to quarantine and follow the directive of isolation. Students that would be identified in close contact within that environment would be informed and expected to quarantine.”

Noon Sept. 17: Santa Clara County launches free flu shot program at fairgrounds

People can get free flu shots along with COVID-19 test at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m with no appointment needed.

The county launched the free program in order to reduce hospitalizations for people with the flu.

“We’re going to be in flu season while we’re still fighting COVID-19, and we want to work together to make sure people stay healthy and out of the hospital,” said County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

County CEO Jeff Smith said people are still vulnerable to the flu, and people should still seek immunity against it.

“Everybody who’s six months or older should get a flu vaccine, particularly people who are over 65 or have other illnesses or co-morbidities,” Smith said. “Particularly kids who are under five, and women who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant over the time of the flu season.”

Flu shots are free to the public regardless of immigration status and people can walk up or even ride in on their bicycles to get the vaccine, Chavez said.

The flu shot will not act as a vaccine against COVID-19, Smith said, and will not infect people with the disease either.

8:30 p.m. Sept. 16: San Jose Unified School District schools will remain closed, despite state permission to reopen

San Jose Unified School District officials said Wednesday night schools will remain closed through Dec. 31, even if the county qualifies to reopen schools under state guidelines.

If Santa Clara County remains in the state’s red tier reopening phase for another week, it would be able to reopen K-12 schools.

However, education officials seem to be taking heed of county health officials’ warnings that risk is still substantial.

“We believe our schools should be a reflection of our community,” said San Jose Unified Superintendent Nancy Albarrán. “While we believe in-person instruction is the best option for our students, we cannot ignore the data on viral transmission in Santa Clara County and potentially compromise the health and safety of our students, families and staff by bringing students back at this time.”

Officials said classes would be risky indoor gatherings because the coronavirus spread and COVID-19 case counts are still too high in San Jose.

Students and parents will not hear any official announcements for the 2021 school year until December, but district medical staff said the county has stepped in the right direction by requiring private hospitals to increase testing.

“Schools must be able to rely on adequate and rapid testing in order to safely reopen,” said Katie Rodriguez, the district’s manager of health and family support programs in a news release Wednesday. “Today’s enhanced testing order is a positive step towards being ready to safely reopen our schools.”

1:30 p.m. Sept. 16: New order requires private hospitals in Santa Clara County to increase testing

Santa Clara County health officials can fine private hospitals up to $5,000 for not complying with a new order to increase COVID-19 testing access for their patients.

Under the new order issued Wednesday, private health care providers must provide testing for all patients who report COVID-19 symptoms, asymptomatic patients who have been exposed to coronavirus, patients referred to their provider by the county and essential workers.

Many residents have said they face barriers to scheduling COVID-19 tests with their private health care providers, according to county officials.

“We have seen and heard about concerning practices by health care providers that discourage COVID-19 testing or make it hard to access,” County Counsel James Williams said. “That must end. The testing order is mandatory.”

The county will enforce the order by receiving individual complaints on its website from people who say they have been denied testing, Williams said, and compliance officers will conduct an investigation before ordering the health care provider to take corrective action or be fined.

County officials said the public health department has been forced to bear the brunt of testing in the South Bay.

From the week of Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, Santa Clara County testing officers conducted 13,072 tests, while private health care provider Kaiser Permanente conducted 4,261 tests, according to Deputy County Executive David Campos.

County officials said the order will go in effect on Sept. 25 and will last indefinitely.

3 p.m. Sept. 15: State health officials urge people to avoid partying, handing out candy on Halloween

Hordes of kids gathering together, touching doorbells and taking other people’s candy could be a public health nightmare for state and local leaders this Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said families should be ready for an irregular spooky season.

“We’re really urging people to be prepared for a different type of Halloween,” Ghaly said. “The type of mixing that comes in our traditional trick-or-treating festivities is really not advised under COVID.”

But he suggested that parents should keep the Halloween spirit alive by allowing their kids to plan costumes and looking for alternatives to trick-or-treating.

State health officials are working on guidelines for people to celebrate Halloween, Ghaly said, and said some counties have already put out their own set of rules.

Santa Clara County has not announced any plans or guidelines for preventing COVID-19 spread on Halloween.

3:30 p.m. Sept. 11: Santa Clara mayor recaps COVID-19 relief measures

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor on Friday recapped how the Mission City is helping residents survive COVID-19, from small business grants to food distribution programs and rental assistance.

The city has also implemented a 6-month relief on garbage rate increases and reduced power bills for residents and businesses, the mayor said. Santa Clara secured $1.59 million from the CARES Act and allocated an additional $1.5 million to various relief efforts.

According to city officials, the Small Business Assistance Grant Program received $590,000 in additional funds to support businesses and nonprofits, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program received $1.5 million to help pay rent for up to three months for low-income residents and various food distribution programs through the Santa Clara Unified School District and other partners continue for students and seniors.

To help protect restaurants from excessive fees charged by third-party food delivery apps, the City Council last week approved limiting delivery fees.

For a complete list of Santa Clara’s COVID-19 relief programs and community resources, click here.

2 p.m. Sept. 8: Despite new reopening tier, Santa Clara County still enforcing restrictions on indoor operations

Santa Clara County exited the most high risk tier for COVID-19 spread, which allows more businesses to reopen with modifications.

With the county now in the red zone – still labeled as substantial by California – businesses must submit their social distancing protocols to the county’s new business compliance website. The county was previously in the purple zone, which is the highest risk.

“Before anybody just runs out there and opens up, you’ve got to have all your practices in place, your I’s dotted, your T’s crossed to keep your workers and your customers safe,” said County Counsel James Williams.

Under the new tier, nail salons can now bring a limited amount of people inside while following stringent sanitary procedures, according to state health guidelines. Gyms and shopping malls are also allowed to welcome small groups of people for workouts, the guidelines say, and can only have their indoor spaces filled to 10% and 50% capacity, respectively.

Although state guidelines allow restaurants to reopen indoors at limited capacity, Santa Clara County has not given the green light for indoor dining, Williams said.

Another exception to state guidelines is in-person worship, which is still forbidden indoors within Santa Clara County, Williams said.

He added that counties can impose stricter guidelines than the state.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said people still need to take the same level of health precautions, such as wearing masks and washing hands, despite moving to a lower-risk tier.

“COVID-19 is still here. It hasn’t gone away, and the fact that we’ve moved into the red tier at this point doesn’t change that,” Fenstersheib said. “We still have to remain vigilant. We still have to wear our masks. We still have to socially distance ourselves.”

Counties will remain in each tier for at least three weeks, said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly during an online livestream and can only move tiers if they maintain a designated case rate and testing positivity rate for two straight weeks.

Santa Clara County must reduce its case rate to one to 3.9 new infections per day and its testing positivity rate to 2 to 4.9% within the state’s timeline to move to the orange tier, the next lower-risk level.

11:30 p.m. Sept. 7: Santa Clara County creates website for businesses disobeying health order

Santa Clara County has developed a website for people to report businesses violating COVID-19 health orders.

Business compliance officials said Monday they rely on tips from customers and employees to catch businesses creating risks by not social distancing or wearing masks.

“We want to know specifically what actions these businesses are taking that are putting the community at risk,” said Beatrice Santiago from the county’s business compliance team during an online livestream. “You’ll go through and answer a few questions. You provide the business name. You can remain anonymous.”

People can also report schools and health care providers not complying with county’s health order.

County health officials say they aim to educate before penalizing businesses for violating COVID-19 guidelines, and allow businesses time to fix whatever protocols are creating risks.

If businesses do not fix their COVID-19 hazard within the grace period, they can be subject to fines up to $5,000.

The website also has portals for businesses to learn about county guidelines and submit their social distancing protocols – which is a county requirement to reopen.

However, the website is only in English and users speaking another language must call a county advice line for assistance.

1:30 p.m. Sept. 4: County says to avoid crowds, large gatherings during Labor Day

Santa Clara County health officials say to stay home and avoid crowds this Labor Day weekend.

“Hang out with only the people that live in your household,” said County Health Spokesperson Larry Little during a news conference.

County health officials said gatherings on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July spread COVID-19, and said to stay at home and continue following county health guidelines.

“We must all do our part to avoid getting sick or infecting others,” said Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “This Labor Day weekend, change things up a bit to protect yourself and your family. For example, stay outside if you are gathering with people you don’t live with: indoors is riskier. We’re in an unprecedented situation now and can’t behave like it’s business as usual.”

If people want to go outdoors and see others, they should do so with few people, wearing a mask and social distancing, said county health officials.

However, Little said people should avoid contact with others if they feel sick.

“If you feel sick, please do not leave your home because there is a chance that you will transmit the virus to someone else, even if you don’t know you have it,” he said.

2 p.m. Sept. 2: State unveils new website for state eviction protections and homeowner relief

Under a new website, California tenants, landlords and homeowners can access information and resources to protect them from evictions or property loss.

The state has extended its eviction moratorium to January 31, 2021 under Tenant, Homeowner and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 passed by state lawmakers on Aug. 31.

“As we all know during this pandemic many tenants have struggled to pay the rent and may be just one paycheck away from losing their apartment or the place that they call home,” said Lourdes Castro Ramírez, the secretary of California’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.

However, tenants still have to pay all their past months’ rent since the start of the moratorium.

Under the new law, they have until Feb. 1, 2021 to foot the bill.

The website has a portal for both tenants, landlords and homeowners to understand how the law protects them.

Ramírez and Gov. Gavin Newsom said the website will help break down the complex protections for tenants and homeowners.

Noon Sept. 2: Businesses still under strict reopening guidelines in Santa Clara County

Although some businesses can reopen under state guidelines, most face restrictions as Santa Clara County is still in the purple zone.

Hair salons and barber shops can operate indoors with limited amounts of people inside, said County Health Spokesperson Todd Naffziger during an online livestream, and indoor malls can open to 25% of their maximum capacity for shoppers and staff.

Nail salons and fitness centers can only operate outdoors under state guidelines.

Naffziger added that hair salons and barber shops should contact their city government officials and check if they can operate indoors and outdoors simultaneously.

“What this will do, if they’re allowed to do so, is maximize the services that they need to do inside the facility and still provide those services that they can provide outdoors,” he said. “But they should check with their city if those operations are still in effect.”

Naffziger said customers are required to wear masks and abide by social distancing rules, but was unclear on whether business owners can legally refuse service to them.

“For legal advice, we are pointing people in the direction of actual legal counsel as they’re more fit to determine what course of action, legally, a business would be allowed to take at this time,” he said.

If businesses have an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, Naffziger said the owner must contact the county within four hours of being notified about the infection and close until they have properly sanitized the building.

He added that the business owners or managers should identify all other close contacts of the infected person, but did not specify if all employees in contact with the infected person are required to be tested for COVID-19 to return to work.

7:30 p.m. Sept. 1: County health officials show COVID-19 cases still high in East Side, South San Jose

Santa Clara County health officials showed data from their new testing site at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds revealing most people who tested positive for COVID-19 at the site resided in South San Jose and the East Side.

People from the East Side and South San Jose received tests at nearly the same rates as people from the west of San Jose, but had tested positive at a much higher rate, according to county data.

“East San Jose and portions of South San Jose had the highest positivity,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s testing guru.

Fenstersheib said testing positivity rates have been dropping slowly, but said East Side residents remain disproportionately infected with coronavirus.

Overall, tested residents from East San Jose had a 7.6% positivity rate, while residents of Gilroy and surrounding areas had a 7.1% positivity rate. These rates are about 4% higher than residents of other areas in Santa Clara County.

The county tested more than 43,000 people from Aug. 1-Aug. 21.

Dr. Sara Cody also detailed which worksites in Santa Clara County have had the highest amount of COVID-19 cases.

Construction sites were the workplaces with highest number infected workers, with 35% of worksites having 3 or more positive COVID-19 cases, according to county data.

Thirteen percent of Manufacturing plants had 3 or more positive cases, while around 10% of food-processing plants, restaurants and retail stores had 3 or more positive cases.

“These are just the overall number of worksites where we’ve documented the number of cases through late May through most of  August, but we don’t really have a comparative,” Cody said. “I can’t tell you how many construction worksites that were in operation had a cluster of cases and I think that’s really important.”

She said infections can happen if workers can not maintain physical distance from customers or if they interact closely with co-workers. She said this often happens during lunch breaks when people are close together and not wearing masks.

At construction sites in particular, Cody said that the volume of people required to be at projects in-person has also contributed to a rise in cases.

1 p.m. Sept. 1: California health officials announce contract to develop stand-alone COVID-19 database, caution people from Labor Day gatherings

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said OptumInsight, a health industries company that develops data software, has signed a contract with the state to build a stand-alone COVID-19 database.

Ghaly said the partnership will ensure the accuracy of California’s COVID-19 data, after the state found numerous glitches in their data-sets during August.

“A few weeks back as we worked through some of the state data system challenges and getting our data backlogs right, we said that we would be creating a new standalone COVID data reporting system,” he said. “And especially as we think about this increased number of tests that the state will see in the months to come. Having a robust system is key.”

Meanwhile, because Labor Day is next monday, state health officials asked the public to avoid mass gatherings and going out for the three-day weekend.

“We’ve made some incredible progress together as a state in the last several weeks and months and we do not want to lose in that progress so we do not want to let up our guard,” said Dr. Erica Pan, California’s acting state public health officer. “It’s time to stay vigilant.”

Pan said that if people choose to see others, gatherings should be small, brief and outdoors – all socially distanced.

“The safest thing for you to do is still to stay at home and stay with people you live with,” Pan said. “but if you do choose to be with others, please keep it outside, maintain your physical distance, keep it small, make sure it’s brief. The longer you’re with others, the more risk there is you’re exposed to COVID-19. And make sure you wear your mask.”

Noon Aug. 31: Santa Clara County hospitality industries work on adapting to remote business

As South Bay hair salons and barber shops are allowed to resume business indoors today under stringent state guidelines to prevent coronavirus infections, other businesses are still struggling to stay afloat, according to a local sales executive.

In particular, Santa Clara County event and hospitality industries are trying to adapt to the continued cancelation of in-person events, said Yuliya Vasudev, a sales executive at South Bay catering service Tony Caters.

Vasudev said the company has started to adapt to remote business.

“We are trying to pivot. We are trying to find creative ways to provide our services,” she said. “We’re providing virtual cooking kits where we can mail the box of ingredients to our attendees. That way we can kind of continue doing what we’re doing, but in a safe way.”
The sales executive said Tony Caters furloughed most of its employees, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and limited its service as Santa Clara County ordered the mass cancelation of in-person events.
Although Vasudev said a complete return to business won’t be possible until a COVID-19 vaccine is available, she’s collaborating with other event coordinators to provide web seminars on adapting to pandemic limitations.
Vasudev said she’s planning a webinar on Sept. 3 at 2 p.m to discuss how event service providers can stay in business and reopen safely.

1 p.m. Aug. 29: California releases revised reopening guidelines and upgraded COVID-19 website

Yellow, orange, red and purple now form the color palette for reopening California’s counties.

In a color-coded graph, the colors indicate the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in each county based on each county’s case rate and test positivity rate.

The color-coded tiers are part of new reopening guidelines Gov. Gavin Newsom released this week after facing weeks of pressure to make revisions after an abrupt halt to restarting the economy in June.

Purple shows a “widespread” risk and means most non-essential indoor businesses are closed. Red shows a “substantial” risk and orange and yellow indicate a “moderate” and “minimal” risk for reopening, respectively.

“We don’t put up green because we don’t believe there is a green light that says go back to the way things were or back to the pre-pandemic mindset – quite the contrary,” Newsom said during his daily briefing.

The state also started an upgraded website to track each county’s case numbers and progress in reopening.

The color-coded tier system, interactive maps and website form the blueprint for guiding counties on when to reopen, Newsom said.

To be in the yellow zone, for example, counties must have zero COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and have less than a 2% test positivity rate, according to the state’s guidelines, To be in the purple zone, counties must have more than seven COVID-19 cases per 100,000 or have a test positivity rate of more than 8%.

The case rate is the amount of new cases per 100,000 people each day calculated into a weekly average and the test positivity rate is the percentage of tests that come back positive.

Santa Clara County is currently purple with eight COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a 3.4% test positivity rate.

It takes two weeks of maintaining metrics to advance and move back from each tier.

11:30 a.m. Aug. 29: Santa Clara County Completes more than 26,000 tests in August

Santa Clara County health officials have completed more than 26,000 tests in August, despite recent fires and poor air quality throughout the area.

“Testing is one of the most important tools in combatting the pandemic,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 testing officer, in a news release. “We encourage people to contact their healthcare provider when possible, but to know the county is there to close the testing gap.”

The county continues to offer pop-up testing in San Jose and Gilroy, with no appointment required.

This week health officials plan to offer appointment-only testing in San Jose, Milpitas, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell and Los Altos Hills.

The list below shows the location and hours of each site.

APPOINTMENT-ONLY SITES

San Jose
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Parking Lot A (across from the blue arch): 344 Tully Road in San Jose
Appointments: September 1-4, (12 – 6:30 p.m.); September 5 (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.)

Milpitas
Milpitas Sports Center, 1325 E Calaveras Blvd in Milpitas
By appointment only for August 31 (9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Mountain View
Center for Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street in Mountain View
By appointment only for September 1 (9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Cupertino
Cupertino Senior Center, 21251 Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino
By appointment only for September 2 (9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Campbell
Orchard City Banquet Hall, 1 W. Campbell Ave. in Campbell
By appointment only for September 3 (9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Los Altos Hills
Council Chambers, 26379 W. Fremont Road in Los Altos Hills
By appointment only for September 4 (9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

POP-UP TESTING SITES
No appointments are needed for a free and easy nasal swab test at either of these pop-up locations.

San Jose
William C. Overfelt High School gymnasium – 1835 Cunningham Ave. in San Jose
Tuesday thru Friday, September 1-4 (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Gilroy
South County Annex (formerly Del Buono Elementary) – 9300 Wren Ave. in Gilroy
Tuesday thru Friday, September 1-4 (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

12:15 p.m. Aug. 27: Santa Clara County health officer slams news CDC testing guidelines

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody slammed newly-released guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising asymptomatic people not to get tested for COVID-19.

“When I first heard about this change in guidelines, I actually didn’t believe it, for it seemed entirely bizarre,” Cody said.

Cody said testing has been an “achilles heal” for the county’s health response, and increased testing is a necessity for people to start returning to work and school.

“It undercuts our very basic tenets of how we control an infectious disease — that testing is our way out of this epidemic,” Cody said.

Cody advised anyone who can get tested to do so.

“When you get a test, you know your status, you know whether you’re infectious and you need that information for two reasons,” Cody said. “One, for yourself to know whether you’re going to get more ill and to be able to watch your symptoms. Number two, you need to know whether you pose a risk to your family and your friends and your coworkers.”

Under a new plan, the state is aiming to increase its COVID-19 testing supply.

On Aug. 26, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state is partnering with genetic testing company PerkinElmer to build a lab in California to supply the state with an additional 150,000 tests per day.

5:30 p.m. Aug. 26:  State legislator calls for revised reopening guidelines as salons struggle to remain open

Orchid Nail Lounge is one among few shops reopened outdoors after Gov. Newsom released new guidelines for salons. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

Despite the push for businesses to operate outdoors to prevent COVID-19 spread, a state lawmaker representing San Jose says it creates additional risks for nail and hair salon owners.

Assemblymember Ash Kalra sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom this week demanding the release of new guidelines to allow salons to operate indoors.

“As historic wildfires continue to ravage California affecting our air quality and making it increasingly dangerous for residents to be outdoors in general, it is impossible to expect salons to provide services outdoors,” Kalra said in the letter.

He said forms to access small-business loans are complicated to fill out and the majority of salon owners in his San Jose district are Vietnamese and Latina women and may also face language barriers filling out forms.

When COVID-19 cases surged in California after reopenings in June, state officials scrambled to revise reopening guidelines and to order abrupt closures of different counties.

The result was  confusion and frustration among business owners.

Many San Jose nail salon owners say doing business outdoors actually creates more risk than operating indoors, according to Kalra. Salon owners in other South Bay cities echoed the same sentiment.

He said outdoor operations could jeopardize equipment cleaning and expose clients to unbearable heat and passersby not wearing masks.

During an news conference, Newsom said the state would release reopening guidelines for counties with more detailed timelines and expectations, but made no mention of revised requirements for personal care businesses.

2 p.m. Aug. 26: Governor lays out plan to reduce COVID-19 testing costs

Awaiting COVID-19 test results can take nearly two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference. The wait is quite long and the tests are costly for the state.

“In essence when you’re north of 10, 11, 12 days the tests, dare I say, are quite useless,” Newsom said. “But they’re also quite expensive.”

The cost of COVID-19 testing for the state is on average $150 to $200 per test, Newsom said.

In order to curb costs, the governor announced the state is partnering with genetic testing company PerkinElmer to build a lab in California to supply the state with an additional 150,000 tests per day.

Under this partnership, Newsom said that if the lab boosts supply to 40,000 tests, the cost per test will be $47.99. If supply rises to 100,000 tests, the cost per test will be $37.78 and if it rises 150,000 tests the cost will be $30.78.

Currently, medical professionals conduct about 100,000 tests per day in California, according to Newsom. He noted that the number dropped from 132,000 tests per day because of wildfires burning across the state.

Newsom said this will open the door for a safer reopening of the state and for more effective contact tracing.

Noon Aug. 26: Hospital leader says county-owned hospitals have adapted to COVID-19

Jill Sproul, chief nursing officer for the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said hospitals are getting a handle on treating people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said county-owned hospitals have enough capacity to take in patients from other counties. There are far fewer people using the hospital’s critical-care units compared to six months ago, she added.

“I know this has been very hard on families, but we are decreasing families,” Sproul said. “Under special circumstances — end of life, pediatric patients, labor and delivery — there are special circumstances we are allowing visitors.”

The chief nursing officer acknowledged that solitude can be a burden, and encouraged people to use tablets and smart phones to stay in contact. She said county-owned hospitals would provide an iPad if patients did not have one.

She said medical staff are taking additional precautions to prevent COVID-19 transmission at county hospitals.

Triage tents at the hospitals separate patients experiencing flu-like symptoms and staff provides masks to people who don’t have one.

“I see the staff’s confidence and level of really knowing how to take care of these patients,” Sproul said. “It’s very inspiring to see how we’ve come together as a county and we’ve come together as three hospitals and how we’ve come together as a community to take care of these patients.”

2 p.m. Aug. 25: California HHS Secretary warns of potential COVID-19 spread during fire evacuations

During an online news conference, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said he foresees potential COVID-19 spread among people sheltering from fires.

“The fires are important and a major challenge, but in the context of COVID, we need to make sure that we do certain things differently, and we believe that those things have largely been in place and followed,” Ghaly said. “But I won’t be the first to be surprised if we have some increased in transmission in those areas because we’re experiencing different conditions.”

Emergency response officials ordered about 136,000 people across California to leave their homes because of the fires, Ghaly said.

Of those people, 3,383 people from evacuated areas are in “congregate shelters,” he said, which group many people in the same space. More than 1,000 people are staying in hotel rooms, which classify as non-congregate shelters, Ghaly said, and the remainder have found shelter with friends and family.

But he warned people that hugs and handshakes among friends and family can still spread the virus.

“They may, because of the stress of COVID-19, the concern around the fires, reach out, give a loved one a handshake or a hug,” Ghaly said. “And I want to remind you at this moment to remember all of the things we’ve been talking about for the last many weeks and months, that this is no time to put down our guard.”

He urged people to continue wearing masks, wash their hands and to find individualized spaces wherever they take shelter.

2:30 p.m. Aug. 24: Newsom confident in COVID-19 protocol during fires, state sends masks to shelters

As fires burn across California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’s confident in the state’s ability to balance fire response with reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Emergency shelter operators now have the additional responsibility of ensuring people social distance and wear masks as neighborhoods are evacuated across the state.

“I’ve visited most of these shelters over the past 14 days,” Newsom said.

Newsom said when he visited a Santa Cruz community college facility that was being managed by the local Red Cross, he was required to wear a mask and to go through a screening at the door.

“I was subject to health screening, I was subject to assessments before I was allowed to enter,” Newsom said. “She didn’t just take my temperature, but she also asked me a series of questions.”

He said social distance protocols were adequately in place and shelters were taking them seriously.

“You saw cots that were well in excess of 10 feet apart,” Newsom said. “You saw tape protocols going to the restroom, they had air purifiers.”

The governor said the only concern he heard was about a shelter housing 200 elderly people that had trouble ensuring social distance between them, despite all of the seniors wearing masks.

Despite the social distancing precautions at shelter, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said health officials faced a dilemma because cloth masks made it more difficult to breath in smoky environments despite reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The best masks to use in a fire are filtered air masks, Ghaly said.

He added that the state has sent surgical masks and N95 masks to shelters to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect people from smoke inhalation.

Noon Aug. 24: Free COVID-19 testing available at Mexican Heritage Plaza

People in East San Jose can now access more free testing.

The School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza has partnered with Gardner Health Services and Santa Clara County to create a pop-up testing site at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

No appointment is needed to walk in and get a test and people do not need health insurance or a doctor’s note. Getting a test will not affect anybody’s immigration status, health officials said in a news release.

However, medical workers test people on a first-come, first-served basis, and can only test 300 people a day.

The site will be open from Wednesday-Friday, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

11 a.m. Aug. 24: Santa Clara County urges immigrants to fill out 2020 census form

As coronavirus has taken a disproportionate toll on the immigrant community, Santa Clara County officials urged families to take the census.

Zelica Rodriguez, the county’s director of immigrant relations, said during an online briefing that COVID-19 has stifled civic engagement within immigrant communities.

“I think that people understand the importance of 2020, the census, being civically involved and engaged, but it really has created more chaos in our community and frankly more of a community that’s isolated,” Rodriguez said.

So far, about 26% of people in Santa Clara County still need to fill out the census. The deadline to fill out the census is Sept. 30.

“With every person who isn’t counted that’s thousands of federal dollars not coming to our individual community, funding important social safety programs as well as our COVID relief,” said Nick Kuwada, the program manager for the county’s 2020 Census.

Rodriguez said many of the people being overlooked are most likely immigrants and said county workers will be knocking on doors encouraging people to fill out the form.

“Immigrant communities are still being undercounted, we’re not filling out our surveys,” Rodriguez said. “As hard as it’s been in the last couple of months with the citizenship question, with just really not a lot of encouragement in the media to fill out the census. Encouraging our community to fill out the census, it matters more than ever.”

The citizenship question is not on the Census, Kuwada said, and personal information won’t  be disclosed to federal and local government agencies.

“You pay your taxes every single year,” Kuwada said. “Only once every ten years you get the opportunity to say ‘what’s my piece, what do I get back for my family, my generation of kids that live in this community?’ ”

2 p.m. Aug. 23: Medical expert says vaccine creation won’t be instant fix for COVID-19

Gaining herd immunity from COVID-19 requires much more than finding a vaccine.

Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiology professor at UC San Francisco, discussed the barriers to reopening during an online town hall with Santa Clara County Supervisor George Simitian on Aug. 23.

Rutherford said once a vaccine is developed, ensuring everyone is vaccinated will be a daunting task.

“It will take a long time to get 40,000 people vaccinated in the state,” he said. “That’s assuming we even have the supplies to do it.”

The epidemiologist added that another challenge for health officials will be to ensure people get a double dose 28 days apart.

“Even if everybody got vaccinated on Jan. 1, you’d all have to be revaccinated on Feb. 1, in order to be protected,” Rutherford said.

In order to acquire herd immunity, at least 70% of people must be immune to the virus, Rutherford said. He added that restrictions on public gatherings must remain in place because rushed reopenings of businesses have led to resurgences in case numbers in California.

“These kinds of draconian shutdowns can work in terms of decreasing transmission,” Rutherford said. “But if you let them up too quickly and people aren’t paying attention to masking, social distancing, all those kinds of things, then you can get it back as bad as it was, if not worse.”

5 p.m. Aug. 22: COVID-19 testing continues in Santa Clara County as fires worsen air quality

Santa Clara County will continue COVID-19 testing from Aug. 23 to Aug. 29 as smoke from fires around the South Bay pollute the air.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 does not take a break during fire emergencies. The county continues to provide free, easy and quick turnaround testing for the public,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s COVID-19 testing officer. “Testing is one of our best tools for slowing the spread of COVID-19, and the county will continue testing even under these difficult circumstances.”

Health officials reported 196 new COVID-19 cases on Aug. 22 and numbers reported throughout the week show 11 people have died from the disease since Aug. 18.

Testing sites remaining open during the fires will either be drive-thru or indoors and a list of the locations and hours of sites is below.

Read the full San José Spotlight story here.

Appointment-based testing sites

San Jose
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Parking Lot A (across from Gate B) — Tully Road in San Jose
Appointments Tuesday-Friday, August 25-28, 12 – 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, August 29, 9 – 3 p.m.

Sunnyvale
Murphy Park, 260 N. Sunnyvale Ave. in Sunnyvale
By appointment only for Monday, August 24, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Morgan Hill
Council Chamber Building, 17555 Peak Ave. in Morgan Hill
By appointment only for Tuesday, August 25, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Santa Clara
Central Park Library, 2635 Homestead Road in Santa Clara
By appointment only for Wednesday, August 26, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Saratoga
Friendship Hall, 19841 Prospect Road in Saratoga
By appointment only for Thursday, August 27, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Palo Alto
Art Center Auditorium, 1313 Newell Road in Palo Alto
By appointment only for Friday, August 28, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, visit https://direc.to/eyD1 or www.sccfreetest.org.

Pop-up testing sites
No appointments are needed for a free and easy nasal swab test at either of these pop-up locations.

San Jose
William C. Overfelt High School gymnasium – 1835 Cunningham Ave. in San Jose
Tuesday to Friday, Aug. 25-28, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 29, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Gilroy
South County Annex (formerly Del Buono Elementary) – 9300 Wren Ave. in Gilroy
Tuesday to Friday, Aug. 25-28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

4 p.m. Aug. 22: Silicon Valley unemployment sees slight decline, still alarmingly high

People are starting to go back to work in Santa Clara County but unemployment is still alarmingly high.

After unemployment reached a historic peak of 11.6% in April, it declined to 9.3% in July, according to a study released Aug. 21 by Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a group that provides analysis on the Silicon Valley economy and quality of life.

“We by no means want to diminish that nearly 21,000 jobs were added to our regional economy,” said Rachel Massaro, the research director for the group’s institute for regional studies. “Yet, when you look at the rise in unemployment that happened at the beginning of the shelter in place (order), it’s hard to look at this slight decline in the unemployment rate as progress.”

Massaro said the pandemic has muddied up any clear forecast of job growth in the next few months. Usually employment ties directly to the economy but researchers now have to account for public health in predicting when business will boom again.

“Right now is a very unique time in which the unemployment rate is primarily driven by government policies to reduce transmission rates to keep our population healthy,” she said. “So, those industries that are closed or are very hard to reopen, given the social distancing requirements, are the ones that have the greatest unemployment right now.”

Read the full San José Spotlight story.

11 a.m. Aug. 19: COVID-19 testing sites remain open amid poor air quality, fires

Outside is the last place to be in San Jose this week as air quality has reached unhealthy levels because of fires burning around the South Bay.

However, all Santa Clara County COVID-19 testing sites will remain open, according to a news release.

Health officials said the new drive-thru testing site at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds will remain be fully functional despite the smoky air.

People with appointments can still get swabbed, said county spokesperson Betty Duong during an online livestream.

Although businesses can continue operating outside, health officials recommended that business owners scale back their hours and people stay indoors.

“I know it’s a tough time for all of our businesses to be functioning,” Duong said. “But your health does come first and the air is just not healthy today.”

She added that the poor air quality has stalled a COVID-19 outreach program in East San Jose and Gilroy.

Although chilling at the mall or the movies for air conditioning is not an option right now, several cooling centers are open to the public throughout Santa Clara County.

The list below shows the location of each cooling center. Everybody must social distance and wear a mask, and county officials urge people with COVID-19 symptoms not to enter.

Open Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 17-19 from 1:00 – 9:00 p.m.

  • Roosevelt Community Center 901 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose
  • Mayfair Community Center 2039 Kammerer Ave. in San Jose

​Open Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 17-19 from 1:00 – 7:00 p.m.

  • Mountain View Community Center, 201 South Rengstorff Avenue in Mountain View

Open Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 17-19 from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

  • Saratoga Library, 13650 Saratoga Avenue in Saratoga
  • Gilroy Library, 350 W. 6th Street in Gilroy

Open Monday-Tuesday, Aug. 17-18 from 1:00 – 7:00 p.m.

  • Campbell Community Center, Q80 (Roosevelt Redwood Room), 1 W. Campbell Avenue in Campbell

Open Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 17-19 from 1:00 – 8:00 p.m.

  • Cupertino Senior Center, 21251 Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino

Open Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 17-19 from 1:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

  • Santa Clara Senior Center, 1303 Fremont Street in Santa Clara

Open Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 17-19 from 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

  • ​Centennial Recreation Center, 171 W. Edmundson in Morgan Hill

Open Tuesday-Wednesday, August 18-19 from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

  • Milpitas Sports Center, 1325 E. Calaveras Blvd. in Milpitas

Open Tuesday-Wednesday, August 18-19 from 1:00-6:00 p.m.

  • ​Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto

6 p.m. Aug. 18: Santa Clara County steps up penalties for businesses violating health order

Businesses that don’t comply with Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 health order may have to pay $250 to $5,000 in fines per day under an ordinance passed by county supervisors on Aug. 11.

Already, health officials said they’ve issued violation notices to five establishments for not complying with the health order.

Environmental Health Director Michael Balliet, who oversees health inspections, said the county can penalize businesses for a variety of violations to the county’s COVID-19 mandates. “They range from indoor operations to masking to not following separation on tables,” Balliet said.

He said the county usually enforces health violations after receiving reports from the public of poor practices by the business.

However, some establishments may receive a grace period to resolve any violations to the order.

“Once the notice of violation is issued to the business, they can have anywhere from no grace period or up to 72 hours and there is some enforcement officer discretion based on how egregious the violation is,” Balliet said.

Three of the businesses that received notices of violation had already fixed their problems, Balliet said.

Health officials did not disclose which businesses were in violation and would only release the names if they had not resolved the issues by the end of the grace period, according to county spokesperson Roger Ross.

2 p.m. Aug. 18: Testing site at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds to test 5,000 daily

A new drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds opened today and is set to test at least 5,000 people a day, health officials said.

The fairgrounds site will be appointment-only and will test at the highest capacity in the region, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 testing officer.

“At this point the county is doing about 40% of all the testing in the entire county,” Fenstersheib said. “We’re doing more testing at this site, as a mass site, than anywhere in Northern California.”

Health officials said the drive-thru site would make it easier for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to get a swab test.

“It doesn’t hurt, it’s easy and free,” Fenstersheib said. “You don’t need any medical insurance.”

The site will additionally have a pedestrian testing lane for people who don’t have cars, he said, but everybody still needs to make an appointment.

But Fenstersheib said health officials could expand the site to walk-up testing without appointments in the near future.

Read the full San José Spotlight here.

1 p.m. Aug. 17: Santa Clara County remains on state watchlist

Santa Clara County remains on the state’s county monitoring list for COVID-19 cases, which includes 42 counties.

If counties remain on the list for more than three days, gyms, shopping malls, nail salons, churches and barbershops need to remain closed under the state’s requirements.

In order to be removed from the list, each county must show their case number trends are stable for a period of three days. The state just removed Santa Cruz County from the list.

“This is a dynamic list. People come on, people come off,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his briefing Monday. “The numbers shift every single week and I anticipate this week, the numbers to shift again.”

However, being removed from the list does not necessarily mean businesses will reopen immediately. Newsom said the State Health Officer has to concur with any plans to allow nonessential businesses to resume in each county taken off the list.

But it appears some counties have not had a smooth process being removed from the list or received clear guidance on reopening.

Although the governor announced he plans to take San Diego County off the list as soon as tomorrow, a KPBS reporter questioned him about county leaders lacking guidance to reopen businesses and facing a two-day delay to be removed from the watch list.

Newsom did not answer whether or not new reopening guidance would be released for counties and did not touch on why there may have been delays taking San Diego County off the list.

10 a.m. Aug. 17: Long waits continue for COVID-19 test results from Santa Clara County

Don’t expect COVID-19 test results from Santa Clara County too soon.

“If you’re expecting 72 hours for your results. It’s not happening for us right now,” said Todd Naffziger, a Santa Clara County health spokesperson, during a briefing Monday.

Despite increasing available COVID-19 tests to 600 to 750 per day at appointment-only sites and introducing new pop-up sites, the county is unable to provide test results within 72 hours, according to Naffziger.

“That’s a question we’re getting a lot right now because as people are going back to school, people are traveling for business, there’s additional regulations and requirements going into place,” Naffziger said.

If people are in dire need of receiving fast results, he recommended checking with other health care providers for a quicker turnaround. Naffziger still encouraged use of the county’s COVID-19 testing sites and said tests are provided at no cost, regardless of insurance status.

12 p.m. Aug. 15: New testing sites announced

Santa Clara County health leaders on Saturday announced new COVID-19 testing sites opening in San Jose, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell and Milpitas.

The new sites offer drop-in and appointment-based testing with more appointment slots added due to high demand, county officials said.

Appointments can be made starting three days before the testing date until all slots are taken. County leaders said appointments fill up rapidly – most were booked within two days of availability – so the county increased tests available per day from 600 to 750.

“Like the pop-up sites, the appointment-based sites are proving to be very popular,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, COVID-19 testing officer for Santa Clara County. “It’s a good fit for folks who prefer a time slot in advance, especially if they live or work near the site. But we advise those seeking a time slot to act fast when reservations are available to secure an appointment at a time that best suits their schedule.”

Scheduled walk-up appointments are available Monday through Friday in Los Gatos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell and Milpitas at the following locations:

Los Gatos — Los Gatos Adult Recreation Center: 208 E. Main St. in Los Gatos
Monday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mountain View — Center for the Performing Arts: 500 Castro St. in Mountain View
Tuesday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cupertino — Cupertino Senior Center: 21251 Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino
Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Campbell — Orchard City Banquet Hall: 1 W. Campbell Ave. in Campbell
Thursday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Milpitas — Milpitas Sports Center: 1325 E. Calaveras Blvd. in Milpitas
Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

No appointments are needed for a free and easy nasal swab test at either of these pop-up locations.

San Jose — William C. Overfelt High School gymnasium: 1835 Cunningham Ave. in San Jose
Tuesday to Friday: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Gilroy — South County Annex (formerly Del Buono Elementary): 9300 Wren Avenue in Gilroy
Tuesday to Friday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

County health officials advised residents to arrive early at the pop-up test sites, which use a wristband system in which people are assigned a testing time later in the day. The time slots often fill up within hours.

There are more than 50 COVID-19 testing sites in Santa Clara County.

2 p.m. Aug. 14: School’s back in session, governor lays out plan to enhance distance learning

Laptops, WiFi and tablets will do no good if students lack interaction with their teachers, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said during an online news conference Friday.

“We just don’t want people to take their lectures and just video tape them and then provide them online,” Newsom said. “You can just go to YouTube and pretty much get that on every subject that’s been debated since the beginning of mankind.”

The governor announced a set of new state requirements for schools to supply technology to all children enrolled, to ensure teachers meet with their students daily and to create challenging assignments equivalent to work for in-person classes.

In addition, schools must adapt lessons for children learning English as a second language and students in special education.

The state has delivered 73,000 devices and 100,000 hotspots to students and secured $5.3 billion of CARES Act money for schools. Newsom said 81% of the CARES Act funds would go to low-income students, homeless students, foster youth, English language learners and students with disabilities.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said his department is focused on learning what the social and emotional needs of students are.

Although Newsom said schools are a top priority for the state in providing funding and technology, he also announced an Executive Order to improve state broadband and internet access to people lacking internet across California.

The plan aims to improve internet download speeds to 100 megabytes per second and to revive the State Broadband Council to develop an action plan to close the digital divide.

10 a.m. Aug. 14: Registrar of Voters explains how Election Day will work during pandemic

Packing a polling location is the last thing people want to do during a pandemic.

However, Santa Clara County vote centers will open for four days starting Oct. 31, according to Shannon Bushey, the Santa Clara County registrar of voters.

“The safest way to vote is to vote from home,” Bushey said. “But for those of you that may need in-person voting because we have accessible voting machines or maybe as they say ‘the dog ate your ballot and you need a replacement ballot,’ you can come to any one of our voting centers.”

People can drop off ballots at more than 90 drop-off boxes for ballots around the county and can use more than 100 vote centers, Bushey said. Staff at the centers will provide personal protective equipment, language assistance and replacement ballots for voters.

Staff members and volunteers will have personal protective equipment and be behind plexiglass barriers to prevent coronavirus infections. Additionally, because of the Voter’s Choice Act, every registered voter will receive a mail-in ballot with a free postage-paid envelope.

Bushey said her staff will count any ballot postmarked by Election Day that they receive within 17 days.

In addition, she said military personnel and people living overseas who are registered voters in Santa Clara County will be able to access a secure connection to print out ballots that they can mail back to the registrar’s office.

Oct. 19 is the last day to register to vote. After that people will have to sign up for conditional voter registration.

6 p.m. Aug. 13: Study shows neck gaiter masks may ease spread of coronavirus

Duke University researchers found that a neck gaiter made from thin polyester fabric actually dispersed droplets of germs people emit as they speak – making it easier for the coronavirus to spread through the air.

In other words, wearing that particular neck gaiter as a face covering would be worse than wearing no mask at all.

At the moment, San Jose’s mask requirement allows people to wear any piece of fabric that covers their face.

“We attribute that to the mesh, the fabric actually dispersing some of those droplets, so turning the bigger droplets into a bunch of little droplets, which of course increases the number of total droplets,” said Martin Fischer, an associate research professor of chemistry at Duke University, during a Zoom call.

Fischer specializes in developing mechanisms for molecular imagery and wanted to capture images of droplets potentially carrying coronavirus.

To find the size of these droplets emitted with and without masks, researchers said the words ‘stay healthy, people’ into a dark space with a laser going through it. The thin sheet of light from the laser illuminated each droplet people emitted while speaking.

The light showed barely any droplets from people who spoke with a valveless N95 mask and cotton masks, Fischer said, but it exposed much tinier particles from people wearing the neck gaiter.

“What makes that somewhat concerning, is you might emit a big droplet and it might fall to the ground, the little droplets have an easier time hovering in the air or maybe being carried away by air currents,” Fischer said.

The professor clarified that this was not a comprehensive study and neck gaiters with thicker fabric could be effective for blocking particles.

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