Coronavirus LIVE BLOG: July 16 to July 29
Photo courtesy of the CDC.

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3:15 p.m. July 29: With San Mateo, entire Bay Area now on state watchlist

With Wednesday’s addition of San Mateo, all Bay Area counties are on the state’s watchlist, affecting more than 7 million people in the Northern California region.

Collectively, nine counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma — are on the state’s monitoring list for increasing transmissions, hospitalizations or limited hospital capacity above Department of Public Health thresholds. Nearly all Californians fall within counties on the watchlist, with the exception of people in rural, sparsely populated regions in far Northern California and along the Sierra Nevada.

For counties on the watchlist for at least three consecutive days, the state mandates closures for indoor operations of personal care services, fitness centers, places of worship, offices for businesses deemed noncritical, and shopping malls. Statewide, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, movie theaters, card rooms, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums to move operations outside only, while bars must shutter entirely unless they serve sit-down, outdoor meals.

In addition, these identified counties can’t reopen in-person classes until they leave the watchlist for 14 days. As of Wednesday, no Bay Area counties would be able to reopen schools this fall, though they may be able to apply for waivers to reopen certain elementary schools.

11:34 a.m. July 29: California reports highest daily death count

California saw 197 deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday, surpassing the previous highest daily death count from last Thursday, according to state health data.

Compared to Tuesday’s new highest count bringing the total to 8,715 deaths, Thursday saw 159 deaths, while the third highest count was last Wednesday, at 157 deaths.

On Tuesday, there were 8,755 new cases, a modest daily increase but still lower than highs in new cases last week. Now, California has a total 475,305 cases.

While California has the most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., the state had the third most deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. On Wednesday, the U.S., which has the most cases and deaths in the world, approached 150,000 deaths.

11:01 a.m. July 29: Latinos nearly half of all cases in Santa Clara County, most of California cases

Latinos now account for nearly half of Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 cases despite only making up only about a quarter of the population, according to data from the Public Health Department.

In Santa Clara County, case rates are highest in East San Jose and Gilroy — communities with high Latino populations — though local health officials have said Latinos are overrepresented in all parts of the South Bay. Statewide, Latinos are getting COVID-19 at three times the rate of white residents. While only 39 percent of California’s population, Latinos account for 56 percent of all cases.

Half of all county cases come from people under age 35. Across California, younger people are seeing “grave impacts” with increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, in a livestream briefing Tuesday.

“Not only are we seeing more impact on Latinos, but we are also seeing a greater impact on younger Californians,” Ghaly said.

As a result, young people risk spreading the novel coronavirus disease to older family members, particularly in multigenerational households, said Santa Clara County’s testing officer, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, in a livestream briefing Wednesday. This is especially true with Latinos, who often have existing issues in crowded housing making it to difficult to isolate or quarantine if someone is exposed with COVID-19. They also face barriers with access to health care and having to work in jobs deemed essential, which puts them in frequent contact with other people.

County spokeswoman Maribel Martínez said these conditions highlight the need to address longstanding barriers for communities of color.

“To do this work right, we have to engage in anti-racism work,” Martínez said, “meaning we have to work really hard to undo some of the conditions that have created these biases in our community … We’ve been building on conditions that have existed even before the pandemic.”

For all communicable diseases, the California Department of Public Health announced Tuesday it will enforce more requirements on race and ethnicity, since more than a third of COVID-19 cases reported have no data on people’s racial or ethnic backgrounds. The state will also now collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time.

10:10 p.m. July 28: National teachers union permits strikes if schools reopen without safety measures

The United States’ second largest teachers union announced Tuesday it would support local or state groups strike efforts if they feel schools reopen for in-person classes without sufficient safety measures in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

A resolution passed by the American Federation of Teachers, representing about 1.7 million people, said “Nothing is off the table,” including supporting strikes “on a case-by-base basis as a last resort.” The teachers union called for school buildings to open in areas only where the average positivity rate is below 5 percent and the transmission rate is below 1 percent.

“Let’s be clear: Just as we have done with our health care workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of students and their educators,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a speech during the union’s biennial convention. “But if the authorities don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, nothing is off the table — not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits or, if necessary and authorized by a local union, as a last resort, safety strikes.”

In addition to positivity and transmission rates, the AFT outlined reopening only if there is effective disease surveillance, tracing and isolation locally, with state, city or community-level authority to trigger school closures in the event of spikes in infections or when public health standards aren’t met. Districts and schools must also fund safeguards and practices, including 6 feet of physical distancing, face coverings for students and staff, access to hand-washing facilities, resources and staffing to clean and sanitize facilities, and updates to ventilation and building systems, the resolution says. Meanwhile, AFT called for special accommodations to staff at higher risk of serious illness from the novel coronavirus.

“We know that kids need in-person learning and that remote instruction is no substitute for it, but it has to be safe,” Weingarten said.

9:30 p.m. July 28: Only 1,000 fed in Santa Clara County by state program

South Bay food providers are questioning why Santa Clara County has chosen only a handful of restaurants and has served so few meals to needy residents during the unprecedented pandemic.

A statewide program — Great Plates Delivered — served 66,730 meals to a little more than 1,000 residents in Santa Clara County as of July 16. The meals were prepared by just eight local restaurants.

Read the full San José Spotlight story here.

6:26 p.m. July 27: California Democrats propose $100 billion stimulus plan

Democratic legislators in California have proposed a $100 billion stimulus plan to ameliorate a recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which comes as Congress’ negotiations have stalled over new federal coronavirus relief.

With support from top Democratic leaders in the state Senate and Assembly, the plan unveiled Monday would include tax vouchers, secure current revenue streams, accelerate bond funds on infrastructure projects and borrow from the federal government to pay for stimulus efforts.

Both houses of the Legislature have Democratic supermajorities, while Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, runs California’s executive branch. And even as the statehouse passed a $202 billion budget to balance a $54 billion deficit in late June, lawmakers must approve the new relief measures by Aug. 31, the last day to pass bills before they break for recess.

California’s unemployment rate in June stood at 14.9 percent, higher than the economic downturn during the Great Recession a decade ago.

“Millions of Californians are suffering in this economic downturn, and Republicans in Washington, D.C. don’t seem to care,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, in a statement. “Assembly and Senate Democrats are advancing innovative proposals to help people and small businesses.”

An outline by Democrats said the plan would entail expanding small business tax breaks and waivers, as well as helping minority and women-owned businesses and incentivizing manufacturing of personal protective equipment, ventilators, swabs and other products critical to pandemic response.

State legislators also seek to fill gaps in federal unemployment insurance, which could apply to undocumented workers and address shortfalls made by potential cuts to the $600 weekly payments set to expire Friday.

Additionally, the state plan would work to expand low-income tax credits, eviction protections, and make investments to infrastructure and jobs creation touted as environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, legislators intend to increase the affordable housing supply, as well as streamline the California Environmental Quality Act process to more quickly build projects.

In a statement, San Jose Sen. Jim Beall, who chairs the Transportation Committee and sits on the budget committee, estimated 13,000 jobs could be created for each $1 billion invested in infrastructure.

“We must pass a strategic stimulus package to boost our economy, help struggling families, and get people back to work. This package consists of several innovative solutions, including leveraging existing funds to accelerate road repair and safety projects that would otherwise take years to complete,” he said.

Many federal programs for the pandemic are expiring soon, and local and state eviction protections are set to run out at the end of August. Congress is currently at odds over several key components of federal legislation, particularly for the sunsetting $600 in weekly unemployment insurance, which is added on top of what states already pay.

President Trump’s administration along with Republicans in control of the Senate have backed a $1 trillion relief package unveiled Monday, whereas House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief package in May, the Washington Post reported. While Democrats have sought to extend current unemployment insurance, the GOP plan reportedly would cut it to $200 weekly.

When asked about state Democrats’ stimulus package in a briefing, Newsom said there were “a number of modifications” made to the plan recently and he hadn’t had a chance to review “it in any detail.” Still, in a news release, legislators said they aim to get input from the governor’s administration.

“We have to include a framework of bringing people along as we reopen our economy and as we grow our economy,” Newsom said.

4:25 p.m. July 27: Newsom wants to send aid, strike teams to California’s hard-hit Central Valley

With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in California’s Central Valley, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced plans to send $52 million in funding for testing, quarantine, contact tracing and medical support in the agricultural hub, as well as heightened enforcement to reduce the spread of the virus.

Directed to an eight-county region in the valley, Newsom said in his briefing that Latino communities and essential workforces are disparately impacted by rising rates of transmission and deaths. The lowest positivity rate — positive results of all tests conducted — of any of the identified counties was 10.7 percent, more than three percentage points higher than the state average.

“The rising community transmission rates we are seeing, particularly among Latinos in the Central Valley, are concerning,” Newsom said in a statement. “This is alarming and we are taking action. That’s why today we are making $52 million available to counties in the Central Valley to support local public health departments with additional resources to stop the spread of the virus and reduce the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19.”

Counties that would receive the $52 million — which needs the Legislature’s approval — are Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare. Aid was made possible through a $499 million grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, the state will also deploy multiagency strike teams to enforce protocols intended to reduce the spread of the virus in the Central Valley, which follows a federal response field team recently sent to Kern, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to assess local needs and use federal resources. The state teams will review data and examine outbreaks in factories and high congregate settings such as long-term care facilities, high-density housing and agricultural workplaces. Composed of at least six agencies ranging from departments of Public Health to Food and Agriculture, Newsom’s office said the teams could evaluate and improve testing, contact tracing, disease investigation, data management, public education and surge planning for local health care systems

In his briefing, Newsom said the Central Valley strike teams take from previous state efforts in another agricultural hub, Imperial County in Southern California, which had to move to a full stay-at-home order in late June due to outbreaks there. On Friday, Newsom also unveiled a new housing and isolation program for farmworkers in the Central Valley, Imperial Valley and the Central Coast, along with plans of additional enforcement of labor laws to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in essential workforces.

10:30 a.m. July 27: Google employees to work from home through June 2021, report says

Google employees are set to work from home through June 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday morning.

The decision by the Mountain View-headquartered search engine company reportedly affects some 200,000 workers throughout Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Meanwhile, Google is one of Santa Clara County’s largest employers.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai made the announcement in a memo to employees, which CNN obtained.

“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we’ll be extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Pichai wrote. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”

Since March, Google workers have worked from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other tech companies have done the same, including Facebook and Twitter.

9:21 a.m. July 27: Santa Clara County implements new waiting system at three pop-up test sites

Santa Clara County has three free pop-up test sites in San Jose and Gilroy open Tuesday through Saturday, which comes as officials added a wristband system to stagger wait times and avoid long lines.

At the pop-up locations, residents can get a nasal swab test without an appointment, health insurance or a doctor’s note, and regardless of immigration status or age, though children under 12 need parent consent, according to the county’s pop-up testing webpage. These sites are appropriate for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but can identify the virus before they feel unwell or spread it to others. People with symptoms should contact their provider for guidance or call 1-888-334-1000.

The sites now allow residents to check-in and receive a wristband for a designated hourlong time later in the day. Touting the new system as reducing time spent at sites, a county news release said the supply of wristbands depends on the number of available tests. The county still advises people to come earlier in the day. On July 14, the county implemented its wristband system at Independence High School’s pop-up site after about 800 people showed up to get tested within the first hour of opening.

The county Office of Education’s San Jose Room, 1290 Ridder Park Dr., will have pop-up testing Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Meanwhile, in South San Jose, Oak Grove High School’s student center, 285 Blossom Hill Rd., will have testing starting Tuesday through Friday 1-6 p.m. and on Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Gilroy’s South County Annex, 9300 Wren Ave., which was formerly Del Buono Elementary School, has testing Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Along with the county pop-up sites, an appointment-only OptumServe test center is moving to Gavilan College, 5055 Teresa Blvd., in Gilroy. This site, operated by the health business provider and managed by the state of California, replaces Gilroy’s previous OptumServe location at Christopher High School.

In recent weeks, the county has sought to ramp up testing and called on private health care providers to increase their own capacity to monitor for COVID-19, even issuing a June 10 health order for larger health systems to expand testing criteria. During a Board of Supervisors meeting last week, county elected leaders and health officials publicly criticized providers — including Kaiser Permanente, Stanford Health and Palo Alto Medical Foundation — for what they considered insufficient testing.

With more than 50 testing sites open across the county, visit the county website or call 211 to find a location.

2:17 p.m. July 24: With spread in California’s essential workforce, Newsom outlines protections

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday outlined plans to establish additional worker safeguards to slow the spread of COVID-19, as California’s workforces deemed essential to continue working have been disproportionately affected amid the pandemic.

In sectors such as farm labor, construction and food supply that have higher numbers of Latino employees, Newsom said these workers require more protections against the novel coronavirus. The announcement comes as Latinos continue to be disparately represented in cases and deaths across California. Thursday was also COVID-19’s deadliest day in California with 159 people dead, surpassing the previous highest daily death count of 157 people the day before.

“For us to able to be successful in terms of stopping the spread of COVID-19 — extinguishing COVID-19 — which we will do, it depends on our ability to keep our essential workers safe,” Newsom said in his briefing.

Preventative measures, Newsom said, must ensure adequate isolation or quarantine when employees are sick or exposed and temporary housing, especially for families in crowded living conditions.

The state’s new Housing for the Harvest program will allocate existing federal funds to local public health departments and community-based organizations in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Imperial Valley to assist with supportive services for isolation and quarantine of farmworkers, according to the governor’s office. The program builds on the state’s current isolation measures, including hotels for health care workers serving COVID-19 positive patients and Project Roomkey, the hotel and motel program for COVID-19 positive, exposed or vulnerable homeless Californians.

Additionally, officials will create statewide public awareness campaigns and work with local organizations, labor unions, advocacy groups and promotores, or community health workers, to directly reach essential workforces. In Santa Clara County, local officials have launched a similar promotores model to educate and distribute face coverings to communities during the pandemic.

The state also released a new 32-page employer guidebook that includes information on testing and managing outbreaks in the workplace. By administrative and legislative action, Newsom said he intends to expand executive orders into longer term solutions around paid sick leave and workers compensation, though details of the plans were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health and the Labor Commissioner’s Office are set to heighten labor law enforcement and require stronger reporting of outbreaks. The administration is working with the Legislature to establish this regulatory authority, Newsom’s office said.

“This essential workforce remains the bedrock, the backbone, of those that are providing foundational, fundamental services to the state of California,” Newsom said.

10 a.m. July 24: California records highest deaths a day after highest daily cases

California saw 157 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Wednesday, the highest death count to date and a day after the state saw the largest daily case increase.

The deaths, reported Thursday, surpassed July 8’s previous highest count of 149 deaths. Numbers in recent weeks mark stark increases in the spread of the novel coronavirus across the state.

“We cannot afford to ignore #COVID19, or simply hope it goes away,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Thursday announcing the new death count. “We have to take action. TOGETHER.”

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s count of 12,807 confirmed cases was the state’s highest recorded tally, which came as California surpassed New York for the most cases in the U.S. The figures the next day were California’s second highest daily increase.

Overall, the U.S. is experiencing heightened spread of the virus in the South and West. Johns Hopkins University data shows the country surpassed 4 million cases, while the national positivity rate — positive results of all tests conducted — has continued ticking upward since June.

Newsom is expected to speak at 12 p.m. Friday, though the state Department of Public Health is set to release new COVID-19 data an hour prior.

8:06 p.m. July 23: Santa Clara County pushes back on Birx, Trump administration response

Following a warning from the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force about San Jose and 11 other cities that have seen increases in positive test results for COVID-19, Santa Clara County officials pushed back on the comments, calling for the Trump administration to “finally implement” a national strategy for the pandemic.

In a call with state and local officials Wednesday, Dr. Deborah Birx said there have been declines in test positivity rates in a few cities in Arizona, Texas and parts of the West Coast, but that rate — meaning positive results of all tests conducted — has not declined in a dozen cities.

“There are other cities that are lagging behind that,” Birx said in the recording obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit newsroom. “And we have new increases in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore.”

Birx told callers that federal officials were tracking this “very closely” and working with states to respond together. “When you first see that increase in test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts,” she said, adding it is critical to conduct contact tracing early.

While acknowledging recent case increases, officials in Santa Clara County — where San Jose is located — pushed back on Thursday, saying local numbers remain much lower compared to other metropolitan areas in California and the U.S.

“We are concerned about the increase in cases nationally and believe that this highlights the need for a coordinated national approach to address this pandemic, something the President has failed to put into effect,” a county statement said. “We call upon the Trump Administration to finally implement the national strategy our nation needs to contain COVID-19.”

According to Public Health Department data, the county’s positivity rate was 4.01 percent on a seven-day average, which has increased since June but a slight decrease from July 14. San Jose’s positivity rate was not available on the Public Health Department website, but the city — at more than 1 million people accounting for most of the county’s population — has the majority of local cases, and it’s case rate per 100,000 people, of 538, is the second highest by local city. Still, the county’s positivity rate is half that of the seven-day national average and lower than California’s rate, per Johns Hopkins University figures.

Meanwhile, officials in Cleveland and Baltimore told CPI their cities were not on the call, and a Santa Clara County spokesperson told San José Spotlight the county, which oversees the local public health response, did not participate either.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s office believe no city staff were on the call.

“I won’t speculate why the White House selected the cities that it did, as hundreds of US cities have higher rates of transmission, hospitalization, and death than does San Jose,” Liccardo said in a statement. “Regardless, there’s no question that our County’s coronavirus indicators are rising, and we all need to double down on what our public health authorities know works: wearing masks, socially distancing, washing hands, and taking the precautions necessary to take care of each other.”

9 p.m. July 22: ‘Eviction time-bomb’ predicted in Santa Clara County without protections, study says

Tens of thousands of households in Santa Clara County could become homeless in the next year if local, state and federal policymakers don’t enact renter protections soon, according to a new study.

“The Eviction Time-Bomb,” released by local policy think tank Working Partnerships USA and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, details how the COVID-19 pandemic puts more than 40,000 renter households in the county at high risk of eviction. Black and Latinx people are most likely to be affected, the study found.

Read the full San José Spotlight story here.

1:15 p.m. July 22: Facing prospect of surges, Newsom outlines PPE supply strategy for California

Amid dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases and the prospect of surges to hospital systems, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced strategies intended to maintain adequate supplies of personal protective equipment in California.

As of Wednesday, the state surpassed New York for the most cases in the U.S. But Newsom said slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus in California early on helped prepare to build for capacity as businesses and activities reopen and people mix more, increasing the likelihood of case increases.

“It matters for precisely the reason that we worked so aggressively to bend the curve initially,” Newsom said, holding his briefing at a Sacramento warehouse for PPE. “As we reopen the economy — and we do so in a strategic and phased approach — we needed to maintain a level of safety and confidence for our health care workers, our front-line workers.”

The governor said California has a “burn rate” of 46 million medical-grade face masks used each month, prompting the need to increase supplies. To date, the state has distributed 297 million surgical masks to essential workers and 85.5 million N95 masks, including more than 17 million masks going to neighboring states. Currently, the state has an inventory of 111 million N95 masks and 147 million surgical masks.

On Wednesday, Newsom announced an extended contract with Chinese manufacturer BYD, which had a nearly $1 billion deal for respirators that had been delayed due to federal certification of masks, to obtain an additional 120 million N95 masks and 300 million surgical masks. The state is also seeking bidders to continue scaling PPE for the fall, Newsom added.

Still, California was forced to compete with other states and even the federal government, in addition to other countries, to obtain PPE, in what Newsom has called the “Wild, Wild West.” In the effort to diversify supply chains, he said American manufacturers have been unable to meet demands amid the pandemic.

“They’re just not providing the delivery at scale that’s necessary of the moment that we’re in,” Newsom said.

11:12 a.m. July 22: California surpasses New York for most cases in U.S.

Public health data Wednesday showed California surpassed New York for the most COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Since June, California has surged in cases, along with many western and southern states. With 12,807 new cases — the highest daily increase to date — California’s total count rose to 413,576 cases.

With New York City once the global epicenter of the pandemic, the state has slowed the spread of the virus. As of Wednesday reporting, New York had 408,886 cases, adding just 705 new cases.

Despite the case increases, COVID-19 death totals remain far lower in California compared to New York. While California has seen 7,870 deaths to date, New York has lost 25,068 people. Still, California saw 115 new deaths, compared to just nine fatalities that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

10:35 a.m. July 22: Santa Clara County moves forward with ‘regressive’ tax proposal

Despite admitting that sales tax hikes are “regressive,” Santa Clara County lawmakers want taxpayers to help foot the bill for COVID-19 costs that have drained the county coffers.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a referral from Board President Cindy Chavez to explore placing a general five-eighths of one cent retail sales tax increase for the November ballot. The tax would last 60 months under the assumption that the economy will recover by then, according to county documents.

In a 3-2 vote with supervisors Mike Wasserman and Joe Simitian opposing the measure, the tax revenue would fund the county’s COVID-19 response, including providing food and shelter, contact tracing, and testing and treatment of patients in county hospitals, according to the referral.

Admitting the sales tax is regressive, Chavez said it’s the only way the county can patch up its significant budget shortfall, which has worsened due to the pandemic.

The tax is expected to generate an estimated $250 million to the general fund beginning in 2021. It would need a simple majority from voters to pass.

County lawmakers will discuss next steps on Aug. 6.

Read the full San José Spotlight story here.

8:50 p.m. July 21: Santa Clara County officials blast hospitals for lack of testing

Santa Clara County officials on Tuesday criticized local hospital systems for insufficient COVID-19 testing, part of months-long frustration over what elected leaders and county public health staff perceive as a shortfall by larger providers to monitor the pandemic locally.

Tuesday’s virtual Board of Supervisors meeting was the first public discussion between hospital executives and county officials to discuss appropriate steps for testing, though the groups had held public meetings about surge capacity with increasing COVID-19 cases.

On June 10, the county issued a health order requiring larger health systems to expand testing to patients with COVID-19 symptoms, people in contact with positive cases, and others at higher risk of exposure because they work in frequent contact with the public or have attended mass gatherings. Local officials argued the county health system had taken on the brunt of testing and other larger systems also needed to do their part in meeting testing goals.

In a memorandum to supervisors, the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California said all hospitals and health care systems are offering testing to patients in accordance with the order, even providing a table showing how El Camino, HCA, Kaiser Permanante and Stanford systems met requirements.

Supervisor Joe Simitian said he didn’t “believe that’s an accurate statement.”

“This is not an abstract issue, nor is it a nice-to-have,’” Simitian told supervisors. “If we’re going to move forward as a county with any hope of success, we’ve got to push our testing numbers up. And we’ve got to do that by ensuring there’s full compliance with the June 10th order from the public health officer.”

Testing has been seen as a step to not only understand the novel coronavirus’ spread, but part of indicators to meet thresholds for further reopening of businesses and activities.

“We do need to do testing,” County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith said when asked by Simitian about its importance. “And we can’t make a judicious, thoughtful plan without having comprehensive testing throughout the community, including people who are not symptomatic.”

Holding a printout of Kaiser and Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s webpages, Simitian said the providers’ information didn’t reflect testing requirements by the county. He pushed the providers to update their information, though Dr. Elizabeth Velardo, the CEO of PAMF, said she would have to consult with staff. The Kaiser executive was no longer on the call at that point.

However, hospital executives expressed concern with testing capacity constraints due to supply chain shortages. The memo cited Dr. Ahmad Kamal, the county deputy director of health system preparedness, in difficulty obtaining testing reagent supplies until December, with supplies diverted to federal agencies and not to states for local distribution. Instead, executives said they are looking at pooling samples pending Food and Drug Administration approval, which can expand testing.

In the meantime, Velardo described a hierarchy of prioritized testing as they continue to serve patients. Similarly, amid case increases, the California Department of Public Health revised testing priorities last Tuesday, which Jo Coffaro of the Hospital Council said is indicative of laboratory delays.

“We don’t feel that we can properly serve patients who are ill and still be the surveillance arm for any particular county,” Velardo said.

4:35 p.m. July 21: Supervisors unanimously approve Asian, Pacific Islander community health outreach program

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved moving forward Tuesday with establishing a $1.2 million community health worker program directed at Asian and Pacific Islander communities who comprise more than a third of the South Bay’s population.

Under the measure proposed by Supervisor Joe Simitian, the program would be implemented independent from a separate county-run community health pilot program directed at communities of color disparately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2018 assessment by the Public Health Department and Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), a nonprofit community advocacy group, identified and prioritized the Asian and Pacific Islander community health worker model to address community needs, according to a board report. Along with addressing current impacts from COVID-19, the program would work to remove barriers to accessing care and linking residents with clinical, behavioral health and community services.

A one-time $1.2 million allocation would work to support the program over three years beginning in the fall, with implementation expected by next May. In doing so, the county would staff the program with a coordinator for the lead agency and community health workers assigned to various subcontracted agencies representing all seven identified subgroups of Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Pacific Islander communities. Among the agencies to have health workers are AACI and North East Medical Services.

In Santa Clara County, the Asian and Pacific Islander population is expected to increase to 50 percent by 2060, a Board of Supervisors report said.

1:52 p.m. July 21: Cupertino Walgreens offers free COVID-19 testing

The Cupertino Walgreens now offers free, drive-thru COVID-19 testing.

The pharmacy, located on Bollinger Road, is available seven days a week 9 a.m.-5 p.m. with no appointment required, according to a July 13 city of Cupertino news release in announcing the testing. Individuals must be 18 years old or older but do not need health insurance.

The nasal swab test is self-administered with results available in three to four days. The city recommended people bring a valid ID and insurance card if they have insurance.

In a Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s top testing official, said the Cupertino pharmacy was Walgreens’s first testing site in California.

12 p.m. July 21: Cases increasing among younger adults, causing concern of spread to vulnerable groups, Cody says

Like many parts of the United States, Santa Clara County’s largest COVID-19 case increases are among younger adults, who may not get as seriously ill but risk spreading it to vulnerable populations, the top health official said Tuesday.

People ages 18 to 34 years old are “breaking away from the pack” with higher increases in cases, Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told the Board of Supervisors. Since early May, young adults have constituted an increasing share of new cases, which comes as cases have spiked since June. Santa Clara County residents under 40 constituted half of all cases, public health data as of Monday showed.

“Although there may be lower rates of hospitalization and severe illness among young adults, this is where the epidemic is spreading most quickly,” Cody said. “It will eventually spark a chain of transmission that will ultimately reach someone who is more vulnerable and will become ill enough to require hospitalization.”

This has prompted concern over community spread of the novel coronavirus, as 86 percent of confirmed cases in the last three weeks have no known source of transmission. Of those that do have a known COVID-19 contact, the majority of those cases come from within households.

As a result of increasing cases, long-term care facilities, which have had low increases since June but far fewer than in April, are especially vulnerable since they serve older residents often at risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

So as community cases rise, Cody said “it’s almost inevitable” that cases rise in the congregate residences as staff unknowingly bring COVID-19 into the places after acquiring it into communities.

11:13 a.m. July 21: Santa Clara County students, families receive $7.1 million for digital divide

The Santa Clara County Office of Education has received $7.1 million in funding to improve technology and internet access for students and families in underserved neighborhoods, according to the office of Supervisor Dave Cortese, who first proposed the measure that the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved on June 23.

Shelter-in-place orders since March intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have forced school districts to shift to online learning, which leaves out an estimated 15,000 students in the county’s 31 school districts who need laptops or tablets and the 9,361 families are without internet access, mostly concentrated in East and South San Jose and Gilroy, the Office of Education has found. Communities of color are most likely to be impacted.

Ahead of the upcoming school year, it appears classes in the South Bay will continue with distance learning under state guidance to reopen schools in the fall.

“This investment in the Bridging the Digital Divide Project is especially critical during considering schools across the county are going to be using distance learning for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic,” Cortese said in a statement Tuesday. “Students who do not have access to the Internet or own computers have been left out of this educational opportunity and are falling behind.”

Along with the county’s one-time $7.1 million taken from its general fund, the June 23 board report said the city of San Jose has committed $5 million in federal coronavirus relief, which collectively would purchase nearly $3.3 million for wifi hot spots, $2.2 million for satellite internet, and more than $6.6 million in devices to serve 15,000 students. In total, the Office of Education estimates a $14 million gap in digital access for local pupils.

Cortese’s office added funding will not only provide distance learning to more students, but also will connect their families to vital COVID-19 information, medical appointments, employment opportunities, food resources and housing aid.

The funding was expedited on Cortese’s request, his office noted, citing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent limits on the physical reopening of local schools. To resume in-person classes, the county would need to be off the state’s monitoring list for increasing transmissions, hospitalizations or limited hospital capacity for 14 days.

During the supervisors meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the president of the board, said funding has already been disbursed.

1:22 p.m. July 20: Newsom unveils state guidance to move personal care services outdoors

After effectively shuttering personal care services across most of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday unveiled new guidance for much of these businesses to operate outdoors.

A week ago, Newsom ordered 30 counties on the watchlist for at least three consecutive days — affecting approximately 80 percent of Californians — to close indoor operations at hair and nail salons, fitness centers, places of worship, business offices and shopping malls. The state has since expanded the closures to 33 counties, with Santa Clara on the list since Wednesday.

During his briefing, Newsom said the state ran into issues with local ordinances and regulations to move indoor operations outside.

“Hopefully that provides more clarity,” Newsom said of the new guidelines during his briefing. “If we need to provide even more, we’ll get the good feedback, which I anticipate from the new guidelines we’ve put up.”

Under state guidance for personal care services released Monday, outdoor operations can be conducted under a tent or canopy as long as no more than one side is closed to allow for air movement, which is considered safer than indoor operations. However, businesses can’t perform services require customers to go inside the establishment.

Like previous personal care guidance, face coverings, physical distancing and frequent disinfecting and sanitizing are required. But guidance now includes heat illness prevention with water, shade and cool down breaks, among other considerations.

Similar to previous guidance when they were allowed to first reopen, hair salons and barbershops should have personal protective equipment and limit clients by appointment to give time for disinfecting and sanitizing areas and equipment. Disposable gloves should be worn throughout an entire service and while performing cleaning and disinfecting before removing.

While estheticians, skin care, cosmetology, nail services and massage therapy may operate outdoors, other personal care of electrology, tattooing and piercing can’t operate outside “because they are invasive procedures that require a controlled hygienic environment to be performed safely,” the guidance says.

Esthetic, skin care and cosmetology workers should use face shields when providing clients treatment on facial or neck areas. Disposable gloves should be worn throughout the entire service.

At nail salons, clients should use hand sanitizer before a service, while plastic partitions are recommended. Single-use items must be used once and immediately thrown away in a lined, lidded trash can. Color palettes should be used instead of nail polish displays to limit touch points. If fans are used outside, guidance recommends to minimize air from flans blowing directly from one person toward another.

Massage services should consider altering table setups, like disposable face cradle covers or washable barriers like pillowcases that can be removed and replaced between each client. Face massages shouldn’t be performed if they require removing a face covering, but other facial areas should use non-latex gloves. Hand treatments should be the last part of the service.

8:45 a.m. July 20: Free pop-up testing in San Jose, Gilroy this week

Santa Clara County has three free pop-up test sites in San Jose and Gilroy open Tuesday through Saturday.

At the pop-up testing locations, residents can get tested without an appointment, health insurance or a doctor’s note, and regardless of immigration status or age, though children under 12 need parent consent, according to the county’s pop-up testing webpage. These sites are appropriate for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but can identify it before they feel unwell or spread it to others, a county news release said.

“The test is easy and painless,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s COVID-19 testing officer, in a statement. “All are welcome at our county government test sites. And if you have insurance, you can also ask your regular provider for a test if that’s more convenient for you: they are required to test you.”

In San Jose, the county’s service center auditorium, 1555 Berger Dr., will have pop-up testing Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Meanwhile, in Roosevelt Park, San Jose High School’s cafeteria, 275 N. 24th St., will have testing starting Tuesday through Friday 1-6 p.m. and on Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Gilroy’s South County Annex, 9300 Wren Ave., which was formerly Del Buono Elementary School, has testing Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

If residents test positive at one of the pop-up sites, they should receive a phone call within three to four days, or as soon as the next day. People who test negative should receive an email, in multiple languages, within five days. If they have no email, they will receive a mailed letter within 10 days.

The sites come as the county has ramped up testing and called on private health care providers to increase their own capacity to monitor for COVID-19, even issuing a June 10 health order for larger health systems to expand testing. So far, the county has conducted the largest share of tests, though larger private providers — including Kaiser Permanente, Stanford Health, as well as Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Sutter Health — collectively constitute most testing done.

With more than 50 testing sites open across the county, visit the county website or call 211 to find a location.

10:07 p.m. July 19: Santa Clara County meeting state thresholds for now

California Department of Public Health data as of Sunday shows Santa Clara County is meeting state thresholds on elevated COVID-19 transmission, hospitalizations and hospital capacity.

Since July 12, Santa Clara has been on a state monitoring list for hospitalizations increases greater than 10 percent on a three-day average, but it recently saw elevated case rates per 100,000 people within 14 days.

With reporting Sunday, however, Santa Clara has fallen below COVID-19 metrics for the first time in more than a week. Approximately 80 percent of California counties have been on the state monitoring list for cases, hospitalized patient increases or health care capacity.

But this does not mean the county is off the watchlist. In an email Saturday, a CDPH spokesperson said the state releases a county only after three days of data confirming it is below thresholds for one or more metrics.

11:45 a.m. July 18: Santa Clara Co. sees elevated transmission, hospitalizations on state watchlist

Originally landing on a state watchlist again for increases in hospitalizations, Santa Clara County is now experiencing elevated transmission of COVID-19, public health data showed Friday.

Last Sunday, Santa Clara joined the state watchlist for increasing hospitalizations, defined as greater than a 10 percent increase in the three-day average of patients with COVID-19, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Santa Clara County currently has increased hospitalizations to 16.6 percent, but this does not adjust for total patients. Although local hospitalizations are increasing, they remain far lower than other larger counties. There are 146 hospitalized patients locally, compared to 589 patients in San Bernardino, a county slightly more populous than Santa Clara. By contrast, San Bernardino is on the watchlist not for hospitalizations, but elevated transmission.

After Santa Clara was previously added to the state watchlist in late June, county officials questioned hospitalization metrics used by the state that initially prohibited the reopening of more South Bay businesses, including personal care services, gyms, hotels and motels.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered counties on the watchlist for at least three consecutive days — affecting approximately 80 percent of Californians — to close indoor operations at hair and nail salons, fitness centers, places of worship, business offices and shopping malls. By Wednesday, Santa Clara joined counties requiring closures, three days after joining the watchlist.

But now, along with hospitalizations, Santa Clara County has an elevated COVID-19 transmission rate of 101.9 cases per 100,000 people in a 14-day timeframe. This is slightly above the allowable 100 cases per capita, which may further complicate when the region can leave the watchlist and reopen its economy.

On Friday, Newsom outlined the path to reopening California schools, by which counties on the watchlist must start the academic year with distance learning. To have students return to campus with safety protocols in place, counties have to be off the watchlist for at least 14 days.

3:33 p.m. July 17: California schools in counties on watchlist to start with distance learning, Newsom outlines

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday unveiled his administration’s plan to start the school year with distance learning in California counties on a COVID-19 watchlist.

Just weeks ahead of the upcoming school year, about 80 percent of California’s population is currently on the watchlist for rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations or insufficient health care capacity, which includes Santa Clara County and nearly all of the Bay Area.

Officials at the San Jose Unified School District decided to keep students home for the first six weeks of the school year beginning Aug. 13.

“Public education education broadly is absolutely about our kids,” Newsom said in his briefing. “But we cannot deny the fact that we have hundreds of thousands of adults that are responsible to taking care and educating our kids as well, and their health has to be considered.”

Couching the five-point plan as a parent of four who would prefer in-person classes, Newsom laid out reopening for all schools, including public and charter, based on local public health conditions. This entails counties being off the watchlist for at least 14 days.

Additionally, students in the third grade or above, along with all staff, must wear face coverings. For students in second grade or lower, face masks or shields are strongly recommended.

Thirdly, staff must maintain 6 feet of physical distance between each other and students, while schools must start the day with symptom checks. Hand-washing stations, frequent sanitation and disinfection, and quarantine protocols must be enacted. The state also requires school staff are tested regularly with rotating cohorts, and contact tracers will prioritize schools.

Lastly, the state is looking to ensure access to devices and internet connectivity for all students, Newsom added.

Newsom also outlined the process for schools to close with outbreaks in consultation with local health officers. Classrooms must go home with a confirmed case, whereas a school closure occurs when multiple cohorts or 5 percent or more of the school are positive. Should more than 25 percent of schools be closed due to positive cases, entire districts must shutter.

Friday’s announcement came as President Donald Trump’s administration has pressured local officials to reopen schools, despite surging cases across the U.S. California alone saw nearly 10,000 new cases and 130 deaths Thursday, among the highest daily increases.

Shortly after Newsom’s update, the Santa Clara County Office of Education and Public Health Department announced they plan to prioritize in-person elementary school instruction, which county officials said is provided in state guidance.

“Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of students and school staff in our community,” said Mary Ann Dewan, superintendent of county schools, in a statement. “There are elements of distance learning that are extremely challenging, and we will work through these challenges together. We are committed to supporting districts and schools to provide students with multifaceted educational experiences that help them progress academically and keep them engaged while keeping them safe.”

10:23 a.m. July 17: California unemployment rate improves, but recent closures remain to be seen

California’s June unemployment rate improved from previous months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it remains to be seen how recent statewide closures due to spiking cases and hospitalizations affect jobs across the state.

In June, the state’s unemployment rate improved to 14.9 percent, with the state adding a record 558,200 jobs, according to figures released Friday by the Employment Development Department. This surpassed record gains in May, of 134,200 jobs, and historic losses before that with data dating back to 1990.

The state has now regained more than a quarter of the 2.6 million California jobs lost in March and April as a direct result of the pandemic. However, June’s unemployment still stood at more than 2.8 million people. Despite gains, California has not quite recovered to levels below the worst of the Great Recession in 2010, when the unemployment rate stood at 12.3 percent. And only a year ago, statewide unemployment was at just four percent.

Santa Clara County’s unemployment rate in June stood at 10.7 percent — a slight decline from May’s 11 percent — out of a total workforce of more than 1 million people.

Nine of California’s 11 major industry sectors gained jobs in June. Hospitality, for example, had the largest gain of 292,500 jobs due to growth in accommodation and food services, which benefited from statewide reopening of bars and dine-in restaurants, according to the EDD. By percent, construction has had the largest recovery following 68 percent of job losses.

But government saw the largest number of job losses, at 36,300, which may be due to cuts following historic budget deficits.

It remains to be seen how recent spikes in new COVID-19 cases in California will affect jobs numbers, especially given another set of closures Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in July for many industries, including dine-in eating, bars, as well as hair and nail salons. On Monday, Newsom said the closures affect more than 80 percent of the state’s population, including the South Bay.

State numbers for July are expected to be released on Aug. 21.

1:56 p.m. July 16: Rep. Eshoo to host town hall on congressional COVID-19 response

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) is scheduled to host a virtual town hall Thursday afternoon about Congress’ response to COVID-19.

As chair of the House of Representatives health subcommittee, Eshoo will have her phone-in event alongside Dr. David Ghilarducci, who serves as a deputy health officer and oversees emergency medical services in Santa Cruz County. The town hall follows previous discussions Eshoo has held about federal response to the pandemic, including a conversation last Thursday with Dr. David Relman of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

To listen to Thursday’s town hall at 3:30 p.m., text 833-898-5483 or visit here.

12:27 p.m. July 16: Record high new cases in California for Tuesday

California reported record its highest COVID-19 case count Tuesday, with more than 11,100 positive cases, while 140 deaths tied the second highest daily number of lives lost.

In 14 days, California has seen close to 47 percent of all cases reported, while deaths are not rising as quickly, accounting for slightly more than 19 percent of total lives lost in the same timespan. The two-week positivity rate has also continued to trend upward to 7.2 percent, further signaling the spread of the novel coronavirus across the state.

While July 7’s reporting period technically has California’s highest number of cases, at nearly 11,700, Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned those numbers included a backlog from Los Angeles County.

Reporting for Wednesday saw smaller increases, with 8,544 new cases and 118 deaths.

California has become one of the nation’s hotspots for COVID-19, along with many states in the Southwest and South. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 67,000 new cases Wednesday, the United States’ highest daily count.

11:48 a.m. July 16: California rolls out $600 million in housing funds for local governments, nearly $100 million for Bay Area

Local governments will be able to apply for $600 million in funding available through a state project to permanently house people experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

The $600 million in Project Homekey state grants are available to counties, cities and other government entities to buy and rehabilitate housing — such as hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings or other types of innovative housing — to convert them into long-term residences, the governor’s office outlined Thursday. Administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the new project builds on Project Roomkey announced in April that placed unhoused people into temporary housing to reduce the risk of serious illness from the novel coronavirus.

“Homekey is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to massively expand housing for the homeless in California with federal stimulus funds,” Newsom said in a statement. “This unique opportunity requires us to move quickly, in close collaboration with our city and county partners, to protect the most vulnerable people in our state.”

Of the Homekey funding, $550 million comes from federal coronavirus relief funds, with $50 million from California’s general fund. Newsom’s office noted allocations will factor geography and racial equity to address disparate impacts of homelessness on Black and Latino communities.

In doing so, housing officials divided the state into eight regions, in which Santa Clara is included in a nine-county Bay Area expected to receive a sum of $99.4 million, second only to Los Angeles County, according to a planning document. Projects must show how they address racial or other systemic inequities in underserved communities.

The application process is set to begin July 22 through late September, but HCD has set aside a priority period to immediately begin reviewing and awarding qualified projects starting Wednesday through Aug. 13.

The first tier of projects — those that can permanently occupy homes within 90 days — will be fast-tracked for awards within 30 days, the planning document said. To expedite housing, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 83, which exempts converted housing that uses Homekey funding from California Environmental Quality Act regulations and automatically permits zoning compliance.

Homekey funds are generally dispersed at $100,000 per project but may go up to $350,000 with local matching. All funds must be spent by Dec. 30.

“Homekey builds upon the strong collaboration between the state and local governments that led to the success of Project Roomkey,” said Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which oversees HCD, in a statement. “We must use this momentum to build permanent housing solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness.”

9:35 a.m. July 16: San Jose, U.S. Small Business Administration to host federal business loans webinar

Small business owners, nonprofit administrators or contractors struggling to access funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic can learn more about accessing federal loans through a July 23 webinar hosted by the city of San Jose and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

A city news release touted the virtual overview of federal lending programs as a way to help businesses overcome obstacles and provide more borrowing opportunities during the public health crisis. Through the webinar, residents can learn more about federal micro-loans, small business loans and long-term, fixed-rate financing under the SBA.

The July 23 webinar is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Register online on the city website.

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