Coronavirus LIVE BLOG: May 21 to June 3
Photo courtesy of the CDC.

Catch up on our current Coronavirus LIVE BLOG here.

10 p.m. June 3: Santa Clara County supervisors approve child care, financial assistance

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a proposal to devote more than $2.5 million for child care programs in the county, drawing from the federal government’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The proposal authored by board President Cindy Chavez and Supervisor Susan Ellenberg is intended to help child care programs remain in business and expand their hours of operation for up to 10 weeks.

In addition, the board unanimously passed a proposal by Chavez and Supervisor Dave Cortese to provide $5 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which supports the COVID-19 Financial Assistance Relief Program with more than $25 million already raised from corporations, foundations, local governments and private donors.

And as the county has received a surge in applications for the state’s food-assistance program, CalFresh, the board has unanimously approved a proposal by Chavez to explore ways of expanding those benefits.

Read the San José Spotlight story here.

9:50 p.m. June 3: Virtual San Jose job fair June 11

The city of San Jose and work2future — a job development organization serving Santa Clara County residents — are scheduled to host an online job fair June 11 to connect job seekers with manufacturers, nonprofits, law enforcement, and health care companies ready to hire.

Confirmed attendees include Amazon, CVS Health, Familiar Surroundings, Global Connections to Employment, Kidango, Milpitas Police Department, Rejoice Delivers LLC, Manufacture: San Jose, the federal Small Business Administration, Sutter Health, and the Census Bureau.

Register for the event via Zoom. Here is the schedule:

    • 9-9:45 a.m. Business/Finance
    • 9:45-10:30 a.m. Computers/IT
    • 10:30-11:15 a.m. Healthcare
    • 11:15 a.m.-12 p.m. Manufacturing/Trades
    • 12-12:45 p.m. General

See more job opportunities here.

4:55 p.m. June 3: Santa Clara County rent repayment after eviction moratorium extended

After Gov. Gavin Newsom extended his executive order Friday allowing local governments to ban evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including for Santa Clara County, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday lengthened tenants’ repayment period once the local moratorium ends.

On May 29, supervisors aligned their existing countywide moratorium for residential and commercial renters with Newsom’s latest order to now last through July 28. In their board vote Tuesday, county leaders unanimously approved extending the repayment period from 120 days to one year. At least half of rent due must be repaid within the first six months after the ordinance ends.

Prior to collecting past rent, landlords have to inform tenants of their repayment rights, under an amendment by Supervisor Joe Simitian, who originally proposed extending the repayment period to one year. Landlords can’t charge fees during repayment, too.

Along with county, the cities of Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, as well as the town of Los Gatos, have enacted similar moratoria, per a staff report. The county ban reflects the yearlong repayment period for San Jose’s residential moratorium, which expires June 30 unless amended. The more protective eviction ban takes precedence, however.

12:18 p.m. June 3: Gov. Newsom signs state order for in-person voting during pandemic

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Wednesday for in-person voting for every 10,000 registered voters amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which follows his action to mail all eligible California voters ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential election.

When he issued his May 8 order for mail-in ballots to all registered voters, Newsom clarified his administration would work with counties to ensure physical voting on and before Election Day.

“We are committed to protecting the hard-fought right for Californians to make their voices heard this November, even in the face of a pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement. “As the demonstrations across the country remind us, civic participation is critical to our democracy. If we are to address the racial inequities that exist in our institutions, policies and representation, we must ensure that all eligible Californians have an opportunity to safely cast their ballot.”

Wednesday’s executive order requires counties to provide three days of early in-person voting before Election Day starting Oct. 31. In addition, counties can consolidate voting locations to at least one polling center for 10,000 registered voters.

Meanwhile, counties must make ballot dropbox locations for mail-in voting available from Oct. 6 through the end of Election Day.

Newsom’s order requires at least one vote-by-mail drop-off location for every 15,000 registered voters and no fewer than two drop-off locations in a county regardless of the number of registered voters. At least one of those drop-off locations must be fully accessible to the public for at least 12 hours each day during regular hours, the order dictates.

Counties such as Santa Clara that fall under the state Voter’s Choice Act — a 2016 law allowing counties greater flexibility and convenience for voting through mail-in ballots for all registered voters and expanded in-person voting — aren’t required to open voting centers prior to Oct. 31. However, Newsom’s order encourages them to open voting centers earlier to maximize participation on Election Day.

President Donald Trump and others have falsely claimed that mail-in voting is rife with fraud and blasted Newsom’s order for mail-in ballots. The county Registrar of Voters and voting experts say there is scant evidence of voter fraud.

11:11 a.m. June 3: What can’t open under Santa Clara County’s new shelter-in-place order

Effective Friday, Santa Clara County’s shelter-in-place order will allow in-store retail, outdoor dining, childcare for all families as well as religious, cultural and civic activities, reflecting a “significant milestone” in easing public health restrictions, according to County Counsel James Williams.

“While we are still in a shelter-in-place order, this represents a very substantial opening,” he said during a briefing Wednesday, adding that Santa Clara and San Mateo now have some of the least-restrictive orders in the Bay Area, which overall has moved more slowly than the rest of California in reopening.

Under Friday’s order, drive-in services, pet grooming, outdoor swimming pools as well as all retail, manufacturing and logistics can resume with social distancing and sanitation protocols. Most businesses, Williams said, can now reopen.

However, don’t expect hair salons, barbershops or other close-contact personal care services to resume soon, Williams clarified. Additionally, while outdoor dining can resume with modifications. the county still prohibits dine-in eating. Gyms also can’t reopen yet due to concerns over physical distancing, shared equipment and hygiene.

Personal services and dine-in are part of regional variance allowed under California’s stay-at-home order, in which counties can attest to meeting certain public health criteria with the state Department of Public Health. The new order Friday doesn’t include that, and Williams said it would be approximately three weeks before changes are made to shelter-in-place.

Amid criticism by San Jose and county elected leaders Tuesday about the lack of clarity as to when businesses or activities can reopen, Williams noted health experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus’s impact on people and conditions in local communities.

“It’s important that when we share things about what’s going to happen, it’s not false precision,” Williams said. “Putting out specific dates, I think, is a challenge when so much is changing so quickly.”

Read the San José Spotlight story on what will open, and how, under the new order.

9:34 p.m. June 2: Santa Clara County approves nonprofit for contact tracing

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a contract Tuesday with a Southern California California nonprofit provider to organize 1,000 staff for COVID-19 contact tracing.

With up to $12.1 million funded through May 7, 2021, the county has already been working with Heluna Health since early May for consulting and program support to identify COVID-19 cases and people who may have come in contact with them. Contact tracing is an indicator by local health officials in monitoring the spread of COVID-19, in which the county aims to contact at least 90% of COVID-19 cases; ensure people can safely isolate; reach identified contacts who may have been exposed; and make sure those contacts can safely quarantine.

Public health spokeswoman Evelyn Ho told supervisors the county currently has capacity to investigate all cases, though it expects to need more contact tracers as restrictions are eased and 1,000 staff. As of Tuesday, the county had 94 staff available for tracing and 85 in training. In total, there are 301 county employees identified to be reassigned for tracing. while Santa Clara County has requested 500 staff from the state, which are part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts to amass 10,000 contact tracers across California. Nine hundred and sixty two residents, meanwhile, have enrolled to volunteer.

After developing a training plan with the Public Health Department, Heluna would train around 100 people per week in contact tracing, interviewing, using software, confidentiality obligations and other necessary skills, with the goal of organizing 1,000 staff by July 27.

County Executive Jeff Smith told supervisors the county would try to charge it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but he wasn’t sure whether it’s reimbursable.

3:37 p.m. June 2: Santa Clara County isn’t testing enough. Officials blame hospitals.

Health officials told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that Santa Clara County isn’t testing for COVID-19 enough, and the blame lies with three local hospitals.

Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody called increased testing one of the guard rails to reopening. Under indicators by Bay Area health officials, the goal was 200 daily tests per 100,000 people, but the county averaged less than half of that through May.

“The hospitals have not stepped up in many regards to do the testing that we really require per our guidance,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, who oversees testing for the county Public Health Department.

While saying testing has increased overall with 46 sites across the county, Fenstersheib said lack of testing comes from Kaiser Permanente, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Regional Medical Center. He added that issues with availability of reagents, test kits and a “desire to follow guidance” make it difficult for hospitals to increase testing.

Meanwhile, Regional hospital is located in East San Jose, which has been most affected by COVID-19, with disproportionate numbers of Latinos contracting and dying from the virus. The testing officer said there’s anecdotal evidence Regional has turned away people from testing.

County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith clarified that the Bay Area’s testing indicator was based on a previous positivity rate, whereas the number of new cases identified has dropped “precipitously.”

“We thought we knew we needed more (testing), but we did such a good job with shelter-in-place that we could make decisions to relax shelter-in-place with less testing,” Smith said.

Supervisor Joe Simitian emphasized increased testing is still needed, and hospitals need to be called out.

“I don’t think it’s at all inappropriate to say here’s who we need help from,” Simitian said. “If we’re all in this together, then we’re all in it together.”

1:17 p.m. June 2: San Jose City Council to vote on face coverings

The City Council on Tuesday is set to formally require most people to wear face coverings when they’re outside in San Jose.

On May 19, councilmembers unanimously moved forward with the proposal, despite concerns from San Jose police that it would criminalize residents. Authored by Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, the city requirement would accompany Santa Clara County’s existing face-covering requirement inside all businesses.

Before the county enacted its mandate, most of the Bay Area already had similar requirements, including San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, Marin, San Mateo and Sonoma counties. In Santa Clara County, the cities of Palo Alto, Cupertino and Milpitas enacted similar face covering ordinances as well.

Though the Centers for Disease Control said masks can cut the risk of virus transmission between asymptomatic people, the initiative has sparked concern from law enforcement officials who said enforcing the potential law would “drive a wedge between them and the community.”

In addition, the City Council will consider reforming the planning commission appointment process, Measure T projects and other issues, including ratifying a local emergency proclamation in light of recent protests against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Check San José Spotlight for more updates.

11:43 a.m. June 2: Board of Supervisors to meet on immigrant relief, evictions

As Santa Clara County faces a $300 million projected deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday is scheduled to address a litany of issues related to the public health crisis, including contact tracing, immigrant relief funds and expanding the current eviction moratorium, among other agenda items.

At approximately 1 p.m., Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody is scheduled to make her weekly COVID-19 briefing to supervisors.

The meeting began Tuesday morning. View the agenda and stream the virtual meeting here.

6:15 p.m. June 1: County announces changes to come for shelter-in-place order

Santa Clara County health officials announced Monday they will amend the shelter-in-place order to allow in-store retail, outdoor dining, childcare for all families as well as religious, cultural and civic activities previously prohibited to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

With the revised order effective Friday, Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said progress with testing, new cases and hospitalizations permitted the eased restrictions. While the Bay Area has moved slower in easing orders than other parts of California and the United States, the new changes supersede at least two previous shelter-in-place revisions to Cody’s original March 16 order.

“The global pandemic is ongoing, and we must continue to protect the health and well-being of our entire community, especially those most vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19,” Cody said in a statement. “Public Health is about ensuring health in every sense of the word: from diseases like COVID-19, and from social and economic impacts on health, too. For all those reasons, we have chosen to be measured in how and when we reopen.”

Read the San José Spotlight story here.

1:45 p.m. June 1: Gov. Newsom encourages COVID-19 testing amid statewide protests for George Floyd

In light of widespread protests across California over the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday encouraged demonstrators to get tested for COVID-19 to reduce its spread.

More than 2 million tests have been conducted in California to date, with more than 67,000 tests reported Sunday, according to state figures.

“People are being tested substantially so throughout the state of California, even in the midst of this latest challenge,” Newsom told reporters, responding to a question of whether he was worried about the spread of COVID-19 at protests. “We encourage that from a public health and public safety perspective, and want to make sure we continue to provide more sites, more points of access for people to get tested.”

Moreover, Newsom added that when testing sites open, health officials would deal with backlogs of people who would have otherwise gotten tested.

“We continue to encourage people throughout the state with symptoms and those that are asymptomatic that may be in an environment where they’re more vulnerable in the prospect of the spread of this disease,” Newsom said.

Governor Gavin Newsom provides an update on demonstrations across the state and the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posted by California Governor on Monday, June 1, 2020

12:55 p.m. June 1: County public health department urges peaceful protesters to follow COVID-19 protocols

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department issued a statement Monday in light of recent protests following the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, by Minneapolis police a week ago. While recognizing the right to protest, local health officials reminded demonstrators to follow public health protocols intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and monitor symptoms.

Here is the full statement:

“The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department recognizes that peaceful protest in response to the pain, anger and mourning due to deeply rooted inequities and systemic racism is a fundamental right that is critical to the health of our democracy. As residents of the county exercise this right, we respectfully remind everyone that our community is still facing a health crisis as COVID-19 is still present. We urge those engaging in peaceful protest to keep their own health and that of others in mind by following important practices, such as using face coverings and, to the extent possible, maintaining social distancing. We also encourage those who have been in close contact with others at large gatherings to take the opportunity to get tested for COVID-19 within three to five days of exposure, and to watch for any symptoms of COVID-19. There are numerous facilities across the county that offer free testing, which can be found at sccfreetest.org.”

11:25 a.m. June 1: Trump’s voter fraud claims dismissed by local election leaders

After President Donald Trump hurled a firestorm of tweets denouncing vote-by-mail elections, Silicon Valley election leaders insist the voting method is accurate and dispute the president’s claims of voter fraud.

“Voters in our county are used to voting by mail,” Shannon Bushey, the Santa Clara County registrar of voters, told San José Spotlight. “They know it’s the safe way to vote and we haven’t had an issue.”

Based on her more than 25 years of experience, Bushey said that she’s seen little evidence of fraudulent voting and that ballots undergo a thorough verification process.

Every registered voter in California is expected to receive a mail-in-ballot for the Nov. 3 election, a move by Gov. Gavin Newsom to steer people away from voting in-person and potentially spreading the coronavirus.

Read the San José Spotlight story here.

10:15 a.m. June 1: Community leaders urge City Council for race-equity lens in policy making

Representatives from more than 25 community-based organizations wrote to the San Jose City Council urging officials to take racial disparities into account in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the letter dated Friday, local leaders noted that communities of color have been subjected to longstanding racist policies around health care, education, housing and economic opportunity. People of color are also more likely to hold essential service jobs that put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 but are often underpaid and lack access to health care.

Black and Latinx residents in Santa Clara County are disproportionately represented in preliminary case and death data, as San José Spotlight reported. People of color overwhelmingly constitute those seeking monetary assistance locally, particularly in lower-income communities in East San Jose and around downtown.

Ranging from the Health Trust to the African American Community Service Agency, leaders wrote to the City Council, which meets Tuesday, that they should proactively use a race-equity lens, especially amid projected budget shortfalls.

“Now is the time to invest meaningfully in an infrastructure to provide this analysis to make the hard decisions – the hard decisions to fundamentally design policies and reallocate resources in transformational ways,” they wrote. “Failing to invest sufficiently in the City’s response and rebuilding efforts because of budget shortfalls and reductions will only widen these disparities and further traumatize communities of color.”

The local organizations asked for increased support for the city’s immigrant affairs office, prioritized cultural and linguistic competency, and the release of data by race regarding city-measured impacts of COVID-19 on residents and programs. Additionally, leaders called for using race data to develop policies and allocate resources to tackle disparities and root causes, as well as centering people of color most affected by the pandemic in the city’s response and rebuilding.

“We can do more. We must,” community leaders wrote. “As we move ahead, we look forward to working to ensure that our post-coronavirus San Jose is a more equitable San Jose.”

9:57 a.m. May 30: Gov. Newsom extends statewide action on banning evictions

Gov. Gavin Newsom extended his statewide executive order Friday allowing local governments to halt evictions for renters impacted by COVID-19 until July 28.

Newsom’s order, which was originally enacted March 16, affects Santa Clara County’s eviction moratorium by extending it to the July deadline. The county’s moratorium was set to expire Sunday, coinciding with the end of Newsom’s order authorizing local governments to halt evictions due to the public health crisis. But the Board of Supervisors lengthened the county policy Tuesday to align with expected action by the governor.

The county halts evictions for residential and commercial tenants if they show the pandemic or government response has hindered their ability to pay rent. Once the moratorium expires, the county bars landlords from charging late fees for 120 days. Supervisors are also considering extending the repayment period to one year with quarterly payments, as well as preventing garnishing wages or other court remedies for inability to make rent.

On May 19, the San Jose City Council extended its eviction moratorium to June 30, and renters now have a 12-month repayment period after the moratorium expires. Before the changes, tenants had until Dec. 31 to pay back all of their back due rent. Tenants now must pay back 50% of back rent within six months, or Jan. 31, while the rest must be in by June 30, 2021. Additionally, city leaders approved rules for landlords and tenants who want to negotiate repayment plans.

4:48 p.m. May 29: Following criticism of reopening too quickly, Newsom says it’s up to counties

Following criticism on the state easing its stay-home order too quickly, Gov. Gavin Newsom reaffirmed Friday reopening is up to local governments to do so under the state’s framework.

“All of this is done with local public health officers using data to decide what’s appropriate for them,” Newsom said in a briefing. “We are not mandating a pace for opening.”

His comments came after local officials, including Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, said the state was moving too fast in easing restrictions statewide. The Associated Press reported Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and state Senate Democrat Dr. Richard Pan of Sacramento also pushed back on Newsom easing orders too quickly.

Under California’s framework to lifting health orders, counties can reopen certain retail, manufacturing, logistics, offices, places of worship and outdoor museums, but they can also attest to criteria with state public health officials to resume dine-in restaurants, hair salons and barbershops. Criteria includes testing, contact tracing and hospital capacity, and counties must also detail plans to reinstitute restrictions should outbreaks arise.

“The state is in that partnership position to monitor the data, have strong and regular conversations with the counties to make sure that we’re protecting and supporting them to make these decisions,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency. “And when we need to … bring in additional resources.”

Like much of the Bay Area, Santa Clara County has eased restrictions on retail and associated businesses as well as outdoor museums, but it hasn’t reopened dine-in eating or hair services — one of the few regions yet to submit attestations to the state. On Tuesday, Cody, the architect of the state’s first stay-home order, criticized Newsom for moving too quickly in reopening, arguing it didn’t allow for time to analyze the effects of policy changes within COVID-19’s two-week incubation period.

“The pace at which the state has made these modifications is concerning to me,” Cody told the Board of Supervisors. “The state modifications are being made without a real understanding of the consequences of what the last move has been, and with the possibly serious effects for health and possibly serious risk of an exponential growth in cases.”

1:40 p.m. May 29: In light of George Floyd’s death, Newsom points to California’s COVID-19 racial disparities

Acknowledging the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer and ensuing protests in the Twin Cities, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday pointed to racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths in California — in what he said resulted from longstanding socioeconomic issues.

“It’s a theme that connects the dots today,” Newsom said in his daily coronavirus briefing, transitioning to disparate representation of black and Latinx residents affected by the pandemic.

At only 6% of the state, black Californians were 5.3% of positive cases but 10.1% of deaths, which Newsom called “substantially higher.” Latinx residents disproportionately represented the majority of all cases and made up 38.5% of the deaths, the latter reflective of their population. Meanwhile, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders in the state were also overrepresented in cases and deaths compared to their overall population.

“It’s an incredibly important point about the structural challenges that we have as a state and a nation to address the issues that we brought into this crisis — and to substantively address to resolve these issues once and for all,” he said.

Newsom added socioeconomic issues with underlying medical conditions, food deserts and people of color overrepresented in essential work put them at greater risk of COVID-19, which is reflected in Santa Clara County’s racial disparities amid the pandemic.

With increased testing to more than 1.8 million tests conducted and a stable 4.2% positivity rate in the last 14 days, the governor called for the need to track the virus especially in hard-hit low-income communities of color. But he said fears around deportation and “xenophobic rhetoric” nationally that have made people uneasy to get tested and appropriately contain the virus as the state seeks to launch 10,000 contact tracers to confidentially monitor cases.

“It’s incumbent that we have a tracing corps that looks like our communities,” Newsom said.

9:58 a.m. May 29: Webinars on Santa Clara County eviction moratorium

The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and Silicon Valley at Home are scheduled host three Zoom webinars Friday on Santa Clara County’s extended eviction moratorium in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously extended the local eviction moratorium, although local officials now must wait on Gov. Gavin Newsom to lengthen his executive order allowing California counties to halt evictions amid the pandemic.

The county moratorium was set to expire Sunday, coinciding with the end of Newsom authorizing local governments to halt evictions due to the public health crisis. Now, the county policy lasts until Aug. 31 or when the governor lengthens his order — whichever comes sooner.

Inaction by Newsom could result in weaker eviction protections locally, but officials expect the governor to extend his order or supervisors would meet Tuesday to revise the moratorium. Still, with rent due for many on the first of the month Monday, County Counsel James Williams said it’s unlikely anyone gets forced from their home. The California courts’ rule-making body, the Judicial Council, has limited unlawful detainer cases for evictions, he added.

Friday’s webinar will answer questions about paying rent Monday, as well as San Jose’s eviction moratorium that has been extended to June 30.

Currently, the county halts evictions for residential and commercial tenants if they show the pandemic or government response has hindered their ability to pay rent. Once the ordinance expires, the county bars landlords from charging late fees for 120 days. Supervisors are also considering extending the repayment period, as well as preventing garnishing wages or other court remedies for inability to make rent.

In addition to San Jose and the county’s moratoria, Newsom enacted his own eviction ban that is set to also expire Sunday. Other local cities have also enacted moratoria, but at all levels of city, county and state actions, the most protective policy for tenants takes precedence.

4:50 p.m. May 28: Vietnamese and Spanish webinars on San Jose eviction moratorium

The San Jose Housing Department is scheduled to host Zoom webinars Friday in Vietnamese and Spanish about the city’s eviction moratorium.

On May 19, the City Council extended the moratorium for residential tenants to June 30 from the end of May for people who can’t pay rent due to the pandemic, and renters now have a 12-month repayment period after the moratorium expires. Before the changes, tenants had until Dec. 31 to pay back all of their back due rent. Tenants now must pay back 50% of back rent within six months, or Jan. 31, while the rest must be in by June 30, 2021. Additionally, city leaders approved rules for landlords and tenants who want to negotiate repayment plans.

Santa Clara County also has an eviction moratorium for residential and commercial tenants, which was extended to Aug. 31 pending Gov. Gavin Newsom lengthening his executive order allowing local governments across the state to ban evictions amid the pandemic. The county policy also provides 120 days of relief from landlords charging late fees. Additionally, Newsom enacted a statewide eviction moratorium. The more protective moratorium for renters takes precedence.

  • The Vietnamese webinar will take place at 10 a.m. To call in, the phone number is 408-638-0968 and the meeting ID is 926 0590 5781.
  • The Spanish webinar will take place at 2 p.m. To call in, the phone number is 408-638-0968 and the meeting ID is 964 4592 0361.

4:23 p.m. May 28: Food assistance requests soar in Silicon Valley

With unprecedented numbers of people filing for unemployment amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing government stay-home responses, Santa Clara County families are struggling to eat.

At Second Harvest of Silicon Valley — where the National Guard is distributing food and taking calls — officials say they’ve delivered more than 2 million meals a week last month, a 45 percent spike compared to February. The nonprofit received an average of 1,000 daily calls to its food connection hotline in April, up from about 150 a day before the pandemic.

The Santa Clara County Social Services Agency received double the number of applications for CalFresh — the state’s food assistance program funded by the federal government directed to low-income families.

However, providers have had difficulty reaching older residents who prefer to apply for CalFresh in person. Additionally, language barriers remain an ongoing issue, in addition to worries surrounding the Trump administration’s expansion of the public charge rule, which can hinder immigrants from getting green cards or visas if they are seen to use, or could use in the future, certain benefits programs, including CalFresh.

Read the San José Spotlight story here.

12:38 p.m. May 28: California surpasses 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases

A day after Johns Hopkins University tallied more than 100,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19, California reported more than 100,000 confirmed cases Thursday.

The state saw its largest increase in lab-confirmed daily cases to date, at 2,717 Wednesday. It also recorded 89 new deaths — among the state’s higher daily increases — for a total of 3,973 people who have died.

By state, California has the fifth-highest number of cases and ranks eighth highest in deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to leading the world in the number of dead, the United States also has the most confirmed cases globally, at more than 1.7 million, per Johns Hopkins figures.

In his briefing Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state and national figures demonstrate the pandemic’s continued effects.

“We still have a long way of going to get to where we need to be, which is immunity and to a vaccine,” Newsom said. “It is incumbent upon all of us to take seriously this moment.”

Figures of COVID-19 cases and deaths in California as of May 28, 2020. (Courtesy of state of California)

11:57 a.m. May 28: Santa Cruz County preparing to apply for California’s stay-at-home variance

Just over the mountains from the South Bay on Highway 17, Santa Cruz County is preparing to apply for regional variance to reopen certain businesses and activities under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s framework to ease the state’s stay-at-home restrictions.

At a special meeting Friday, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors will consider approving documents to support reopening dine-in restaurants, barbershops and hair salons categorized within the state’s late stage two of four in easing the stay-home order. In order to ease restrictions in compliance with state and local guidelines, counties must meet state Department of Public Health criteria that include stability in cases and hospitalizations, worker protections, testing capacity and planning for containment should outbreaks arise. In a board report, county officials said those thresholds are fulfilled.

On Tuesday, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel modified the local shelter-in-place order to reopen in-store retail, churches and office workspaces under statewide guidance. In its FAQs, the Health Services Agency said supervisors were expected to provide a letter requesting to move into stage two variance on June 2. However, county leaders expedited the motion for Friday, though documents for attestation weren’t ready as of Wednesday, as the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

Meanwhile, San Benito County was already approved to move into latter stage two, while Monterey County submitted documents Tuesday. Aside from Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties that have regional variance, the Bay Area, including Santa Clara County, has moved more slowly in easing restrictions.

11:15 a.m. May 28: San Jose councilmember to form health and racial equity task force

Amid ongoing racial disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic, San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco announced she would form a health and racial equity task force Thursday.

“This task force will be making policy recommendations to local governing bodies that ensure political leaders prioritize strategic and rapid local response to the disparate health impacts of the virus among people of color,” a news release from Carrasco’s office said, “particularly Latino/a, African American, Asian and Native American residents, including those experiencing poverty, immigrants and refugees, older adults, people with disabilities, formerly incarcerated, and unsheltered residents.”

Along with Carrasco, Stephanie Kleinheinz, a family nurse practitioner and chief executive officer for Santa Clara County school health clinics, and state Assembly Democrat Kansen Chu, of Milpitas, are scheduled to speak on Thursday’s Zoom conference call.

County public health data show Latinxs are overrepresented in COVID-19 cases and deaths, while black people constitute a higher number of the county’s dead than their overall population, as San José Spotlight has reported. The local figures reflect national trends as black, Latinx and Native American communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Check back with San José Spotlight for more coverage on the task force.

10:05 a.m. May 28: San Jose Housing Department hosts eviction moratorium webinar

The San Jose Housing Department is scheduled to host a Zoom webinar Thursday afternoon to explain recent changes to the city’s eviction moratorium and how it overlaps with county and state bans.

On May 19, the City Council extended the moratorium for residential tenants to June 30 from the end of May for people who can’t pay rent due to the pandemic, and renters now have a 12-month repayment period after the moratorium expires. Before the changes, tenants had until Dec. 31 to pay back all of their back due rent. Tenants now must pay back 50% of back rent within six months, or Jan. 31, while the rest must be in by June 30, 2021. Additionally, city leaders approved rules for landlords and tenants who want to negotiate repayment plans.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors extended its own ban on evictions on Tuesday, although local officials are now waiting on Gov. Gavin Newsom to lengthen his own state executive order allowing local governments to halt evictions amid the pandemic, which currently expires Sunday. Inaction by Newsom could result in weaker eviction protections locally.

Currently, the county halts evictions for residential and commercial tenants amid the public health crisis if they show the pandemic or government response has hindered their ability to pay rent. The county also bars landlords from charging late fees for 120 days once the ordinance expires. Supervisors are also considering extending the repayment period, as well as preventing garnishing wages or other court remedies for inability to make rent.

Newsom also took executive action to limit evictions, but housing advocates say it’s less protective than local moratoria. With all three eviction bans by the city, county and state, the most protective policy for tenants takes precedence.

Thursday’s Zoom webinar takes place at 2 p.m. To join the Eviction Moratorium Webinar, use passcode 508046. The webinar is also accessible via phone by dialing 877-853-5257 and entering webinar ID 932 5831 1847. For more information on the city eviction moratorium and to see Tuesday’s Housing Department webinar, visit here.

8:25 p.m. May 27: Culturally focused mental health town halls

The Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department is hosting a series of culturally focused virtual town hall meetings to address COVID-19-related stress, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Participants joining the Zoom call can learn about local mental health resources available and have open dialogue with mental health professionals and peers.

  • The town hall in Vietnamese held Wednesday can be viewed here.
  • A town hall for the Korean community that took place Wednesday at 7 p.m. can be viewed  here.
  • On Friday from 12-1:30 p.m., county officials are scheduled to host a Zoom call for the Indian community. Register here.

4:05 p.m. May 27: U.S. surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

The United States surpassed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Since the country’s first known death from the novel coronavirus of a 57-year-old woman in Santa Clara County on Feb. 6 — less than four months ago — latest figures show more than 100,000 people have died in the United States. Along with the world’s highest case count at nearly 1.7 million confirmed cases, the United States also has the most dead.

Globally, per Johns Hopkins data, there are close to 5.7 million positive cases and more than 354,000 deaths.

In a press conference Monday, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said the world is in the middle of the pandemic’s first wave, pointing to case surges in South Asia, South America and Africa.

“We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up,” Ryan said.

1:51 p.m. May 27: Health officer updates on schools, pools, heat wave

In outlining Santa Clara County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody on Wednesday said school reopening plans are being developed, while cooling centers have opened amid a heat wave. But pools aren’t allowed to reopen for now.

Cody said the county Public Health Department now has staff developing protocols to reopen schools that have been closed for in-person classes since mid-March. However, Cody didn’t provide a timeline to resume.

With a heat advisory in effect until Thursday and temperatures at Mineta San Jose International Airport in the 90s, the county’s top health official said many homes don’t have air conditioning, and residents unable to cool down should get to cooling centers. The cooling centers, Cody went on, follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Federal health guidance advises appropriate physical distancing of 6 feet, air filtration, screening for COVID-19 symptoms and frequent cleaning. The county requires face coverings with the exception of children ages 6 or younger or if it’s medically not advised for a person.

Reopening public pools in the county, however, is off the table in order to comply with state health restrictions under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.

Here are public cooling centers listed by the county Public Health Department:

Three county libraries are offering cooling centers on Wednesday and Thursday from 1-6 p.m.:

  • Saratoga Library, 13650 Saratoga Ave.
  • Gilroy Library, 350 W. 6th St.
  • Morgan Hill Library, 660 W. Main St.

Five San Jose cooling centers are open Wednesday from 1-9 p.m. and Thursday from 1-7 p.m.:

  • Mayfair Community Center, 2039 Kammerer Ave.
  • Camden Community Center, 3369 Union Ave.
  • Seven Trees Community Center, 3590 Cas Drive
  • Roosevelt Community Center, 901 E. Santa Clara St.
  • Cypress Community Center, 403 Cypress Ave.

In Campbell, the Community Center, at 1 W. Campbell Ave., has a cooling center inside its Roosevelt Redwood Room on Wednesday and Thursday from 1:30-8 p.m.

11:56 a.m. May 27: Health officer affirms Santa Clara County’s gradual reopening

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody reaffirmed the gradual easing of health restrictions to analyze their effects while ensuring public confidence in measures  that are taken.

“We’re trying to make sure that we prevent infections, that we minimize the other health harms from COVID and sheltering in place, and that we make it safe,” Cody said in a briefing Wednesday. “So that when we do come out and gradually ease and get our economy going again, that it is safe. It feels safe, and that it is safe.”

Cody further detailed her frustration with state changes versus local health orders, a day after she criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom for moving too quickly in easing stay-at-home restrictions since early May. Although the more restrictive county order takes precedence, she said the rate at which Newsom has eased the state order has made it difficult understanding what activities are allowed and communicating “why” they can resume, she said. Much is still unknown about COVID-19, she went on, so reopening protocols must be as specific as possible, which takes time to develop and implement.

But by making changes quickly and not evaluating their effects, Cody said, officials move blindly. She likened the spread of COVID-19 to a fire during wildfire season, saying the goal is to prevent a  large outbreak and contain expected small “spot fires” of cases that arise. She argued that a phased approach to analyze impacts for at least two weeks — coinciding with the virus’s incubation period — can better manage outbreaks.

“What we don’t want is a fire burning out of control that we can’t see,” Cody said. “That’s why we’re going to move slowly.”

Cody also pointed to existing inequities for low-income residents and communities of color who often work in low-wage jobs and live in overcrowded housing with a lack of access to health care. They would be at greatest risk, and Latinx communities are already overrepresented in the county’s COVID-19 cases and deaths.

“We can’t just let the virus go and forget that the people that are going to be disproportionately impacted are people living in those communities,” Cody went on. “That is not acceptable.”

9:25 a.m. May 27: DMV extends expiring licenses, Santa Clara office to reopen

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Friday announced it would extend expiration dates for drivers who need to renew their licenses in order to delay or avoid an office visit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drivers 70 years old or older with noncommercial licenses expiring in June or July will receive a 120-day temporary extension, according to a DMV news release. The DMV previously issued a 120-day extension for licenses expiring from March through May, and the DMV is further extending licenses expiring in March to be valid through July. Although state law requires drivers 70 or older to visit a DMV office to renew their license, department officials can issue extensions. No action is required since eligible drivers will receive a paper license extension in the mail.

For drivers 69 years old or younger, licenses expiring between March and July will receive temporary extensions until July 31. The DMV noted most drivers are eligible for online renewal. While the extension is automatic, drivers 69 or younger won’t receive a new card or extension in the mail. Instead, they can request a free temporary paper extension online, though officials said it’s not needed to drive.

Driver license permits expiring in July or August are now extended six months or to a date 24 months from the date of application, whichever is earlier, the DMV said. All commercial licenses, endorsements and learners permits expiring between March and June will remain valid through June 30.

On Tuesday, the DMV announced it was reopening 46 more offices effective Thursday, for a total of 71 locations providing services for limited in-person visits since the state department closed all of its offices to the public March 27. In the South Bay, the Santa Clara DMV will reopen with limited transactions.

9:33 p.m. May 26: County extends eviction moratorium — with a catch

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously extended the local eviction moratorium Tuesday, though local officials now must wait on Gov. Gavin Newsom to lengthen his executive order allowing California counties to halt evictions amid the pandemic.

The county eviction ban was set to expire Sunday, coinciding with the end of Newsom’s authorization for local governments to halt evictions due to the public health crisis.

Now, the county moratorium lasts until Aug. 31 or when the governor lengthens his order — whichever comes sooner, according to the proposal by supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez, who also acts as board president.

Officials expect Newsom to extend his order. But if he doesn’t, County Counsel James Williams told supervisors, “We will be able to return subsequently with some smaller version of what we might still be able to move forward that doesn’t have preemption issues from the state.”

Supervisors would then need to meet next Tuesday to issue a revised moratorium, which currently halts evictions for residential and commercial tenants during the crisis if they show the pandemic or ensuing government response has hindered their ability to pay rent. The county also bars landlords throughout the region from charging late fees for 120 days once the ordinance expires.

For the Monday — the first of the month — between the executive order’s expiration and supervisors’ possible additional action, Williams said it’s unlikely anyone gets forced from their home. The California courts’ rule-making body, the Judicial Council, has prevented unlawful detainer cases for evictions, he added.

Nevertheless, Simitian and Chavez also wrote to Newsom urging him to extend his action because the county’s ban is predicated on state clearance.

“Especially in the Bay Area, we are battling a particularly challenging confluence of a health crisis and a housing crisis,” Simitian and Chavez wrote in a letter dated Saturday. “Housing insecurity is speaking as more and more paychecks are impacted by the emergency. As our residents protect us all from COVID-19 by sheltering in place, we must do everything we can to help them from being forced from their homes.”

With Tuesday’s vote, Simitian moved to have staff explore yearlong repayment of past due rent, while Supervisor Dave Cortese asked for more guidance on stopping judicial remedies such as wage garnishing for nonpayment of rent amid the pandemic.

8:35 p.m. May 21: Supervisors move forward with 200-member team for health and business education

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously moved forward Tuesday with exploring the creation of a 200-member outreach team that would explain public health orders while also providing resources to communities and businesses on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Under the proposal by Board President Cindy Chavez, county staff are now directed to report back on program implementation at next Tuesday’s meeting with the option to quickly develop the program, which is intended to conduct outreach in areas hard hit by COVID-19, like East San Jose.

The Community Health and Business Engagement Team is modeled after the promotores de salud, or community health workers, and engages residents and business owners in at least Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Tagalog, according to Chavez’s office. Workers would also distribute free masks, including guidance on how to use the masks, as well as other safety protocols, and encourage increased testing in communities. Team members would serve at least six months and possibly up to a year and a half depending on the pandemic’s duration.

Supervisors requested additional guidance on the outreach team’s overlap with contact tracing, as the county Public Health Department has called for 1,000 tracers in hard-hit communities to prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 locally.

7 p.m. May 26: City of Santa Clara ups small business grant program to $1.1 million

Small businesses in Santa Clara will have another shot at earning thousands of dollars to help ease the impacts of COVID-19.

The Santa Clara City Council on Tuesday approved adding $300,000 to its Small Business Assistance Grant Program, which is dedicated to helping ease payroll and lease costs.

Once this new pot runs dry, the program will have distributed a total of $1.1 million to businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees and a physical store front in town. It was originally proposed as a $250,000 program.

Less than a month after the last $300,000 bump April 28, City Manager Deanna Santana said her office has been cobbling together newly freed funds as the coronavirus continues to impact the city, including from the recently canceled Fourth of July event and reimbursed costs to the school district’s meal program, which will now supplement the city’s efforts toward providing senior and youth food resources.

On a first-come, first-serve basis, shuttered nonessential businesses will receive one-time funds of $10,000, while those deemed essential can receive $5,000 because their doors stayed open.

This latest tranche can assist another 30 to 60 businesses, but city staff said there are still applications waiting in the queue after the city received around 700 grant applications. Of the 150 applications already reviewed – all received within the first five minutes of accepting paperwork – 109 grants have been awarded, totaling $785,000.

Santana said the city will likely turn around the newly allocated funds next week.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor added that efforts are underway in contacting some of the larger businesses in town to help out and donate to the small business grant program.

“All of us need to be healthy, working and successful,” Gillmor said. “We’re all part of a system here, and I think our larger community needs to step up and help our small businesses … that are trying to survive. Stay tuned – we’re going to be tapping you all to help us in this effort.”

5:22 p.m. May 26: Supervisors approve creating cost tracker dashboard

Santa Clara County supervisors unanimously approved developing a COVID-19 cost tracker Tuesday, in what proponents said is an effort to increase transparency around spending, especially as governments face unprecedented deficits.

Under the proposal, supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Dave Cortese sought to create a dashboard for residents to see breakdowns on expenditures. Already, the county has public dashboards to count COVID-19 cases and deaths, hospital capacity and long-term care facilities.

“We’re asking our community to sacrifice so much right now, and we owe it to them to show that we’re spending this money in a way that is going to get us out of shelter-in-place as quickly as safely possible,” Ellenberg said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The dashboard would show costs by date, type and vendor, as well as those made by policy committee and department. Additionally, it would detail expenses by expected avenue of cost reimbursement by federal or state resources, and the ability to view expenses incurred aligned to indicators of lifting the shelter-in-place order, Ellenberg and Cortese’s offices had said in a news release.

Officials also said the dashboard would also serve as a tool to inform larger general budget discussions in June that supervisors must approve. As San José Spotlight reported, local and state governments face historic budget deficits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The county has a $246 million deficit to its general fund alone, County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith told supervisors on May 12, a shortfall he said hasn’t ever been seen in the county’s history.

Ellenberg said a first version of the dashboard would ideally be developed by county administrators in two weeks or less.

3:50 p.m. May 26: SCC health officer says California moving too fast in easing restrictions

Santa Clara County’s top health official said Tuesday the rate at which California is easing stay-at-home restrictions is “concerning,” with little understanding of effects on public health.

In early May, Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined a road map for the state to ease stay-at-home restrictions and has since issued guidance for multiple industries to reopen for in-person services with modifications. County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody believes the state is moving too fast, in what appears to be her first public criticism of the Newsom administration’s COVID-19 response.

“The pace at which the state has made these modifications is concerning to me,” Cody told the Board of Supervisors in a report, adding that changes can’t be seen within COVID-19’s incubation period of 14 days, let alone a preferred three-week period. “The state modifications are being made without a real understanding of the consequences of what the last move has been, and with the possibly serious effects for health and possibly serious risk of an exponential growth in cases.”

Such actions by the state, Cody added, are “therefore, a risk to social and economic well-being.”

She specifically cited changes Newsom announced Monday — with statewide guidance for in-person religious, cultural and political gatherings — that she believes increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 “based on probability alone.” If spread from gatherings arise, she said the ability to contain the virus from spreading is limited and exceeds the bandwidth of contact tracing.

Moving too fast leaves officials blind and doesn’t allow for safe implementation, Cody said, particularly for vulnerable populations like low-income communities of color that are disproportionately represented in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Instead, she affirmed the Bay Area’s phased approach to reopening certain businesses and activities, which Newsom has supported based on local public health needs.

“If our overall rate of transmission remains stable, we will be able to continue to ease our restrictions and safely reopen activities on a regular cadence with at least an incubation period between each phase,” Cody said.

1:16 p.m. May 26: California issues regional guidance on reopening barbershops, hair salons

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced new regional guidance for barbershops and hair salons in California to reopen, though nail salons and other personal care services will have to wait.

Resuming operations of these hair services will require county health and elected officials to attest to meeting certain criteria defined by the state Department of Public Health in moving further into stage two of four of easing the state’s stay-at-home order. Newsom said 47 of California’s 58 counties will be able to reopen hair salons and barbershops.

“Those counties will begin to allow for those kinds of operations with meaningful modifications, with the appropriate protective gear,” Newsom said.

Nevertheless, Santa Clara County and the Bay Area more broadly are moving more slowly than the rest of the state in easing health orders, so it’s unlikely the new guidance Tuesday affects local hair salons and barbershops just yet.

For barbershops and hair salons that can reopen in their regions, though, Newsom said these businesses need face coverings for workers and customers. Services that can’t be performed with face masks on should be suspended for now, according to the new guidance.

With each customer, employees should disinfect tools, use single-use items that can immediately be thrown away, and ensure physical distancing up until the haircut or other service. Appointments should be staggered, and clients should wait outside before their service; businesses must ensure that workers don’t see multiple customers at once. Doors to businesses should be left open, and break rooms should be closed.

However, nail salons — an industry that Newsom has said had the first case of community transmission — will have to wait. The governor said his administration is working with state legislators for more specific details to reopen nail salons and other personal care services.

“The issues there require, I think, a little bit more specificity, a little bit more nuance and details in terms of the guidance to satisfy our health experts and … fundamentally the health guidance that is foundational in terms of our efforts,” Newsom said.

The governor previewed additional guidelines expected for summer camps, child care facilities, schools and the film and television industries, which are in talks with executives and labor representatives.

11:50 a.m. May 26: Stock Exchange reopens as U.S. COVID-19 deaths near 100,000

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rang the bell Tuesday to reopen the New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor, in a symbolic gesture for hopes of the U.S. economy’s recovery as the country approached 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.

“I don’t believe this economy just bounces back, and it is not going to be enough just to go back to where the economy was,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We are going to rebuild and recreate the economy for the future — stronger than before. Reopening the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is the first step.”

It was the first time the Stock Exchange’s trading floor — located in the hardest-hit U.S. state — had resumed activity since March 23. The Associated Press reported stocks surged Tuesday morning, with the S&P 500 reaching its highest level in more than two months and the Dow Jones increasing more than 660 points.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the U.S. had 98,261 deaths and more than 1.6 million cases of COVID-19, the most in the world. New York alone accounted for 29,193 deaths and 365,405 cases, though Cuomo said the rate of new cases and deaths has been decreasing.

Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization, said in a press conference Monday the globe is in the middle of the pandemic’s first wave, pointing to case surges in South Asia, South America and Africa. WHO reported 343,514 deaths and more than 5.4 million cases as of Tuesday.

“We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up,” Ryan said.

5 p.m. May 25: Republican Party sues California over vote-by-mail

The California Republican Party and national GOP filed a lawsuit Sunday against California for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order moving to all mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit alleges Newsom’s May 8 order — which calls for mailing ballots to all registered voters while allowing set voting centers to remain open — is illegal under federal and state law. It also claims all-mail elections promote voter fraud.

“In a direct usurpation of the legislature’s authority, Governor Newsom issued an executive order purporting to rewrite the entire election code for the November 2020 election,” the lawsuit said. “This brazen power grab was not authorized by state law and violates both the Elections Clause and Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Governor’s Order is invalid and must be enjoined.”

Republicans further argue it will “create a recipe for disaster” by mailing ballots to all registered voters, and officials will arbitrarily choose where in-person voting will occur. The lawsuit says the policy will invite voter fraud and other illegitimate forms of voting.

There is scant evidence of fraudulent voting in the U.S., as FactCheck has found. A 2019 study in the American Political Science Review about double voting — a common form of voter fraud — estimates that at most only one in 4,000 voters cast two ballots, suggesting “double voting is not currently carried out in such a systematic way that it presents a threat to the integrity of American elections.”

4:25 p.m. May 25: Updated guidance issued for in-person retail shopping in California

After Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed retail businesses to reopen in California with curbside pickup in early May, the state revised guidance Monday to now allow in-store shopping with modifications and under local government approval.

On May 7, the state originally issued guidance for retail clothing, florists, bookstores, sporting goods and music stores to reopen, along with associated logistics and manufacturers, as part of the state’s second of four stages to easing stay-home restrictions.

While the state required physical distancing and other measures including curbside pickup, Monday’s announcement allows retail stores to allow customers inside, a Department of Public Health news release said. But this does not include personal services such as hair or nail salons and barbershops.

Nevertheless, resuming in-store retail is subject to approval by local health departments. In Santa Clara County, officials eased the shelter-in-place order Friday to permit all retail businesses to reopen with curbside pickup while resuming associated manufacturing, warehouses and logistical operations with modifications, such as requiring face coverings inside all businesses.

The Bay Area has been slower than other parts of California to ease public health restrictions; Newsom has said local jurisdictions can move at their own pace.

3:35 p.m. May 25: California issues guidance for places of worship reopening

The state of California issued guidance Monday for places of worship to reopen with modifications including limiting attendance during services.

Under guidance by the Department of Public Health and Division of Occupational Safety and Health, places of worship must limit building capacity to 25% or 100 maximum attendees, whichever is lower.

In-person religious services are part of the state’s third of four stages to ending Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-home order, though places of worship must be permitted to resume services by local health rules. However, it’s unlikely these changes for religious institutions apply anytime soon in Santa Clara County either, as local health officials have moved more cautiously than the state in easing restrictions. The county’s shelter-in-place order revised Friday doesn’t allow in-person or drive-in religious services.

Along with developing workspace specific plans, employee and volunteer training for sanitation and social distancing, and individual screening, the state guidance encourages places of worship are encouraged to hold in-person meetings outside, limit services’ length, and stay closed outside of scheduled services. Furthermore, religious leaders should stagger schedules for congregants and retain the same meeting groups.

Additional considerations, per state guidance, include discontinuing self-service food and beverages at religious events, as well as stopping singing, group recitation and other practices that could increase the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 through contaminated exhaled droplets. Officials also said to consider modifying traditions such as kissing ritual objects, giving rites and communion.

At funerals, places of worship are asked to reduce visitor capacity and stagger visitation. Officials also encouraged modifying religious or cultural practices when washing or shrouding bodies of people who have died from COVID-19, in consultation and compliance with local guidance.

After three weeks, the state Public Health Department, along with local health officials, will review the guidance and provide further direction as part of phasing in activities. Still, the state said it’s “strongly recommended” places of worship continue remote services and other activities for people who are vulnerable to COVID-19, including older adults and those with underlying health conditions.

The state’s guidance released Monday comes after a federal appeals court upheld Newsom’s ban on in-person religious services Friday, and President Donald Trump’s announcement Friday to override governors who don’t immediately reopen places of worship. However, it’s unclear whether the presidency has authority to supersede local health measures.

1:20 p.m. May 25: Santa Clara County supervisors consider extending eviction moratorium

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will consider extending the temporary eviction moratorium Tuesday for people who have difficulty paying rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s up to the state to let it do so.

Currently, the county eviction bans expires Sunday, coinciding with the end of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order that authorizes local governments across California to halt evictions amid the public health crisis.

With at least a four-fifths vote by the board, the county would extend the local moratorium until Aug. 31 or when Newsom lengthens his order — whichever comes sooner, according to the proposal by supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez, who also acts as board president. In a letter dated Saturday, the two supervisors also wrote to Newsom urging him to extend his action because the county’s ban is predicated on state clearance.

Chavez expects Newsom to extend his order,according to the supervisor’s spokesperson, Beth Willon.

“Especially in the Bay Area, we are battling a particularly challenging confluence of a health crisis and a housing crisis,” Simitian and Chavez wrote to Newsom. “Housing insecurity is speaking as more and more paychecks are impacted by the emergency. As our residents protect us all from COVID-19 by sheltering in place, we must do everything we can to help them from being forced from their homes.”

In a news release, Simitian and Chavez pointed to existing local crises with rising homelessness and lack of housing affordability, as many residents pay up to half of their income on rent, leaving limited money for families to spend on other basic necessities.

Newsom first signed an executive order March 16 suspending state laws that restrict local governments from halting evictions for nonpayment of rent because of the pandemic, before enacting a statewide eviction moratorium March 27. However, housing advocates said the state’s ban on evictions didn’t go far enough in protecting renters because it required more notification and documentation to landlords.

On March 24, the county unanimously adopted its ordinance halting evictions for residential and commercial tenants during the crisis if they show the pandemic or ensuing government response has hindered their ability to pay rent. Other governments have enacted similar moratoria, but Santa Clara County bars landlords throughout the region from charging late fees for 120 days once the ordinance expires.

Both the state and county eviction moratoria allow local ordinances to take effect if they better protect tenants.

11:29 a.m. May 25: Santa Clara County expands testing in areas with higher COVID-19 rates

Santa Clara County expanded six free testing sites for COVID-19 on Monday, in what officials say was based on areas with higher rates of recent cases.

“The county is bringing testing capacity to where it’s needed,” said Cindy Chavez, president of the Board of Supervisors, in a statement. “Please take advantage of this opportunity to get tested in your neighborhood: it’s fast, free, and you don’t need insurance.”

There will be temporary outdoor pop-up sites at Mountain View’s Rengstorff Park and East San Jose’s Tropicana Shopping Center this week, while drive-thru testing is available by appointment in Milpitas, Morgan Hill and two locations in San Jose, a county news release said. Now, Santa Clara County has more than 46 testing sites, according to Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, who oversees COVID-19 testing for the county.

“We’ve moved away from just symptomatic people for COVID-19,” Fenstersheib said in a press conference Monday, “and we are now looking to make sure that we capture anybody, and test (people) who may have been exposed and who is carrying the virus.”

Through nasal swabs performed by patients themselves, the viral-detection tests diagnose people who have the infection, even if no symptoms are shown. Fenstersheib said asymptomatic infections may account for up to 35% of cases, and there are also positive cases that don’t show symptoms for at least a few days. Health officials also encouraged essential workers with regular public interaction to get tested immediately and once every month moving forward.

“Testing can identify the infection before a person feels unwell or before they spread it to another person with potentially deadly consequences,” the county news release said, adding that people can also get tested through their doctor, or one of the free sites locally.

Fenstersheib said testing data are important in identifying people who have been exposed to cases and determining the positive test rate for people who have been infected. As the disease is contained, the rate of positive tests should decline, he added.

Here are times and locations for the two pop-up sites:

  • Monday, May 25, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View
  • Wednesday, May 27, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View
  • Friday, May 29, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: La Placita Tropicana Shopping Center parking lot, 1630 Story Road, San Jose

These are the four drive-thru sites; make an appointment here beforehand:

  • 1325 E. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas (location subject to change)
  • 18550 De Paul Drive, Morgan Hill
  • 777 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
  • 1993 McKee Road, San Jose

Call 211 if you have more questions. Visit the county website for more information on testing sites.

3:20 p.m. May 22: California launches contact tracing program, public awareness campaign

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday the California Connected program for contact tracing and public awareness intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“This is all about mitigating spread and allowing us to move to reopen our economy much much faster than we already would,” Newsom said during his daily briefing Friday.

Public health workers across the state will connect with people who test positive for the virus and work with them — and people they have been in close contact with — to ensure they get tested, medical care and other services to slow the spread of the virus, the governor’s office said in a news release. Officials emphasized information provided to local public health departments is confidential under state law, nor will contact tracers ask for financial information, social security numbers or immigration status.

As part of efforts to dramatically increase contact tracing, the University of California, San Francisco and UCLA have worked with state officials to rapidly train a tracing workforce. The state plans to launch 10,000 contact tracers across California. On Thursday, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department announced plans to amass 1,000 tracers locally.

Accenture, an Irish professional services company, will launch a data management platform developed by Salesforce and communication capabilities — via phone calls, texts and emails — with Amazon Connect. Similar large-scale tracing by the companies has already been done in Massachusetts, Newsom’s office said.

In addition, Californians can expect to see billboards, social media and videos, along with hearing radio ads, in multiple languages for awareness around slowing the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, public health workers, identified on caller IDs as “CA COVID TEAM,” will call, text and email people who test positive for COVID-19 and people they may have exposed to the virus.

“A key step in stopping the spread of COVID-19 is quickly identifying and limiting new cases, across the diversity of our populations – and that’s exactly what this statewide program does,” said state Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell, who oversees the Department of Public Health, in a statement. “We are bringing together the best minds in public health, academia and private industry to design a program that can help lower the risk for COVID-19 in all of our communities and keep us on the path to reopening.”

2:17 p.m. May 22: Gov. Newsom says California guidance for religious services to be issued Monday

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday guidelines for religious services to resume in-person will be unveiled Monday.

Earlier in the week, Newsom had already said religious services and haircuts could resume as early as Monday. Both activities are included in the state’s third of four stages to easing the stay-home order intended to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We were working with the faith community to advance the efforts to begin to put out guidelines, processes and procedures to keep the public health and safety of congregants and parishioners,” Newsom said during a Friday briefing. He added the state was looking at variances between settings and faith groups, from megachurches to synagogues.

Just before Newsom’s briefing, President Donald Trump held a White House press conference saying churches, mosques and synagogues were “essential places that provide essential services.”

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”

However, it’s unclear whether the president has authority to override local or state health orders. Trump didn’t take any questions, but White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters it was up to religious groups to reopen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued interim guidance Friday for religious services to resume, which Newsom said the state would consider.

In a letter Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department warned Newsom that California’s stay-home order may infringe on religious liberties by not allowing congregants to meet in person. Additionally, more than 1,200 California pastors signed a petition Thursday saying they will defy Newsom’s order by allowing in-person services. But on May 10, a Mendocino County church, Assembly of God, defied public health orders and held livestreamed services with congregants, where the pastor contracted COVID-19, according to a county news release.

Asked about the pastors’ planned defiance and Trump’s announcements, Newsom said reopening places of worship was an issue he took seriously, but he didn’t respond directly to the president.

“We have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and their fundamental need and desire to practice their faith,” Newsom said.

Governor Gavin Newsom will provide an update on the state’s response to #COVID19.

Posted by California Governor on Friday, May 22, 2020

12:09 p.m. May 22: Drive-thru donations for student laptops in San Jose

The San José Digital Inclusion Partnership is working with the Tech Exchange and city councilmembers Dev Davis and Sylvia Arenas to host two drive-thru device donations in San Jose Saturday and next Wednesday with laptops for students in need.

Organizers said the highest need is for laptops and Chromebooks, particularly with Intel i5 processes and above, or MacBooks from 2010 or later. The Tech Exchange’s truck team will receive the curbside donations.

Saturday’s donations take place at the Bank of America in Willow Glen, 1245 Lincoln Ave., between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Wednesday donation drive will be at Evergreen Valley High School, 3300 Quimby Rd., from 4 to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit the Digital Inclusion Partnership’s donation page. Preregister your donations here.

8:45 p.m. May 21: Catholic Charities undocumented disaster relief hotline updated

The local hotline to apply for California’s $75 million undocumented COVID-19 relief fund opened Monday has changed. The new number for the disaster fund, operated by Catholic Charities in the Bay Area, is 415-324-1011.

Under the fund announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 15, adult undocumented Californians ineligible for unemployment benefits or federal coronavirus relief paychecks can qualify for the one-time $500 payments, capped at $1,000 per household. The Bay Area is set to receive $15 million from the fund, with an estimated 30,000 people across the region estimated to receive aid.

The Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County reminded residents that the state Department of Social Services, which oversees the state program, will never contact applicants regarding funding assistance. Applicants will only be asked for eligibility information and documents by the contracted nonprofit organization — in the Bay Area’s case, Catholic Charities.

Additionally, applicants won’t be asked for their social security number or any financial information, including bank account information, Catholic Charities said. There is no application fee nor a waitlist, as the fund comes first come, first serve.

The deadline to apply for the fund is June 30. Call the Catholic Charities hotline to apply.

2:57 p.m. May 21: Santa Clara County seeks 1,000 contact tracers for COVID-19 response

Santa Clara County officials announced plans Thursday to dramatically increase contact tracing to prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 locally as stay-at-home orders ease.

With the goal of 1,000 contact tracers, this far surpasses current expanded efforts by 55 county employees tasked with contact tracing to identify cases and additional people who may have contracted the virus. The new workforce would be more than double the current size of the entire county Public Health Department, a news release said.

“We expect that as shelter-in-place is lessened, people are going to have more contacts,” Assistant Health Officer Dr. Sarah Rudman told reporters. “That’s why we need to be able to have a larger workforce to reach those folks as well.”

In order to scale staffing to 1,000, the Public Health Department is asking residents to volunteer, particularly those who speak languages other than English. Officials aim to reach up to 21,000 contacts of exposed individuals each week at peaks of transmission. The Bay Area’s indicators call for reaching at least 90% of COVID-19 cases and identifying 90% of their contacts so that they can safely isolate and quarantine both cases and contacts with appropriate guidance and resources.

Contact tracers will interview infected residents, call potentially infected people, enter and manage data, and identify resources to ensure appropriate compliance among people isolated or quarantined. Volunteers will partner with public health staff and other county, city and local government employees classified as disaster service workers.

For their work, volunteers will be trained online by county staff and the nonprofit public health organization, Heluna, on interviewing, contact-tracing software and privacy obligations, among other topics. The positions are unpaid, though public workers — such as for the state, county, city, special district or school district — should contact their employers about compensation, according to the contact tracing FAQs.

To qualify, the county is looking for people to work at least 24 hours per week but ideally full time, and a minimum of three months but likely more than half a year. Candidates should have customer service, writing and communication skills with attention to detail; computer proficiency and data entry; and the ability to work remotely with reliable internet and a computer.

“We have been heartened by the immense interest from our community to work together as we respond to this pandemic,” County Executive Dr. Jeffrey Smith said in a statement. “Effective response to COVID-19 takes all of us, working together, and volunteers are a key part of our contact tracing community outreach.”

To volunteer for contact tracing, visit the county website here.

1:38 p.m. May 21: San Jose extends eviction moratorium, rent repayment period 

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the eviction moratorium amid the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the time to repay unpaid rent due during the moratorium.

At the recommendation of Mayor Sam Liccardo, the moratorium has been extended to June 30 from the end of May, while tenants now have a 12-month repayment period after the moratorium expires. Before the changes, tenants had until Dec. 31 to pay back all of their back due rent, which Liccardo’s office said in a news release was impossible. Tenants now must pay back 50% of back rent within six months, or Jan. 31, while the rest must be in by June 30, 2021.

“Ensuring that residents have safe housing during this pandemic has been one of the highest priorities of the council since the beginning of this crisis,” Liccardo said in a statement.

Tuesday’s actions received support from the California Apartment Association, which said it agreed with Liccardo’s plan to develop a realistic deadline and repayment period for back rent.

“This plan creates a pathway for residents to become current on their rent and provides property owners with the reassurance they can meet their financial obligations to pay the mortgages, tax bills, vendors and employees,” said Anil Babbar, vice president of the association, in a statement. “Their unanimous vote is a testament to our community coming together during this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, Santa Clara County’s eviction moratorium ends May 31 unless amended, and allows for 120 days for tenants to pay back rent as they continue paying current rent. However, advocates say evictions will increase and are lobbying the county to forgive unpaid rent for people who suffered financially from the pandemic and ensuing health orders. Read the full San José Spotlight story here.

12:20 p.m. May 21: Chavez proposes 200-member team for health and business education

Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, has proposed creating a 200-member outreach team to explain public health orders while providing resources and guidance to communities and businesses on preventing the spread of COVID-19, particularly in the county’s hardest-hit neighborhoods in East San Jose.

The Community Health and Business Engagement Team is modeled after the promotores de salud, or community health workers, and engages residents and business owners in at least Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Tagalog, according to Chavez’s board report. Workers would also distribute free masks, including guidance on how to use the masks, as well as other safety protocols, and encourage increased testing in communities.

“In order to get robust compliance both for small businesses and with the community, it’s going to require folks to have a conversation with them,” Chavez said at a press conference Thursday, “talk to the people about wearing masks, making sure they have masks, and being able to get the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.”

Under the measure set to be heard at the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, the team would be organized similar to the county’s plan to expand contact tracing, the report outlined. Team members would serve at least six months and possibly up to a year and a half depending on the pandemic’s duration. The proposal’s projected cost wasn’t immediately available.

The report cited disparate effects of the pandemic on Latinx neighborhoods — particularly in Chavez’s district covering San Jose’s East Side — which are overrepresented in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as San José Spotlight reported. The proposed health and business team would be deployed to these areas with crowded living conditions, lack of health insurance or health care services, and high proportions of the population suffering from underlying health conditions.

“It is really about protecting our community,” said Jesus Flores, president of the Latino Business Foundation and the Alum Rock/Santa Clara Street Business Association. “We want to be able to reopen, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we’re doing it in a safe manner.”

Tuesday’s vote by supervisors would direct county administrators to draft a report on the proposal for the board’s June 2 meeting, with options to quickly organize the team.

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