Coronavirus: What will it take to open more Silicon Valley businesses?
An aerial view of Cityview Plaza in downtown San Jose. Photo by Janice Bitters.

As Santa Clara County officials prepare to lift restrictions for certain businesses in the Bay Area, local health leaders say they’re basing those decisions — and future business openings — on five key “indicators” aimed at ensuring the region doesn’t see a resurgence of the virus as the economy reopens.

The primary industries affected by a revised shelter in place order issued Wednesday — in effect on May 4 through the end of the month — include construction, childcare, outdoor industries and real estate. Those industries, though allowed to reopen, will be guided by rules to ensure the novel coronavirus doesn’t spread widely from worker to worker or to customers.

But many workers and business owners are anxious to see more restrictions lifted from the shelter in place order that has been in place since mid-March. The Bay Area’s once booming economy is currently struggling as record numbers of Californians file for unemployment due to the statewide stay-home orders.

In Santa Clara County alone, more than 200,000 jobs have been lost since the pandemic hit the region, according to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who earlier this month announced a new council to guide the city’s economic comeback. Santa Clara County is launching its own ad-hoc committee to advise on the economic changes and updates, while California Gov. Gavin Newsom compiled a group of 80 business and civic leaders to guide the state’s economic recovery.

Like with state officials, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody on Wednesday said she couldn’t provide a timeline for when more businesses and community spaces would be allowed to reopen.

“Our goal is to carefully chart a course forward that is overall most health protective,” Cody said. “We need to balance the health risks of COVID with the health risks of shelter in place, and we’re working hard to understand the short, medium and long term health impact of shelter in place.”

But officials claim the new indicators will be transparent to residents, so the community can keep track of the data points that will guide future reopenings in real time.

The five indicators include:

  • Whether the total number of coronavirus cases is flattening or decreasing in the county
  • Whether the number of hospitalized patients is flattening or decreasing
  • Whether there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for all health care workers
  • Whether the region has enough supplies and capacity to test everyone who needs a test
  • Whether the county is able to investigate all coronavirus cases to trace contacts and isolate those who may have been exposed

“I’m so grateful that we now have those markers because it allows us to come together as a community, see what those goals are and meet those goals,” Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said.

As the region slowly reopens, however, Cody warned that if the data begins to trend in the wrong direction, some of the restrictions that have been loosened could be reigned in again.

“We understand that many areas have suffered a sharp resurgence cases when they have lifted shelter in place too soon,” Cody said. “If we move too fast to ease restrictions, the potential for exponential spread could have grave impacts to the health and wellness of our residents, as well as to our economy.”

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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