Death toll rises as Santa Clara County officials plead for medical supplies
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino are spearheading a drive for medical supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo courtesy of Chavez's office.

Santa Clara County has emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Bay Area, and on Friday the contagious virus claimed two more lives in the county as more San Jose firefighters tested positive for the illness.

Meanwhile, nurses across the county are pleading for donations as they face a shortage of safety supplies — and a new fund could help them protect themselves as they fight the virus.

Santa Clara County Public Health officials announced Friday a total of eight people had died due to the coronavirus countywide.

The 7th death, announced Friday, was an adult male in his 80s, officials said, who was hospitalized on March 3 and died three days ago. The 8th death was a man in his 70s.

“The Public Health Department expresses our condolences to the families and friends of the deceased,” officials said in a statement.

San Jose officials also announced that two more San Jose firefighters had tested positive for the virus also known as COVID-19. In all, 13 firefighters have been confirmed to have contracted the virus, up from 11 on Thursday.

“The health of our first responders is critically important as they are on the frontlines as we help our community through the health crisis the COVID-19 presents,” San Jose officials said in a release Friday. “The Fire Department asks the public to follow all orders of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department to protect the entire community from further spread of the virus.”

Coronavirus cases continue to rise in the county, even as testing remains limited despite local efforts to ramp up capacity.

As of Friday, there were 196 confirmed cases in Santa Clara County and 65 people remain hospitalized. Of those, 93 cases were contracted through “community transmission,” meaning those people had not recently traveled to areas affected by the virus or been in contact with someone who contracted the virus abroad.

More than 500 people have tested positive across the Bay Area. Statewide, there have been 1,006 confirmed cases as of Thursday with 19 reported deaths.

Top health officials say the public should expect the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to rise in the coming weeks.

“Based on this data and of disease we see around the world, we know that the outbreak of COVID-19 in our county will continue to accelerate, and we expect many, many more case in the days and weeks to come,” Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s Public Health Officer, told residents late last week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday said state officials are estimating as many as 25.5 million Californians could contract the virus, and about 20 percent will need to be hospitalized in the next eight weeks. That need outpaces the state’s current supply of hospital beds and medical supplies, and local hospitals are already feeling the strain as more residents flock to see health care professionals, though state officials are working on filling the gaps.

Meanwhile, on Friday, local state, county, city and business leaders announced a newly launched drive to collect money and supplies for the Valley Medical Center Foundation, which will distribute supplies to all of the hospitals in the Santa Clara County health care system.

Local leaders are spearheading a drive for medical supplies for Santa Clara County nurses amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo courtesy of Supervisor Cindy Chavez’s office.

Individuals who have any amount of supplies are being asked to donate to the foundation by going in person with supplies to 2400 Clove Dr. in San Jose between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or by visiting the Valley Medical Center Foundation website.

Doctors, nurses and other frontline medical staff are asking the public to donate masks, hand sanitizer, protective goggles, face shields, disinfectant wipes, infrared thermometers, shoe covers, hair covers and surgical caps.

The fund was launched Thursday, but already more than $596,000 has been raised and thousands of surgical masks, hazmat suits, ventilators and gloves have been donated by local businesses, said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which is leading the charge on the effort.

Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) Friday night joined the local leaders in asking for donations to the Valley Medical Center Foundation to help frontline workers fight the spread of COVID-19.

“As our first responders, doctors, and nurses risk their safety during the coronavirus outbreak, they are now lacking the basic tools to do their jobs right, and to do them safely,” Kalra said in a statement Friday evening. “I understand the desire for the public to hold on to many of these items, however, our frontline medical staff need them more than we do.”

Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

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

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story had an incorrect address for the Valley Medical Center Foundation. This story has been updated.

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