As a heat wave sizzles across the South Bay, those hoping to cool off by dipping into a public swimming pool must wait a little longer.
While the county this week opened cooling centers to provide temporary relief, Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody on Wednesday said public pools will remain closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 under the state’s shelter-in-place order.
“Pools at the moment are not on the menu of things (under the state order) that we’re allowed to pick,” Cody said, adding that people are “anxious” to reopen pools to cool off and exercise. “We have a lot of ideas about how we could reopen pools safely. As of this morning, they’re still not allowed under the state order, but we’re going to work hard and see what we can do.”
Cody, however, advised residents stuck at home amid the heat wave — especially those without air conditioning — to seek solace at the county’s cooling centers. San Jose also opened its centers this week.
“We are experiencing a heat wave and we know that many homes and residences in our county don’t have air conditioning,” she said. “And you can’t stay and bake in your home. You need to get some relief and you need to get to a cooling center.”
The cooling centers, Cody added, 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.
In her briefing Wednesday, Cody also 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.
Cody has been praised nationally for enacting the country’s first shelter-in-place order in March, which is credited with saving lives and slowing the spread of COVID-19. However, as the county remains on lockdown for more than two months, Cody faces heightened scrutiny and pressure to reopen the local economy as businesses shutter, cities face gaping deficits and unemployment and layoffs soar.
But the county’s top health leader this week criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom for opening the economy too quickly without waiting to analyze the impact. She warned moving too quickly could result in a rise in COVID-19 cases, particularly in low-income and immigrant communities that live in crowded homes and lack resources.
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 assess impacts for at least two weeks — coinciding with the virus’s incubation period — can better manage outbreaks.
“If we make a change and we don’t pause to see what the impact has been, then we’re blind,” she said. “We can’t see what our next action will bring.”
The briefing from Cody came as the country’s COVID-19 death toll exceeds 100,000 people. Santa Clara County on Wednesday reported 2,688 confirmed coronavirus cases and 140 deaths. California had 98,980 positive cases and 3,884 deaths.
Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.
Find a cooling center near you:
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.
- Saratoga Library, 13650 Saratoga Ave.
- Gilroy Library, 350 W. 6th St.
- Morgan Hill Library, 660 W. Main St.