San Jose City Hall reopens, in-person meetings resume
San Jose City Hall is pictured in this file photo.

After almost 17 months, San Jose City Hall reopened Monday—but you’ll need a mask to step inside, even if you’re vaccinated.

Also Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library reopened its doors after shuttering in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All visitors to a city building, including libraries and community centers, must wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.

City Hall’s reopening comes the same day local health officials announced a new countywide mandate requiring masks indoors for everyone.

Starting Tuesday, the San Jose City Council will return to in-person meetings for the first time since the county’s shelter in place orders last year. Councilmembers will appear in person on the dais and residents can join them in the council chambers, provided they wear a mask.

“It’s really nice that we’re finally able to open even though we’re opening in a slower way. It gives the residents the opportunity to get quicker results by meeting in person,” Councilmember Pam Foley told San José Spotlight.

Foley said she will be at Tuesday’s meeting in person, and her staff will be meeting in person a few times each week, though most work will still be virtual. “They still have to get appointments in many cases, but it does give them the opportunity to come in, talk to a person rather than getting in this email chain back and forth trying to solve a problem. In-person is always easier to solve a problem.”

But city leaders also saw the advantage of virtual meetings and will begin using a hybrid format this week. That means the council will continue broadcasting its meetings on Cable Channel 26, the city website, and YouTube.

Appointments are required to apply for building, planning, fire and public works permits on the first floor of city hall. Cashier services will also be available in person with an appointment.

But as the highly-contagious Delta variant causes a spike in COVID-19 infections, the city is encouraging people to continue using virtual services whenever possible.

Other essential services, such as the city’s Housing Department Eviction Help Center, which provides advice for tenants who need help paying rent, will return in person on Monday as well.

All city employees will be required to wear masks and physical barriers, such as glass or plastic dividers, will be put in place when necessary.

Councilmembers and residents discussed hybrid meetings in June. Both the City Council and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors planned to return to in-person meetings this month.

Library spokesperson Elizabeth Castañeda told San José Spotlight the library will also continue its virtual programs and won’t implement late fees until further notice. Masks will be available for residents.

“The health and wellbeing of library visitors, volunteers and staff remain a top priority for SJPL,” Castañeda said.

The announcement comes after a renewed recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week that recommends fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks indoors as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads. Following the CDC’s recommendation, the county on Monday issued requirements for people to wear masks indoors in all buildings while in public starting at midnight on Tuesday.

“Face coverings are one of our most effective tools in this pandemic. Increasing our use of masks is the easiest and best way to protect the health of our community from the Delta variant while still allowing many people to engage in the activities they love,” said Dr. George Han, deputy health officer for Santa Clara County, in a statement Monday.

Meanwhile, both city and county officials are encouraging all residents age 12 and older to get vaccinated. A list of free vaccination clinics across the county can be found here.

The San Jose City Council meets Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Learn how to participate in San Jose City Council meetings here. To book an appointment with the city’s permit center, click here.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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