Santa Clara declares local emergency due to coronavirus
The Santa Clara City Council sat six feet apart and shortened its meeting Tuesday, only discussing its local emergency actions against the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Katie Lauer.

The Santa Clara City Council ratified a local emergency Tuesday in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, following the lead of Santa Clara County, which issued a heightened shelter in place order on Monday.

“There is a hollow sound in this chamber,” Mayor Lisa Gillmor said, sitting six feet from her fellow councilmembers in an otherwise empty City Hall. “We are taking the unprecedented steps … as we comply with the County of Santa Clara’s Public Health Department’s order and guidance to prevent and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.”

The city’s efforts included closing all libraries and community centers and canceling all city events. The city will only provide essential public services, including police, fire, electric, water and sewer services, as well as trash and recycling pickups. The city also has suspended service disconnections for unpaid utilities.

Emergency responses will not change for 911 calls.

Staff confirmed that one Santa Clara police officer has a confirmed case of COVID-19, while other city employees are self-isolating at home. The latest count Tuesday confirmed 17 new cases in Santa Clara County, bringing the total to 155.

Santa Clara schools remain closed through at least April 3, but food will be offered to those under 18, as well as developmentally delayed adults. The Santa Clara Senior Center’s nutrition program is also providing in-person and to-go lunches. Meals can be ordered by calling the senior center.

Councilmember Kathy Watanabe visited one of the school distribution centers Tuesday and said it had enough food for 50 families but ran out in the first 30 minutes.

“We’re starting to craft a program together that would tap into our resources and facilities,” City Manager Deanna Santana said. “We’ll have details as soon as we can offer services.”

Gillmor and Santana said the city should use the Convention Center, as well as reach out to residents who have been fingerprinted to volunteer.

“We need to look into how we can get food to the neediest people in our community that could be very hungry through these days,” Gillmor said. “If anyone’s been to the grocery store lately, it’s a battle out there.”

Councilmember Raj Chahal requested that the city look into incorporating protections against evictions of renters and Councilmember Teresa O’Neill asked the community to consider donating to food banks.

Additionally, all city government meetings, aside from the City Council and Stadium Authority, have been canceled through the end of April.

“City staff are working around the clock to provide timely coronavirus updates on the city’s website and Twitter feed,” Gillmor said. “You’ll be hearing more from me online as we navigate this public health emergency together.”

As of Monday, there are 273 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the Bay Area, which is more than half of the state’s total coronavirus count. Five people in Santa Clara Country have died of the virus.

Gillmor said other items on Tuesday’s agenda, including approving Phase 1 of the massive Related Santa Clara development, have been delayed for a week due to concerns with the virus and the need for social distancing.

Contact Katie Lauer at katie@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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