Staying at home has ‘bent the curve’ on COVID-19, but residents deal with ripple effects
Santa Clara County Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody detailed the latest shelter in place revisions at the County Chambers Tuesday. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Health officials say the shelter in place order effective the past three weeks is working, but none can predict when life might return to normal as the economic and health effects of the restrictions ripple through the region.

Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s top health official, on Tuesday told county leaders that the health order, which went into effect March 17, has staved off tens of thousands of projected infections that would have overwhelmed the region’s hospital system in the coming weeks from the novel coronavirus, which causes a deadly respiratory illness known as COVID-19.

“Even though this is an enormous challenge and even though this has been incredibly confusing and disruptive and chaotic, I think together these models show us that we have prevented deaths and we have prevented hospitalizations and we have given hospitals time to prepare,” Cody said.

Indeed, instead of a projected 50,000 infections by early May, county officials are now estimating that Santa Clara County will see between 2,500 and 12,000 cases in that time. As of Tuesday, Santa Clara County had 1,285 confirmed coronavirus cases and 43 deaths.

This graph shows that without the shelter in place order, the number of people infected with COVID-19 was projected to surge to around 50,000 by early May. Now the number is expected to be around 2,500 and 12,000 cases in that time. Image courtesy of Santa Clara County

The data also show the county’s hospital system is on track to meet the projected demand for an influx of coronavirus patients through the end of May, but only with the shelter in place order in effect. That’s a stark difference from county projections that show without the order, hospitals may have been overwhelmed by mid-April.

All of that is good news for those trying to slow the spread of the virus and bulk up hospital facilities as California marches toward an anticipated mid-May peak for the COVID-19 outbreak. But the stay at home order has taken its toll on the region and the state in other ways.

San Jose councilmembers on Tuesday discussed cost-cutting measures due to the outbreak. City officials expect the order — which has shuttered many businesses, construction sites and closed down schools for the rest of the academic year — will drag down the economy and tax base for the next five quarters.

“As restrictions lift toward the end of the fiscal year, the resumption of normal economic activity is anticipated to be slow, resulting in recessionary conditions through at least the first half of 2020-2021,” San Jose City Manager Dave Sykes said Tuesday.

State and city officials along with tech titans like Menlo Park-based Facebook are trying to combat those ripple effects for small businesses through a slew of programs.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced programs that would effectively offer interest-free loans to small companies.

San Jose’s Office of Economic Development will host a free small business online workshop from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on April 9 to provide companies more information on programs that may help employers stay afloat in the near-term.

Facebook on Tuesday announced it would set aside $15 million in grants to help small businesses in the Bay Area.

The company plans to prioritize minority, women- and veteran-owned businesses for 50 percent of its grants in the United States “due to the disproportionate negative impact that COVID-19 will have on these businesses, their employees, and the communities that they serve,” said Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global chief diversity officer.

Meanwhile, Newsom and California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris unveiled a set of tools to improve residents’ physical and mental health as the statewide order to stay inside as much as possible remains in place for the foreseeable future.

“The actions we are all taking to slow the spread of coronavirus … are critically necessary and remain the top priority,” Burke Harris said Tuesday during a news conference. “But while we keep our physical distance, our social support to maintain social and spiritual connection are more important than ever for our physical and mental health.”

The new toolkit includes crisis, domestic abuse and disaster assistance hotline numbers and a specific tip sheet for caregivers and children. It also includes the California Surgeon General’s Playbook: Stress Relief during COVID-19, which has tips to manage stress at home, how to make a plan to address the impacts of stress and other best practices to improve physical and mental health.

“We are bigger than anything we face so I know that fear and anxiety we all have, but let us have faith — faith conquers all,” Newsom said. “Know that this will pass — it will pass.”

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

Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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