Service with a smile: Reopening retailers see benefits to slow rollout

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Some Los Altos merchants were more prepared than others to shift to a virtual operation model. Specialty gift store Present, above, sold local goods online before the pandemic hit.

Retail shops deemed “nonessential” in Los Altos were prohibited from operating out of their storefronts for nearly 10 weeks due to the pandemic. When the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department allowed them to reopen Friday (May 22), they did so under several conditions.

But after months of declining sales and shipping frustrations, many merchants are excited to unlock their front doors, prepare their curbside pickup stations and get to work.


County offers free COVID testing for all residents

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Previously available only to those with coronavirus symptoms, regional officials reported today that free testing is available by appointment for all Santa Clara County residents – including those who are asymptomatic.

Officials with the county, city of San Jose and Verily Life Sciences – a subsidiary of Google’s Alphabet – announced today the expansion of testing at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds and PAL Stadium in east San Jose, an area that has recorded a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The cluster, according to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, is partly attributable to the large number of essential workers who live in east San Jose, many of whom continue to work at grocery stores, pharmacies or child care facilities to support their families.

“These people are doing all they possibly can for their families, and as a result they are at greater risk,” Liccardo said.

Free COVID-19 diagnostic tests are now available for asymptomatic Santa Clara County residents at PAL Stadium and the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds: SccFreeTest.org. We’re grateful to the Google/Verily team for expanding testing access in San José so we can support our community members with the help they need and safely reopen our economy.

Posted by Sam Liccardo on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The county’s goal is to administer 4,000 tests daily, county Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said. To hit that number, county officials must spread the word about the free and accessible testing, and residents must follow through with testing. Essential workers should be tested monthly, county testing officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib added.

People don’t need to leave their cars during testing. John Propst, Verily’s head of COVID-19 testing operations, said it takes under three minutes to conduct the test, as residents must schedule their drive-thru appointments. To date, Verily has conducted more than 120,000 tests across the state.

County officials are ramping up testing as they loosen restrictions under the shelter-in-place orders, Fenstersheib said. More people out and about means a greater chance of a surge in infections.

Fenstersheib previewed a plan the county hopes to enact that would dispatch mobile units to serve people without transportation, easy access to the internet or the ability to speak the English.

The county is recruiting hundreds of volunteers to participate in case investigation and contact tracing efforts led by an Emergency Operations Center unit. According to information listed on the city of Los Altos’ COVID-19 resources page, volunteers must be able to serve as a “disaster service worker” with the county for 32-40 hours per week for a minimum of six months. They will work remotely, so they must have access to high-speed internet and a computer. Those with a background in health and familiar with medical terminology, as well as those who may be fluent in Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, are preferred.

To make an appointment for testing, visit sccfreetest.org.

For the county’s pandemic resources page, visit sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/home.aspx.

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Small-business relief fund set in motion by council

The Los Altos City Council last week approved the eligibility criteria and application process for its new Los Altos Small Business Relief Assistance Program, designed to provide funding to local merchants forced to close their shops amid the shelter-in-place orders. 

Webinar spotlights Los Altos COVID-19 response strategy

During Los Altos’ second webinar of the shelter-in-place era, Mayor Jan Pepper and City Manager Chris Jordan made one thing clear: While city officials care about the emotional and financial health of residents and those who work here, they will not go against the directives of Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody. 

Latest order allows retail curbside pickup, car parades, more outdoor activities to resume

Eco-Fash
Megan V. Winslow
A sign in the window of Eco-Fash notifies customers of the downtown Los Altos thrift shop’s temporary closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Starting Friday, retail businesses will be allowed to offer curbside pickup.

Santa Clara County’s fourth round of changes to its shelter-in-place order allows several businesses and activities to make a comeback, with limitations, county leaders announced today (May 18).


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