Coronavirus

Restrictions tighten as local officials extend shelter-in-place order

More restrictive measures – including bans on most construction projects – are the outcome of an extended shelter-in-place order enacted last week.

The move from “essential” to “nonessential” businesses means construction on housing remodels and even the city of Los Altos’ new community center cannot continue. 

The six-county shelter-in-place order issued March 17 has been extended to May 4, local and regional officials announced last week.

Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody, who presided over a March 31 press briefing, said the shelter-in-place order is working to combat spread of the coronavirus, but it’s not enough.

Health authorities acted largely in response to an increase in diagnosed coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the original order. Cody said on the day they announced the initial order, March 16, there were 138 cases; as of Monday, there were 1,207 reported cases and 39 deaths.

The outbreak is predicted to escalate, and health-care agencies need time to plan for a likely – or, as Santa Clara County chief executive Dr. Jeff Smith described it, “inevitable” – surge of patients flooding into hospitals across the county. To give health-care workers and facilities a fighting chance, the county must implement more thorough social distancing guidelines.

“Our overarching goal is to decrease to the greatest extent possible the average number of contacts each of us has with each other every day,” Cody said. “Every unnecessary contact with another increases the chance of spreading the virus from one person to another. Every revision (to the order) is guided by that (goal).”

Important takeaways

Although preliminary statistics reveal that residents’ commitment to sheltering in place may be “bending the curve” of the coronavirus, Cody noted that Santa Clara County is still the epicenter of the pandemic in the Bay Area.

The health officers believe the county’s demand curve, or the number of people requiring hospitalization and intensive care, is too high in comparison to its supply of beds and personal protective equipment.
Santa Clara County counsel James Williams outlined key changes to the order.

• Playgrounds, dog parks, sport courts, pools, rock walls and other recreational areas are now fully closed to the public.

• Sports requiring people to share equipment can be played only between members of the same household.

• Essential businesses that have remained open through the shelter-in-place order, such as restaurants and grocery stores, are required to operate only those parts of their businesses deemed essential. They were also ordered to develop a social distancing protocol by last Friday. The protocol was required to be completed, posted and implemented within 60 hours. It can be modeled off a template on the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department website at bit.ly/2WXu5p9.

• Construction, both residential and commercial, is prohibited with few exceptions. Most exceptions center on whether the facility being constructed will provide essential infrastructure or is designed to carry out an essential government function. Also permitted is construction on affordable housing projects.

Community center shutdown

The city of Los Altos has been preparing for a site shutdown at the under-construction Los Altos Community Center. Although the project was on schedule to wrap up in December, city management fellow Trevor Marsden said last week that city staff will discuss a revised timeline for the project in the wake of the county’s updated order.

Enforcement

The vast majority of local residents are following the shelter-in-place order, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said, and by doing so, they are saving lives in a way the county likely will never be able to measure.

“Your good deed, your sacrifice, your civic duty, will be measured in lives,” the Los Altos resident said. “Someone’s grandfather, someone’s mother, someone’s child will survive this pandemic because you’ve done the right thing.”

Rosen said the county set up a hotline and website where residents can report violations of the order. In the past week, the District Attorney’s Office fielded approximately 2,000 reports on which investigators and prosecutors followed up. In nearly all cases, a call from a representative of his office resolved the violation.

To read the updated order, visit bit.ly/3aBDWVq.

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