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COVID-19 Updates for April 1-15: The early days of 'shelter-in-place'

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The County of Santa Clara Department of Public Health will provide briefings on the coronavirus pandemic 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through the department’s Facebook account. The Town Crier will maintain a live blog detailing the highlights of each session. To watch the Facebook live briefings, visit facebook.com/sccpublichealth.

Wednesday, April 15: who has the authority?

Following President Donald Trump’s claim earlier this week that he has “total” authority over when states lift restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said during a Facebook Live briefing today that county health officers in California have the authority to take steps to protect public health.

These include the shelter-in-place orders that she and other health officers throughout the region issued last month.

“In California, the local county health officer has that authority to take those actions,” Cody said.

Sheltering in place has made a difference, slowing the spread of not just infections, but also hospitalizations and deaths, she said. However, based on the experience of other parts of the world, Cody added that loosening restrictions too early will cause a resurgence in cases.

“We still see increases in our case counts every day, we see increases in fatalities every day and we are by no means out of the woods,” she said. “Our collective actions have slowed the spread, but we have to keep at it. It is not the time to let up.”

Cody acknowledged that sheltering in place itself has health harms. Staying at home, some being unable to work and children not attending school all have impacts. She emphasized that the most important thing individuals can do to slow the spread of the virus is limit their contact with others to the greatest extent possible.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday (April 14), there were 1,793 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county and 65 deaths, public information officer Evelyn Ho said. Because of a problem with the data reporting system, numbers weren’t updated on the online data dashboard Tuesday. However, Ho said numbers for today and Tuesday will be posted later today.

The county also launched a dashboard Tuesday with the number of confirmed cases in long-term care facilities, including both residents and staff at skilled nursing, independent living, assisted living and board and care facilities. As of Tuesday, there were 252 coronavirus cases, 40 hospitalizations and 13 deaths associated with such facilities in the county.

– Zoe Morgan


Tuesday, April 14: Labor hotlines and 'Cautious Optimism'

The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department hosted two Facebook Live briefings today aimed at keeping residents up to date on COVID-19 data and resources.

At the first briefing, the county’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) manager Betty Duong and First Workplace Collaborative director Jessica Vollmer publicized the hotlines residents can call if they have been financially impacted by the pandemic. At the second, Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody gave updated countywide coronavirus statistics and outlined expectations regarding the shelter-in-place orders.

Free hotlines

Duong and Vollmer, representatives of a partnership forged to provide county residents with information in multiple languages, acknowledged the challenges faced by people who have been laid off, furloughed or had their hours drastically reduced in the past month.

“We understand this may be frustrating and probably very new to a lot of people,” Duong said. “A lot of people are experiencing this level of unemployment or underemployment for the first time in their lives, and we want to be responsive.”

With the mission to advance labor standards for all workers and businesses across the county, the OLSE launched two new resources in collaboration with the Fair Workplace Collaborative, a San Jose-based agency that “brings together community organizations, legal advocates, nonprofits, and small business leaders to ensure we are all treated with dignity and respect at work,” according to its website.

The county COVID Assistance Navigation Hotline, available at (408) 809-2124, is designed to connect people in need with social safety-net resources, help them file for unemployment and refer them to lawyers. Residents can call and leave a detailed voice mail, and a navigation manager will return the call within 24 hours, directing them to resources and offering general advice.

The Fair Workplace Collaborative Legal Advice Line, accessible at (866) 870-7725, connects residents directly with lawyers who can provide advice on workplace issues such as discrimination, harassment, wage theft and others.

Both hotlines are free and available in several languages; Duong and Vollmer urged anyone with questions to call.

“There is no wrong door here,” Duong said.

For more information on county services and Employment Development Department policy modifications like extended unemployment benefits, visit SCCFairWorkplace.org. Residents with specific questions who cannot call either of the hotlines can email the OLSE at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Not out of the woods yet

A month into the regionwide shelter-in-place order, Cody said there is “reason for cautious optimism.” However, Santa Clara County and the surrounding area are by no means out of the woods.

The number of new coronavirus cases has become somewhat stable, Cody noted, totaling between 50 and 100 new cases a day. Deaths have increased, though slowly.

“What this tells us is that the big tool we had available to us to issue the shelter-in-place order, and do everything we could through both the order and through encouragement and collective action to slow things down … has been productive,” Cody said. “However … we are probably at the beginning of what is going to be a very long marathon here in the county, across the region and indeed across the country.”

Cody said residents need to shelter in place “for a bit longer” but gave no prediction for when the lockdown would end. Making decisions about how to ease the broad shelter-in-place order is “enormously complicated,” she added, and includes three considerations: making sure hospital capacity is adequate (beds, staff and a reasonable and safe supply of personal protective equipment); finding a way to increase testing; and gathering the resources needed to improve case and contact investigation capacity.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Donald Trump at odds over who is responsible for ending the shelter-in-place order and restarting the economy, Cody made it clear that California confers abundant power on local health officials, and that will allow her to make the call for changes.

“In general, the state health officer also has power, but if a county health officer decides that in order to protect its population we need to be, say, more conservative or restrictive, we can be,” Cody said.

While it’s been a great challenge for all living under the order to shelter in place, Cody said she thinks everyone recognizes the fear of backsliding.

“We’ve made progress and have settled things down; we need to settle them down more,” she said. “That’s why if we just lifted (the order) and went right back about our business, we would be back where we were very quickly. That’s why we need to make sure we are very confident things continue to trend in a downward direction and make sure that we have all of the resources in place to (act carefully) before we lift the shelter-in-place order.”

For now, county residents should continue to practice good hygiene, maintain social distancing and wear face coverings. A mandatory face mask order cannot be enacted until Emergency Operations Center officials determine there is enough personal protective equipment for those directly battling COVID-19.

“For now, (masks are) a recommendation,” Cody said. “It’s a strong recommendation.”

As of today, there were 1,666 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 60 deaths in Santa Clara County. Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills and have not seen a change in case numbers and remain at 34, 18 and fewer than 10, respectively. A total of 197 people are hospitalized countywide as a result of the virus.

Approximately 15,529 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, 10.7% with a positive result; the results of 193 tests are pending. The turnaround time for results remains, on average, approximately two days.

– Melissa Hartman


Monday, April 13: How 'Emergency Management' is directing government resources across 80 departments

Representatives of the County of Santa Clara Office of Emergency Management (OEM) discussed at today’s Facebook Live briefing how the Emergency Operations Center is addressing the needs of all residents at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

Patty Eaton, OEM public information officer, and David Flamm, OEM deputy director at the deployed center, highlighted the responsibilities of more 200 employees in the hub that has supported the county’s Public Health Department for the past seven weeks.

Flamm said each of the more than 80 departments and 20,000 employees contracted by the county government are routinely responsible for reducing exposure to certain risks. Some are fairly obvious, such as fire and police departments that mitigate public safety issues; however, others, like the city’s finance department and its mission to reduce the risk of poor money management, often operate under the radar.

The OEM is tasked with minimizing exposure to poor inoperability and ensuring that all departments work well together. It has done so in recent days by convening employees of each county department, placing them in five groups – operation, planning, logistics, finance and management – and giving them an action planning process and information on incident management systems to work most efficiently during the pandemic.

“By doing so, we reduce what we like to call the ‘Tower of Babel’ effect,” Flamm said. “We become the Rosetta Stone for local government in times of disaster.”

Eaton, a member of the communications crew that falls under the management umbrella, said county public information officers are serving as conduits of communication between the county and its residents, which gives them opportunities to relay the various kinds of information residents are requesting and better meet their needs. A county partnership with United Way enables residents to call 211 and talk with an operator who can clarify any confusion about the health orders and refer callers to appropriate resources. The hearing-impaired can text 211211 with their questions or concerns.

Despite some encouraging signs in the fight against COV-19, Eaton issued a word of caution.

“We want to emphasize that we’ve had some success in this county in terms of managing this crisis, but it’s not over,” she said. “We want to make sure that people continue to practice strict social distancing, wearing the face coverings and really taking good care of yourself and your friends and your family.”

As of today, the Public Health Department’s COVID-19 online dashboard reported 1,621 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 54 deaths. Mountain View has 34 cases, Los Altos has 18 and Los Altos Hills has fewer than 10. A drop in hospitalizations is recorded countywide; approximately 194 patients remain in acute or ICU care.

Nearly 15,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Santa Clara County. Approximately 10.8% tested positive, and the results of 215 tests are pending.

For more information, visit bit.ly/2V6Cyoo.

— Melissa Hartman


Friday, April 10: Child protection and new COVID-19 case data

Daniel Little, acting director of Santa Clara County Social Service’s Department of Family and Children Services, reminded residents at today’s Facebook Live briefing of the importance of child abuse prevention, even during an international pandemic.

County officials issued a statement Tuesday (April 7) recognizing April at Child Abuse Prevention Month in an effort to “shine a light on the potentially devastating consequences of abuse and neglect, and the need to focus on prevention efforts.” The statement followed the Board of Supervisors’ proclamation dedicating the month to protecting children.

The Department of Children and Family Services has an ongoing partnership with the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Prevention Council to ensure that all parents and caregivers have “access to the resources, support, knowledge and skills they need to care for their children in a manner that fosters healthy childhood development and resilience,” the statement said. Children and Family Services also collaborates with First 5 California, a statewide initiative that serves parents, caregivers and children until the age of 5.

According to Little, it is vital now more than ever to discuss the impact and implications of child abuse.

“With this current public health emergency, we know that there are additional burdens and stressors placed upon children and families,” he said. “We want to make sure as a community that each and every one of us understands our parts in ensuring the safety and well-being of all the vulnerable populations within our county.”

To report a child who may be in danger or to request a check on his or her well-being, call (833) 722-5437.

For more information on Family and Children Services, visit sccgov.org/sites/ssa/dfcs/Pages/dfcs.aspx.

New developments

The county has expanded the tools available on its COVID-19 dashboard. New information includes confirmed case numbers by city of residence and deaths by race/ethnicity.

Below a map of the county, the dashboard posts the current number of confirmed coronavirus cases in each city. At the time of the today’s briefing, the dashboard reported 30 cases in Mountain View, 18 cases in Los Altos and fewer than 10 in Los Altos Hills. In total, the Town Crier’s coverage area accounts for 4% of the county’s 1,442 cases.

The Latinx/Hispanic demographic has been hit hardest by COVID-19, with 36% of cases countywide. Whites represent 34% of cases, Asians 23%, African-Americans 4% and all other demographics 2%.

A total of 285 people are hospitalized in the county with virus symptoms, with 45% of acute hospital beds, 35% of ICU beds and 99% of surge beds available for use. Approximately 71% of the county’s ventilators remain unused.

The county has tested 13,360 patients for COID-19, with 10.8% testing positive and 251 tests pending. The number of deaths is 47.

To access the dashboard, visit bit.ly/39M2DgM.

– Melissa Hartman


Thursday, April 9: Measuring SIP impact

The regionwide shelter-in-place order enacted March 17 has made all the difference for Santa Clara County’s medical system, local health authorities said in this morning’s Facebook Live briefing.

Paul Lorenz, CEO of Santa Clara Health and Hospital System, praised county health officer Dr. Sara Cody for introducing and emphasizing the importance of social distancing, which he noted was the first step in protecting residents and saving lives.

“She made sure we understood as a community that that decision allowed health-care systems to prepare, to get ready for … significant demand,” Lorenz said.

Directors of Valley Medical Center in San Jose, O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy have connected with colleagues at Kaiser Hospitals, Stanford Hospital and El Camino Hospital, among others, to plan and execute strategies aimed at protecting both practitioners and patients during the COVID-19 crisis. Lorenz said within his hospital network, that included ensuring patients and staff were tended to and understood what was coming their way – elective surgeries were canceled and routine outpatient primary and specialty care visits were conducted via telemedicine.

Other preventive measures county-owned hospitals are taking include largely prohibiting hospital visitors, increasing screenings of anyone entering or exiting hospitals and clinics, stocking personal protective equipment and activating coronavirus response teams, said Dr. Meenesh Bhimani, O’Connor Hospital emergency medicine physician.

El Camino Health is taking a similar approach to the county-owned facilities, according to a visitor restrictions policy page on its website updated March 27. The health-care system has formulated a temporary no-visitor policy with few exceptions: One adult visitor per patient is permitted in the mother-baby areas and with patients at the end of life. El Camino’s hospitals in Mountain View and Los Gatos are screening all visitors and requiring them to wear face masks in the emergency rooms, in keeping with flu-season protocols enacted Nov. 1. For more information on how El Camino Health is preparing for a potential patient surge, click here.

Lorenz also noted how county residents suffering from coronavirus symptoms are following health authorities’ advice to call their doctors before heading to the emergency room, resulting in county hospitals experiencing approximately 33% of their typical volume of visits. The decline in visits has enabled hospital staff to prepare for a surge, with 50% of acute hospital beds and 30% of ICU beds available for an incoming rush.

Although the county acquired O’Connor and St. Louise hospitals just 13 months ago, Bhimani said the county made a “tremendous effort” to revitalize them. HealthLink, an electronic medical records system, has prepared the hospitals for disaster through its capacity to allow both public and private hospital workers to communicate and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak as an integrated health-care system, not as individual hospitals, he added.

After praising the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, the Office of the County Executive and the employees running the county’s Public Health Department’s Emergency Operations Center, both Lorenz and Bhimani thanked hospital staff.

“I want to express my deep appreciation to staff on the front lines dealing with COVID-19 patients and all other patients,” Lorenz said. “They are truly the heroes. If I could bottle up what’s going on in the hospitals, and how they care for these patients, I know the public would be very, very proud.”

As of this morning, Santa Clara County reported 1,380 confirmed coronavirus cases, 46 deaths and 278 patients hospitalized. More than 13,000 residents have been tested, 10.6% with a positive result, and 224 test results are pending.

To support the county’s nurses, physicians, medical assistants and first responders, visit bit.ly/2Ro3cXC.

– Melissa Hartman


Wednesday, April 8: A call to donate essential supplies

Santa Clara County health officials issued an order this morning asking those with large supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to report their inventory in preparation for a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The new order asks individuals or businesses with mass quantities of items such as N95 masks, gloves or other PPE to report the items to the county by filling out a form on the public health department’s website at sccphd.org/cv19ppe. The county requests the forms be sent by April 15.

“This order asks all businesses and individuals to report on a one-time basis inventories of PPE and ventilators,” said Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s public health officer. “The intent of this order is to ensure we have comprehensive, collective information about what PPE resources exist across our community. We know we need PPE to protect health-care workers, first responders and other medical staff so they can continue to deliver critical health-care services to everyone in our community.”

County counsel James Williams offered specific, minimum numbers for reporting: 5,000 or more individual gloves; 500 N95 or 500 nonmedical grade masks; 500 surgical masks; 100 safety goggles; 100 face shields; 100 protective gowns; 100 protective coveralls; 500 hair and shoe covers; 100 containers of bleach wipes; 100 containers of sani-wipes; and 100 containers of hand sanitizer. Those with lesser amounts are not required to report to the county, Williams said.

The county also seeks information on the availability of any powered air-purifying respirator hoods, controlled purifying respirators and related systems.

“Getting this awareness will help us know what supply we can source here locally so we’re not as reliant on scarce state and federal supplies,” Williams said. “This is absolutely critical information for us to have.”

County officials noted that information received under the order would be kept confidential.

“We are preparing for a possible scenario in which we might need more PPE than is currently available for those who are providing care for patients affected by COVID,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, head of the county’s health-care surge capacity team. “Currently, our hospitals have supplies to continue caring for those patients and we continue to receive supplies to fulfill requests for support from various healthcare providers.”

Cody said she’s been “so heartened by what we’ve been able to do to slow the spread, (but) we cannot let up. Most of the people living in our community are still susceptible.”

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the county had recorded 1,380 confirmed coronavirus cases and 46 deaths.

“We know the virus is widespread in our community, and we will continue to see more cases of hospitalization and deaths in the days, weeks and months to come,” Cody said. “I do want to share some signs collective action to shelter in place has been protective, has slowed the spread and has enabled our health-care facilities to prepare, and likely has prevented deaths. However, we must continue to prepare.”

Cody pointed out that the doubling of reported COVID cases has slowed from every three days at the outset to more than two weeks.

"This is a unique situation in which the disaster is so widespread across our state and across our country that we can’t rely solely on our state and federal government, and we really have to turn locally to see what capacity for inventory exists here in our county,” Tong said. “Our goal is awareness, for us and the community.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman offered praise for the county’s efforts.

“Once again, Dr. Cody and the entire team are trying to stay ahead of the ball,” he said. “We’re anticipating we will likely find a shortage of PPE going forward at the rate we are, without other supplies coming in. We are preparing for the worst and are hoping for the best.”

Wasserman added that the shelter-in-place order is about “protecting the people who protect us.”

“We’re sheltered at home, these people are out there on the front lines, protecting people who are infected,” he said. “We need to protect the protectors. … We need to know if we have a lot of something or a shortage of something, and we need to know where those somethings are – so we prepared when the need comes to address them appropriately.”

No mask mandate yet

Cody addressed a question this morning on the use of masks. While supporting their use, she said the county has yet to issue a mandate requiring their use, as Los Angeles has done.

“However, covering your face is one very important layer of protection,” she said. “That’s to prevent the wearer from inadvertently spreading (disease), particularly someone who doesn’t have symptoms or has mild symptoms.”

She did note “a high degree of compliance” among residents already using masks.

– Bruce Barton 


Tuesday, April 7: Health equity and vulnerable populations

Representatives of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department discussed at today’s Facebook Live briefing how they are focusing on social determinants of health to reach the most vulnerable residents of the county during the COVID-19 crisis.

Evelyn Ho, the Emergency Operations Center’s lead public information officer, and public information officer Nicole Coxe explained that social determinants of health include political, societal and environmental factors that can either hinder or help an individual’s lifestyle: access to housing, health care, nutritious food and a variety of transportation options.

However, communities with fewer hospitals or clinics and more stores selling alcohol, tobacco and junk food often face poor health outcomes and lower instances of changed behavior or the will to seek help, Coxe said. Primarily focusing on chronic disease prevention in her everyday responsibilities, she noted that the determinants stack up and translate to higher rates of disease such as asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.

Amid the pandemic, Coxe and her department are forging community partnerships with city officials, community leaders, health-care agencies and residents with the goal of equity in mind.

“We know that if we can have policies that are long-lasting in the community, that can really create sustainable change – for example, incentives for corner stores to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables. … Changing those conditions in the neighborhoods where they are experiencing some of those (negative outcomes),” Coxe said.

Even the Santa Clara County cities with largely positive social determinants are being tested, as essential workers are required to put themselves at risk each day to keep society functioning and the economy from collapsing entirely.

“We recognize that the overall county order to shelter in place except for doing essential activities poses different abilities for different individuals to participate,” Ho said. “We also know that history of poverty, structural racism (and) educational access are very different throughout our community – language access as well. … We are ensuring the greatest amount of protection for all in our community. So we are considering, ‘How does shelter-in-place look for families and individuals where it may be difficult to have a space to isolate when someone becomes sick?’”

The next steps for county public health staff like Ho and Coxe include disseminating information about the coronavirus to all communities and customizing guidance to specific populations.

As of today, the county’s COVID-19 dashboard webpage reports 1,285 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Santa Clara County and 42 deaths. An estimated 276 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms countywide.

Officials estimate 786 acute hospital beds, 91 ICU beds, 1,432 surge beds and 422 ventilators are available for future patients.

Approximately 600 tests have been administered in the past 24 hours, with the positive rate dipping to 10.6%. The results of an estimated 208 tests are pending, with the average turnaround time at just more than 48 hours.

“While cases continue to increase, we are seeing early, soft signs that the rate at which they are increasing may be slowing,” said Ho, who also thanked county residents for complying with the shelter-in-place order and implored them to continue social distancing.

For updates, follow the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department’s Facebook and Twitter accounts or visit bit.ly/39M2DgM.

– Melissa Hartman


Monday, April 6: Sheltering the unhoused

Santa Clara County health officials on their first Facebook Live briefing of the week underscored that efforts are underway to ensure the homeless are not forgotten during the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Friday (April 3), all 174 of the homeless people in the county who tested positive for COVID-19 were being tended to, according to the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department’s social media.

While the county’s Office of Supportive Housing eliminated 300 shelter beds to adhere to social distancing protocols, an additional 602 beds were added at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds and in hotels and motels. Ky Le, director of the county office, said the expansion will continue.

At the time the shelter-in-place order was enacted, 2,000-2,100 individuals and families were temporarily living in shelters. Le said all shelters open year-round are now operating 24/7, and shelters deemed seasonal have extended their services.

The Office of Supportive Housing is reaching unhoused people in the county who do not have temporary or permanent shelter through connections with agencies like Valley Homeless Healthcare Program, a comprehensive medical provider for the unsheltered across the county that serves more than 7,000 people a year.

Libby Echeverria of the Valley Homeless Healthcare Program said the nonprofit’s model has changed entirely during the pandemic. Most clinics have closed and staff has been redeployed to conduct outreach about the coronavirus to encampments and educate the homeless on ways to protect themselves.

“We provided hand sanitizers to them, coached them on social distancing and coached them on how to receive medical care if they were experiencing symptoms or saw somebody else who was experiencing symptoms,” Echeverria said.

The groundwork for cooperation among the organizations and the county has been carefully laid over the past five years, said Supervisor Dave Cortese. An advocate for housing solutions, Cortese said the Office of Supportive Housing and the Valley Homeless Healthcare Program have expanded through efforts such as Measure A.

“The unsheltered population, which is about 8,000 in this county, (will get) the same kind of attention and care and resources and treatment and compassion that the rest of the population is getting right now,” Cortese said.

As of this morning, 1,207 coronavirus cases and 39 deaths – approximately 3.23% of those infected – have been reported in Santa Clara County. An estimated 286 coronavirus patients are hospitalized countywide, two in the county’s Field Respite Center at the Santa Clara Convention Center, which officially opened Sunday (April 5).

County officials reported 737 acute hospital beds, 91 ICU beds, 1,438 surge beds and 435 ventilators available for use. The numbers are subject to change, especially in the ventilator category. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino and Valley Medical Center Foundation CEO Chris Wilde issued a statement this morning offering $1,000 for each ventilator turned in to aid coronavirus patients.

To date, 11,000 county residents have been tested for COVID-19, with the positive rate totaling just over 11% The average turnaround time is just over 48 hours, and 211 test results are pending.

For more information, bit.ly/3dPJ6PH.

– Melissa Hartman


Friday, April 3: New face covering recommendation

In light of a recommendation from a united front of Bay Area health officials Thursday evening – led by San Mateo County health officer Dr. Scott Morrow – that residents wear face coverings when they venture out on essential trips, the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center’s lead public information officer Evelyn Ho offered advice during today’s daily briefing.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to recommend them, Ho said local health authorities advise residents to wear cloth masks to reduce the spread of droplets from person to person as they go about their daily activities.

“Wearing face coverings is a choice to protect others in our community,” Ho said. “As new research becomes available about the spread of the novel coronavirus, we continue to update our recommendations. What we understand now is individuals may not show symptoms and still potentially be spreading the virus. In addition, individuals who may develop symptoms may possibly be contagious for several days prior to their onset of symptoms.”

Ho said surgical and medical masks in short supply, like N95s, should be reserved for health-care workers. Instead, she advised making cloth masks out of nearly any material that will secure around the mouth and nose and tie around the ears. She suggested bandanas and scarves as just some of the usable materials people may already have on hand.

Ho said face coverings should be washed frequently with hot water on a hot dry cycle “to ensure that they are adequately cleaned for repeated use.”

Those wearing face coverings must still maintain good social distancing practices, Ho added, including observing the 6-foot rule.

Resources and figures on the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department’s website continue to be updated daily. Three dashboards track the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalization data and testing. As of today, the county is reporting 1,019 cases and 36 deaths, with 245 patients currently hospitalized. The county’s capacity numbers have changed since the hospitalization and testing dashboards went live Thursday morning: There are fewer acute and ICU beds available, but more surge beds and ventilators.

Approximately 1,000 COVID-19 tests have been reported over the past 24 hours; the results of 63 were positive, and 174 are pending.

“Because of limited testing capacity through the Public Health Laboratory, the number of cases that we detect through testing represent only a small portion of the total number of likely cases in the county,” a disclaimer on the dashboards reads.

– Melissa Hartman


Thursday, April 2: Case, hospital and testing data unveiled

Local residents asked, and Santa Clara County delivered: County health officials reported during their weekday briefing that three dashboards providing overall coronavirus case, hospital and testing data are now live on the county’s website.

The website introduces the testing information just more than a week after Santa Clara County public health officer Dr. Sara Cody and colleagues from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties directed commercial and academic labs in the region to report the results of all COVID-19 testing conducted, including those that are negative or inconclusive. Santa Clara County publicized hospitalization details prior to the dashboards’ launch March 27, but the website now offers comprehensive aggregation of all data.

The testing dashboard shows that as of Wednesday (April 1), 8,246 Santa Clara County residents were tested for COVID-19. Of those, 956, or approximately 11.6%, tested positive. The results of 152 tests are still pending.

The hospitalization dashboard posts the number of acute hospital beds, ICU beds, surge beds and ventilators in use and available. As of today, the county had 936 acute beds, 92 ICU beds, 1,456 surge beds and 392 ventilators available in hospitals countywide. The county is working to increase its capacity in all categories.

The statistics are not static, as the number of patients checking in and out of hospitals and their conditions change daily. The dashboards will be updated daily, as will local residents through the 10 a.m. weekday briefings that began yesterday.

Dr. Jennifer Tong, director of healthcare surge capacity planning at the county’s Emergency Operations Center, said her team of nearly 50 people is working seven days a week, collaborating with all hospitals in the county to assess their needs and support them in any way possible. They are helping in three key areas: personal protective equipment, bed capacity and staffing.

“Each hospital is working on plans for how they can creatively restructure care teams to incorporate volunteers from the community,” Tong said. “They’re also working on ways to expedite hiring practices to bring in new staff to their teams.”

Those with medical expertise who want to assist can look for an online intake form from the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department within the next few days. The department issued a call to action to bring additional medical professionals into patients’ continuum of care.

Deputy county executive David Campos fielded a question from the media about whether county officials were concerned that providing more data could spike public anxiety. In many ways, the statistics are reassuring, he said, pointing to the number of resources that are still available. County residents asked for the information, Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said, “partly because they want to know how to help.” Now, she added, they have a better understanding of what is being done and what has yet to be accomplished.

“The reason we want to be transparent is because we want the public to be confident we are doing everything we can to get ready for a surge,” Campos said.

Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents with questions about the coronavirus or the extended regionwide shelter-in-place order can call the city of Los Altos Recreation and Community Services helplines created March 30: Senior Connection, accessible to residents ages 50 and older, links residents with city staff 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays at 947-2797; Community Connection serves all ages 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 947-2790.

– Melissa Hartman


Wednesday, April 1: Live briefing offer a glimpse of county's Emergency Operations Center

Santa Clara County health officials spoke live from the area’s Emergency Operations Center to introduce their latest effort at transparency: daily Facebook Live briefings.

Officials did not release any new numbers – Tuesday’s count was 890 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 30 deaths in the county. They plan to reveal new data at future briefings and address other concerns.

The county health department will continue to update statistics on its online coronavirus dashboard, launched this week. County health officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a press conference Tuesday that gathering and analyzing the data coming from all parties, especially hospitalization rates, is a complex task, but the information is being shared so that “(the public’s) sacrifices and the actions they are taking make sense.”

At Wednesday’s briefing, Cody, deputy county executive David Campos, county counsel James Williams and county Board of Supervisors president Cindy Chavez all thanked the “heroes and heroines” regionwide. They praised county staff working out of the Emergency Operations Center and throughout the county to identify solutions, the medical teams treating coronavirus and other patients and grocery store workers and those delivering food.

Cody, whom Campos described as the “commander of the battle against the crisis,” said she understands how difficult it is to wrap one’s mind around the actions being taken to flatten the curve of the coronavirus outbreak. She said leading the six-county mandate to shelter in place – the first such order issued in the U.S. during the pandemic – “felt a bit like holding hands and leaping into deep water.”

The order, amended this week, adds restrictions that clarify what is considered an “essential” business and details how people can take precautions to safely seek necessary services, including a requirement for essential businesses to develop a social distancing protocol by Friday, a policy to be publicized and implemented to ensure best sanitary and distancing practices in all spaces. Although based on a county template, the protocols will be tailored to individual businesses.

To read the Town Crier’s coverage of the shelter-in-place revisions, click here.

Stay tuned for weekday updates to the Town Crier’s live blog.

– Melissa Hartman

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