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Coronavirus: Second COVID-19 patient dies in Santa Clara County

Mountain View, other local cities declare states of emergency as virus spreads

Latest updates:

NEW On Friday, March 13, a second person in Santa Clara County died of COVID-19, the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced. The woman was in her 80s, and she was hospitalized on March 9. The department did not include any information on the woman's city of residence. It also did not make a spokesperson available to the media.

NEW On Friday, March 13, Stanford University announced its first undergraduate student has tested positive for the coronavirus. The student is self-isolating and the university is working to "inform and provide guidance to all close contacts of the individual as soon as possible." In response, the university is implementing new restrictions, including asking all students to leave campus as soon as possible. Stanford will now only provide campus housing to a limited number of high-need students, including international students who cannot go home, students who have known severe health or safety risks and homeless students.

NEW Palo Alto will keep all libraries and community centers closed starting Saturday in response to the coronavirus and recent guidance from Santa Clara County, the city announced Friday evening.

The city, which had already cancelled more than 30 events, is also instituting a hiring freeze, City Manager Ed Shikada announced Friday.

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"As a city we are working to balance continuing community services while also following the guidance issued by county and state health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community," Shikada said in an announcement. "Essential services will continue, and many City services will be provide by online, by phone, and appointment only. This is a fast-moving public health emergency and we will continue to respond thoughtfully with changes as necessary to keep our community safe."

In addition to libraries, the city will keep the Palo Alto Art Center, the Mitchell Park Community Center, the Lucie Stern Community Center, the Junior Museum and Zoo, the Children’s Theatre and Rinconada Pool closed as of Saturday. The Palo Alto Animal Shelter will also be closed and all events at programs at Cubberley Community Center will be suspended.

Tenants at Cubberley may modify or suspend their activities in accordance with county guidance, the city announced, referring to the county’s Friday order banning all events with more than 100 people and requiring precautionary measures for all events with more than 35 people.

NEW On Friday, March 13, Santa Clara County Public Health officials ordered all public schools to close for three weeks, starting Monday, March 16, through April 3. Palo Alto schools will be closed for one month since spring break is scheduled to start on April 4.

NEW On Friday, March 13, Santa Clara County Public Health officials banned all gatherings of 100 persons or more.

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• On Thursday, March 12, the Palo Alto Board of Education affirmed that it will not close schools in the face of the coronavirus but has decided to offer online-learning options to families who wish their children to remain at home.

• As of Friday, March 13, there are now 79 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County; at least 16 of those are community-transmitted cases. Of the 79, one case resulted in a death. The county now has about a quarter of the state's total cases, which currently stands at 264, and just less than half of the Bay Area's total cases, which currently stands at 155.

• On Thursday, March 12, both Palo Alto and Mountain View declared states of emergency. Emergency declarations allow local jurisdictions to activate their emergency plans and become eligible for reimbursements from federal and state governments.

• On Wednesday, March 11, California public health officials stated that non-essential gatherings of 250 or more people should be postponed or canceled until the end of March. At smaller events, attendees should keep 6 feet between themselves. "Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "That's the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease." The full public health policy is posted here.

• On Wednesday, March 11, Stanford University announced two new confirmed coronavirus cases, including one in Stanford Medicine as well as one on the main campus. A School of Medicine faculty member also tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

• On Wednesday, March 11, Stanford University Athletics closed upcoming competitions to the public through May 15. The action is in accordance with a Santa Clara County order banning events expected bring to 1,000 people or more. Read more here.

• On Monday, March 10, a Palo Alto Church reported that a person with COVID-19 had been in a classroom at the Cowper Street church, and a relative of the person had been on campus on March 7.

• As of Thursday, March 12, San Mateo County has reported 17 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

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A second person in Santa Clara County has died of COVID-19, the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced on March 13. The woman was in her 80s, and she was hospitalized on March 9. The department did not include any information on the woman's city of residence. It also did not make a spokesperson available to the media.

She was among the latest cases of COVID-19 announced by the department. There are 79 cases as of March 13, which accounts for more than a quarter of the cases in the state, which has 277, including four deaths.

On Wednesday, March 11, the White House coronavirus task force announced 30-day "mitigation strategies" for Santa Clara County. The strategies, the task force announced, are "designed to address the effects of COVID-19 on areas that are experiencing community spread." The group also released a separate set of strategies for Seattle-King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in Washington state, which as of Wednesday has the most cases in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The plan for Santa Clara County includes strategies for individuals, schools, senior facilities, workplaces and community- and faith-based organizations. Individuals are being advised to monitor local information, ensure a 30-day supply of medicine and wash their hands. Those at risk of severe illness should stay at home and avoid gatherings with 10 or more people.

Schools are advised to arrange distance learning and e-learning for students at risk of severe illness. They are also asked to adopt "social distancing" measures by canceling large gatherings, limiting interschool interactions and altering schedules to reduce mixing, possibly by staggering recess times. Other measures include extending spring breaks, canceling all school-associated congregations and conducting regular health checks.

The task force recommends assisted-living and senior-living facilities to undertake "social distancing" measures and limiting programs with external staff. They should also consider suspending visitor access, implementing short-term closures as needed for cleaning and contact tracing and opting for longer-term closure or quarantine of facilities until the situation is resolved. The group recommends facilities screen temperature and respiratory symptoms of attendees and staff. Staff should wear masks and wash hands before entering and after existing rooms of inhabitants.

Workplaces are asked to encourage staff to telework, expand sick leave policies, eliminate large work-related gatherings and cancel nonessential work travel as well as work-sponsored conferences. Community- and faith-based organizations are advised to cancel large gatherings, as well as professional and college sporting events. Those organizations that serve high-risk communities are asked to cancel gatherings of more than 10 people and to stagger access to support services.

According to the task force's announcement, the mitigation strategies are recommended for 30 days, after which time local and state public health officials, in coordination with CDC, will reassess the individual community situations.

Hours after the strategies were released, Santa Clara County issued a statement that said it was "pleased" the White House adopted many of the local Public Health Department's previously issued recommendations. At the same time, the county also called on local residents to adhere to the county's ban on events with 1,000 people or more that went into effect Wednesday and cancel large events, including but not limited to ones expected to bring 250 people or more.

"We continue to work in partnership with public health experts at the CDC, the state of California, and other significantly impacted communities to issue guidance to the public," according to the statement. "We will continue to make decisions based on the best evidence available, locally relevant data on COVID-19, and the expertise of our public health officials."

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, March 10, unanimously voted to extend the county's health emergency in its effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed one person and infected 44 others over the past six weeks.

The supervisors heard from several agency heads and elected officials, including county Chief Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, Sheriff Laurie Smith and representatives from the Social Services Agency, Emergency Medical Services, Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Office of Supportive Housing, Office of Education, the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System and others.

"It's all hands on deck. We each have a role to play," Cody told the supervisors.

"This is a new virus and no one has immunity to it, so it's going to spread," she said. The goal now is to slow the virus down so that large waves of ill people aren't overwhelming the health system, she said.

The various departments are focusing on identifying people in the most vulnerable populations who might have the virus and could spread the illness within their communities, including the homeless, prisoners in county jails and the elderly, particularly those living in senior care facilities. At the same time, they want to identify ways to protect workers who don't have health insurance and might be laid off so they can still be paid, receive medical care and keep their housing.

Multiple agencies said they are ramping up their deep cleaning efforts. VTA Chief of System, Safety and Security Angelique Galleda said the transportation agency, which operates the county's bus and light-rail systems, is looking to do advanced cleaning on buses, ticket-vending machines and other surfaces where riders make contact and is adding messaging on light-rail platforms and buses with tips on how people can help prevent spreading the virus.

Sharon Henry, head of Envision Integrated Delivery's American Medical Response ambulance services, which operates the county's ambulance system, said portable fogging units can spray the entire interior of an ambulance with disinfectant and kill all germs, including the coronavirus, within minutes.

Smith said there are no active or suspected COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County jail facilities, but the inmate population remains at high risk because it is a closed facility. Her office is looking for ways to limit the number of people housed in the facilities, including asking the court to postpone sentencing schedules and to find alternatives such as electronic monitoring for people who are criminally low risk. The department wants to establish isolated and quarantined areas in the jails if there is an outbreak, she said. They are also limiting who can come into the jails, suspending classes and having visits through windows rather than personal-contact visits, she said.

Santa Clara County issued its first mandatory, legal order in response to the new coronavirus outbreak: banning all events of 1,000 people or more starting this Wednesday, March 11, at midnight. The ban will remain in place until March 31, County Counsel James Williams said during a press conference at the sheriff's office's headquarters in San Jose on Monday, March 9.

The emergency order, which was issued by Cody, would make it illegal to hold any such large gathering. The rule will be enforced by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and police departments in individual cities. Law enforcement agencies will have discretion on how to enforce the order, Williams said.

The order, which was made under state and county health and safety ordinances, does not include airports or shopping malls, where people are in transit and are not likely to be close together. Schools are also not mandated for closure.

Twenty-one of the county's COVID-19 cases were transmitted within the community, Cody said Monday. A large proportion of those cases are hospitalized.

As more tests take place through commercial laboratories, Cody said she expects to see a smaller number of hospitalized cases in relation to a larger number of people who test positive for the infection.

Cody said her department is carefully following data on the illness and made the decision to cancel events after seeing an uptick in cases over the last five days.

"It was a tipping point for us," she said.

The order comes on the heels of the county's first fatality from the virus, which occurred on Monday morning, March 9, when a woman who had been under treatment at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View for several weeks succumbed to COVID-19, according to the Public Health Department.

The woman, who was the county's third case reported on Feb. 28, was in her 60s; her name has not been released to the public. She was the first case in the county to contract COVID-19 without recently traveling out of the country or coming into contact with a person carrying the disease. Cody said the woman had underlying health conditions but did not specify the nature of those conditions.

The news is a "tragic development," the department said in a statement. New cases have been announced every day this week: Six on March 9, five on March 8, eight on March 7. The department did not provide further information on these new cases. Over Twitter, the department has said that it's "not unexpected to have more cases" and that the cases are currently under investigation.

The county is also looking to provide supportive housing and shelter to homeless persons who need to self-isolate, County Executive Jeffrey Smith said during the March 9 press conference.

On Monday, March 9, the city of Palo Alto announced more than 30 events were modified or canceled through the end of the month in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The city has also made operational changes, including supplying protective gear for field staff and setting up more hand sanitizer stations.

"The city anticipates more details to be released later this week on longer-term planning and potential service delivery modifications," according to an announcement from City Manager Ed Shikada's office.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, based in Mountain View, has set up a regional response fund to support organizations that are leading public health and housing efforts in each Bay Area county. In Santa Clara County, funds will go to Destination: Home, a public-private partnership which will provide financial resources and help to people at risk of homelessness if coronavirus-related disruptions worsen. In San Mateo County, funds will go to support the county's core service agencies, which provide emergency housing and financial assistance for rent, mortgage, utilities, medical and transportation costs for people who risk homelessness due to hardships related to the new coronavirus outbreak. More information is available here.

On Thursday, March 5, Stanford University announced it was treating a "few" patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

A community message by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne didn't specify how many patients are receiving care through Stanford Medicine but said staff following reporting regulations by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and Santa Clara County.

Stanford has an emergency operations team assessing the community's risk and advising the university on ways to respond to the evolving situation, Tessier-Lavigne said. Stanford Health Care has developed a new diagnostic test approved by the Food and Drug Administration that could offer results in 12 to 24 hours.

The Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System's Palo Alto hospital confirmed that it is caring for a veteran who has tested positive for the disease and was transferred to the facility from another California county.

Due to privacy laws, Chief Communication Manager Armenthis Lester could not release information regarding the patient's age, gender or condition.

The patient is in isolation and under the care of staff trained in the latest treatment guidelines provided by the CDC. Staff members are also utilizing personal protective equipment and infection control techniques. The VA is preparing to receive other former service members diagnosed with the virus and has set aside a portion of the campus, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie confirmed during his testimony on Capitol Hill on March 4.

"We prepared a swath, a section of our Palo Alto campus to receive veterans who have this virus. We set it up for that, and that veteran is being taken care of there," Wilkie told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee.

"(The) VA is screening veterans and staff who present with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath who meet the CDC criteria for evaluation of COVID-19 infection," Lester said.

The number of known cases of the coronavirus has steadily increased within the county since Feb. 28, when there were only two. On that day, the county's Public Health Department reported a new case — an older woman who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness and has chronic health conditions. (She died from the disease on March 9.)

On Feb. 29, the county reported another case — a woman who is a "household contact" of the case reported Feb. 28. She has isolated herself at home, the county reported. Neither woman had recently traveled nor knowingly come into contact with someone who had recently traveled — a strong indication that the virus is now spreading throughout the community, according to the department.

On March 1, the Public Health Department confirmed three more cases of the coronavirus. One case involves an adult woman who concurrently has chronic health conditions, according to public health staff. An investigation into her case is ongoing, the department said in a statement.

The two other cases involve a couple, a husband with chronic health conditions and his wife, who recently traveled to Egypt. All three people are currently being hospitalized for the disease.

Two other cases reported on March 2 were two men who have isolated themselves at home. One man is a "household contact" of a confirmed case in another county. The other man is a "household contact" of a previous case in Santa Clara County.

Two more cases involving a woman and man currently in the hospital were reported on March 3. They remain under investigation to determine the source of transmission, according to the county Public Health Department. No information regarding age or condition of the patients was released during a press conference Tuesday at the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center.

The county announced an additional two cases on March 4. One case is a man currently hospitalized and currently under investigation to determine how he was exposed to the virus. Two more cases are both men who "are close contacts of an existing case," according to the county. The pair are isolated at home.

The six cases announced March 5 involved three women and three men, according to County Counsel Williams, who also serves as director of the county's Emergency Operations Center. Of the six people, four have self-isolated at home and were contacts of other known cases; two others have been hospitalized. Many of the cases have mild symptoms or have shown no symptoms, which is consistent with other cases around the globe, he added.

Four cases announced March 6 are not related to each other, according to a statement by the department. One of the cases is a man who is a household contact of a previous county case. The second is a female who is hospitalized. The third is a male who recently traveled to India and has been hospitalized. The fourth case is a male who has isolated himself at home.

The department is looking into how the second and fourth cases might have contracted the illness.

"The Public Health Department will continue to identify anyone who has come into contact with these cases," staff said in a statement. "The department also will be conducting community surveillance to determine the extent of possible disease spread in our community."

The statement did not specify the protocols or extent of the surveillance.

The first two cases reported in January involved travelers who arrived in the county from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the viral disease that has since been on lockdown. Though both patients had mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization, they remain in quarantine, according to public health staff. The first case has recovered, the department announced Feb. 20.

As of Wednesday, March 11, San Mateo County has reported 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The county issued a statement that signaled an aggressive approach to minimizing the risk of contracting coronavirus.

The county has opened a call center to take questions from residents with nonmedical questions about novel coronavirus and declared a state of emergency on March 10.

Action at local schools

Read the latest update on Palo Alto Unified: School district leaders: No schools will close

Read the latest update on Stanford: Stanford tells 7,000 undergrads to leave campus; class will be online only next quarter

Concerns over the disease have climbed at Palo Alto Unified School District, which sent home two students on Friday, Feb. 28, after learning their parent had been exposed to the disease. The students attend Palo Alto High School and JLS Middle School, Superintendent Don Austin said.

A team has formed at the district to evaluate the situation and provide information once it's available, Austin said in his Feb. 28 message to parents.

The district learned the parent was reportedly in "public proximity to an infected person" but that "there is no indication of infection at this time," Lana Conaway, the district's assistant superintendent of equity and student affairs, said on Feb. 28.

She encouraged parents and students to wash their hands often and to stay home if they have any symptoms, including fever or respiratory distress. Crews did an "aggressive" cleaning of all hard surfaces at JLS and Paly over the weekend, according to Conaway.

Also over the following weekend, an online petition emerged asking the district to take additional precautions, including starting spring break early and extending it to two weeks and providing online learning options to students who choose to stay home.

In a message to families on Sunday, March 1, Austin said that the district has consulted with a variety of public officials and health professionals and he does not see a reason to close schools at this point.

"As a Palo Alto resident, I see large crowds in supermarkets, parks, theaters, airports, restaurants and public places. They are operating as usual with no call for closures," he wrote. "Closing schools at this point would not eliminate the infinite interactions our students would have beyond PAUSD. We understand the responsibility afforded to PAUSD while caring for your students and treat the work seriously. We cannot control every aspect of student or community life, which is the only way a quarantine works."

He asked community members to "limit speculation and overreactions."

The district is continuing to follow guidance from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC.

On Tuesday, March 3, Menlo School in Atherton announced that the school would be closed through the weekend after learning a staff member had contact with a relative with the coronavirus, according to a letter by Head of School Than Healy. The school has canceled all school-related activities, including classes, sports, arts activities, club meetings and planned field trips.

In tandem with news of the VA case, parents with students in a high school work program that's held after school at the VA hospital in Palo Alto received a notice regarding the coronavirus case on Tuesday, March 3.

"We will be suspending student participation in the VA program for the present time. ... At no time has there been an elevated risk to student safety," Kristen Hardy, director of special education for the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, said in an email.

About 14 special education students from the district, mainly from Mountain View High School, but also Los Altos High School and the district's adult school, spend about an hour and a half at the VA hospital on weekdays gaining work experience, according to Kathy Brenner, an education specialist at the Mountain View-Los Altos district.

The decision, made in consultation with district administrators, comes out of considerations that some students have compromised immune systems and others may not always wash their hands according to best practices, she said.

"We just want to keep our kids safe. We don't want to overreact either, but we'd rather be safe than sorry," she said.

The district partners with other student work sites, so students who have been at the hospital will be temporarily reassigned and will gain exposure to other work experiences, she said.

The school district changed students' schedules and pick-up times from Mountain View and Los Altos high schools through March 30 and will be reviewing the changes with Palo Alto Unified School District. Case managers are working with students, she said.

Woodside Priory, a private school for students in grades 6 through 12, has canceled events for its Service Week scheduled March 16-20, including two trips to Guatemala and Costa Rica, according to an email from Director of Communications Kelly Sargent.

The school also plans to keep dormitories open during Easter break, scheduled April 6-13, to give students the choice to stay on campus instead of traveling and "due to international air travel uncertainty," Sargent said.

On Tuesday, March 3, Stanford University decided to postpone or cancel events on and off campus likely to attract 150 or more people, including Grad Alumni Day, the SIEPR Economic Summit, Holy Week Easter Services, Second Sunday Family Days at the Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection, and all Department of Music concerts scheduled through at least April 15. Stanford Athletics will continue to hold all sporting competitions at this time, with limited public attendance. The University said it will offer increased opportunities for livestreaming events. A full list of event changes can be found at news.stanford.edu.

On Friday, March 6, a student and staff members at the Menlo Park City School District were asked to stay home after learning they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Read more about the virus' impact on local schools here.

Company leaders to employees: Work at home

Read the latest update on local tech companies' response to the coronavirus: Local tech companies' best defense against the coronavirus — work from home

LinkedIn has heeded the county's warning, telling its Bay Area employees to do any work that can be done remotely at home through the end of March to mitigate the spread of the virus. Employees have also been asked to postpone all nonessential business travel and will not participate in external events in March and April, according to LinkedIn spokeswoman Kenly Walker. LinkedIn, headquartered in Sunnyvale and Mountain View, will not be shutting down its offices and intends to provide the same level of service to customers, members and partners, she added.

Menlo Park-based Facebook is also following through on the county's guidance by recommending a large portion of its workforce to begin working from home starting Friday, March 6.

On Monday, March 9, NASA Ames Research Center required employees work from home after learning a day earlier that one of its employees tested positive for the new coronavirus.

"The safety of our employees and their families is our top priority. Any decisions we have made, or will make, is with the safety of our workforce in mind," according to a NASA Ames statement.

Business has remained mostly normal at cloud infrastructure company VMware. The tech giant was informed last week by one of its employees that their spouse had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the Palo Alto-based company said in an email to the Weekly on Monday, March 9.

The employee, who is in self-isolation for 14 days, and their spouse have not shown symptoms of the new coronavirus. The company reopened the office the employee worked in on Monday morning, March 9, after a temporary closure that started at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, for the company to conduct a deep clean and disinfection of the building.

"Since this is a secondary contact situation, there is minimal risk of contagion based on guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control," the company said. "Our Palo Alto Campus and all other buildings remain open. However, any employee who would prefer to work from home is welcome to do so."

County heightens precautionary actions

On Friday, Feb. 28, county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said the county has implemented isolation and quarantine in response to the reported cases over the past five weeks but is taking further actions.

The county's public health lab has testing kits from the CDC, she said at a press conference in San Jose. The county's emergency operations center is getting support from assistance teams from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC.

The Public Health Department encourages the public to take proactive measures to slow down the spread of the disease. Staff recommend people frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails and countertops. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also recommended if hand-washing is not available. Officials also instruct the public to cough into a tissue or their elbow and avoid touching their faces.

The best current evidence shows that people are at higher risk for the coronavirus if they are ages 50 or older, Dr. Sara Cody, the county's public health officer, said at a March 3 press conference.

The risk of infection and its severity accelerates with age, so someone who is 60 years old is more vulnerable to the illness than someone who is 50, and someone 70 years old is at greater risk for severe infection than someone who is 60. Persons ages 80 and above are at the greatest risk.

People with underlying medical conditions are also at greater risk. These include: cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung conditions, cancer and compromised immune systems. Persons with these conditions should avoid large gatherings such as concerts, parades and sporting events. Organizations serving seniors are recommended to cancel large gatherings, such as bingo games and movie screenings, and to clean all surfaces with disinfectants including phones, keyboards, tablets and door handles.

The recommendations do not include avoiding office environments or grocery stores where people do not typically gather tightly together.

Businesses have been urged to cancel nonessential travel and not require doctors notes from employees who are sick to alleviate the workload of already burdened medical providers, Dr. Cody said at a March 6 press conference late last week.

New recommendations for businesses include expanding telecommuting options and staggering start and end times for workdays to minimize close contact between employees. The space between their contact should be no less than 3 feet apart, she added.

As it has in the past, county leaders at the press conference urged that large gatherings such as sporting events and conferences should be canceled. People who are most at risk due to pre-existing conditions or who are over the age of 50 should not attend large gatherings, she said.

Worldwide and in the U.S., there have not been many cases of children who have the disease, she said. Currently, county health leaders are not recommending school closures. The county will review that recommendation on a case-by-case basis if staff members or others in the school community are confirmed to have the coronavirus, she said.

"As much as possible, we really want children to go along with their lives and to continue their education that's so important for them," she said.

School districts should carefully consider the costs of benefits of closing their campuses, which has the potential to have a large impact, particularly for employed parents and their workplaces, she added.

Noting the recent hoarding of essentials at the Mountain View Costco and other locations, Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, urged people not to panic.

"If any of you've been to a Costco lately you'll know that ... we're teetering on the brink of not being calm and not being thoughtful. We want to make sure we're not hoarding goods that should be used for medical purposes and we're really being mindful that we are part of a community," she said at the press conference.

The county Public Health Department is publishing updates on local cases at sccgov.org.

Cities keeping watch

Read the latest update on the city of Palo Alto's response to the coronavirus: [Palo Alto declares coronavirus 'emergency'

As of Sunday, March 8, there were no confirmed local cases of the coronavirus in Palo Alto, City Manager Ed Shikada said in an email. The VA Palo Alto is caring for a patient who was transferred from another California county and is in isolation. The city is continuing to monitor reports of exposures to the disease.

Employees and community are advised to stay home if they are sick and alert city managers "of any unusual circumstances that could indicate exposure."

"We're on top of it as much as any agency can be, recognizing there are unknowns and many possible scenarios ahead of us," Shikada said.

The city also plans to prioritize hygiene at upcoming city events and is conducting a review of its "operational contingency plans."

City leaders have re-emphasized hygienic practices during the flu season and special protocols to its police officers and firefighters. Palo Alto is also maintaining communication with the county, school district, Stanford University and other agencies.

The city has created a webpage that will be regularly updated with information on the coronavirus and local response to the outbreak at cityofpaloalto.org.

East Palo Alto is also taking several steps to minimize the spread of the virus, including making arrangements for delivery of meals for senior citizens, increasing its cleaning of public areas under the city's jurisdiction and hiring a contractor to supplement the cleaning efforts, Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones announced Thursday morning, March 12.

The city also announced Thursday that it will close the Senior Center Management for one week, a decision that was made by agreement with the facility, Wallace-Jones said. City officials are participating in daily briefings with regional emergency management staff and minimizing public gatherings that have more than 50 attendees and that may include vulnerable populations. These gatherings are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis, according to the announcement.

Wallace-Jones urged residents to take seriously the guidelines that have been provided to the community by the San Mateo County Health Department.

"As the medical experts guiding our county through this crisis, their advice is science based and intended to save lives," Wallace-Jones wrote. "This is not the time to question the practices they have recommended, as not doing so may put your health at risk or illness or even death."

East Palo Alto is also monitoring developments in the coronavirus outbreak and is communicating with San Mateo County leaders and the CDC. East Palo Alto residents can find more information from their city and county at smchealth.org.

Virus threat leads to event cancellations

Several arts organizations have led arts and entertainment organizations on the Midpeninsula to cancel or postpone events, temporarily close or increase sanitation efforts. Read our latest updates on canceled or postponed events here.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and Almanac here.

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Coronavirus: Second COVID-19 patient dies in Santa Clara County

Mountain View, other local cities declare states of emergency as virus spreads

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 11:29 am
Updated: Sat, Mar 14, 2020, 11:22 am

Latest updates:

NEW On Friday, March 13, a second person in Santa Clara County died of COVID-19, the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced. The woman was in her 80s, and she was hospitalized on March 9. The department did not include any information on the woman's city of residence. It also did not make a spokesperson available to the media.

NEW On Friday, March 13, Stanford University announced its first undergraduate student has tested positive for the coronavirus. The student is self-isolating and the university is working to "inform and provide guidance to all close contacts of the individual as soon as possible." In response, the university is implementing new restrictions, including asking all students to leave campus as soon as possible. Stanford will now only provide campus housing to a limited number of high-need students, including international students who cannot go home, students who have known severe health or safety risks and homeless students.

NEW Palo Alto will keep all libraries and community centers closed starting Saturday in response to the coronavirus and recent guidance from Santa Clara County, the city announced Friday evening.

The city, which had already cancelled more than 30 events, is also instituting a hiring freeze, City Manager Ed Shikada announced Friday.

"As a city we are working to balance continuing community services while also following the guidance issued by county and state health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community," Shikada said in an announcement. "Essential services will continue, and many City services will be provide by online, by phone, and appointment only. This is a fast-moving public health emergency and we will continue to respond thoughtfully with changes as necessary to keep our community safe."

In addition to libraries, the city will keep the Palo Alto Art Center, the Mitchell Park Community Center, the Lucie Stern Community Center, the Junior Museum and Zoo, the Children’s Theatre and Rinconada Pool closed as of Saturday. The Palo Alto Animal Shelter will also be closed and all events at programs at Cubberley Community Center will be suspended.

Tenants at Cubberley may modify or suspend their activities in accordance with county guidance, the city announced, referring to the county’s Friday order banning all events with more than 100 people and requiring precautionary measures for all events with more than 35 people.

NEW On Friday, March 13, Santa Clara County Public Health officials ordered all public schools to close for three weeks, starting Monday, March 16, through April 3. Palo Alto schools will be closed for one month since spring break is scheduled to start on April 4.

NEW On Friday, March 13, Santa Clara County Public Health officials banned all gatherings of 100 persons or more.

• On Thursday, March 12, the Palo Alto Board of Education affirmed that it will not close schools in the face of the coronavirus but has decided to offer online-learning options to families who wish their children to remain at home.

• As of Friday, March 13, there are now 79 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County; at least 16 of those are community-transmitted cases. Of the 79, one case resulted in a death. The county now has about a quarter of the state's total cases, which currently stands at 264, and just less than half of the Bay Area's total cases, which currently stands at 155.

• On Thursday, March 12, both Palo Alto and Mountain View declared states of emergency. Emergency declarations allow local jurisdictions to activate their emergency plans and become eligible for reimbursements from federal and state governments.

• On Wednesday, March 11, California public health officials stated that non-essential gatherings of 250 or more people should be postponed or canceled until the end of March. At smaller events, attendees should keep 6 feet between themselves. "Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "That's the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease." The full public health policy is posted here.

• On Wednesday, March 11, Stanford University announced two new confirmed coronavirus cases, including one in Stanford Medicine as well as one on the main campus. A School of Medicine faculty member also tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

• On Wednesday, March 11, Stanford University Athletics closed upcoming competitions to the public through May 15. The action is in accordance with a Santa Clara County order banning events expected bring to 1,000 people or more. Read more here.

• On Monday, March 10, a Palo Alto Church reported that a person with COVID-19 had been in a classroom at the Cowper Street church, and a relative of the person had been on campus on March 7.

• As of Thursday, March 12, San Mateo County has reported 17 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

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A second person in Santa Clara County has died of COVID-19, the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced on March 13. The woman was in her 80s, and she was hospitalized on March 9. The department did not include any information on the woman's city of residence. It also did not make a spokesperson available to the media.

She was among the latest cases of COVID-19 announced by the department. There are 79 cases as of March 13, which accounts for more than a quarter of the cases in the state, which has 277, including four deaths.

On Wednesday, March 11, the White House coronavirus task force announced 30-day "mitigation strategies" for Santa Clara County. The strategies, the task force announced, are "designed to address the effects of COVID-19 on areas that are experiencing community spread." The group also released a separate set of strategies for Seattle-King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in Washington state, which as of Wednesday has the most cases in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The plan for Santa Clara County includes strategies for individuals, schools, senior facilities, workplaces and community- and faith-based organizations. Individuals are being advised to monitor local information, ensure a 30-day supply of medicine and wash their hands. Those at risk of severe illness should stay at home and avoid gatherings with 10 or more people.

Schools are advised to arrange distance learning and e-learning for students at risk of severe illness. They are also asked to adopt "social distancing" measures by canceling large gatherings, limiting interschool interactions and altering schedules to reduce mixing, possibly by staggering recess times. Other measures include extending spring breaks, canceling all school-associated congregations and conducting regular health checks.

The task force recommends assisted-living and senior-living facilities to undertake "social distancing" measures and limiting programs with external staff. They should also consider suspending visitor access, implementing short-term closures as needed for cleaning and contact tracing and opting for longer-term closure or quarantine of facilities until the situation is resolved. The group recommends facilities screen temperature and respiratory symptoms of attendees and staff. Staff should wear masks and wash hands before entering and after existing rooms of inhabitants.

Workplaces are asked to encourage staff to telework, expand sick leave policies, eliminate large work-related gatherings and cancel nonessential work travel as well as work-sponsored conferences. Community- and faith-based organizations are advised to cancel large gatherings, as well as professional and college sporting events. Those organizations that serve high-risk communities are asked to cancel gatherings of more than 10 people and to stagger access to support services.

According to the task force's announcement, the mitigation strategies are recommended for 30 days, after which time local and state public health officials, in coordination with CDC, will reassess the individual community situations.

Hours after the strategies were released, Santa Clara County issued a statement that said it was "pleased" the White House adopted many of the local Public Health Department's previously issued recommendations. At the same time, the county also called on local residents to adhere to the county's ban on events with 1,000 people or more that went into effect Wednesday and cancel large events, including but not limited to ones expected to bring 250 people or more.

"We continue to work in partnership with public health experts at the CDC, the state of California, and other significantly impacted communities to issue guidance to the public," according to the statement. "We will continue to make decisions based on the best evidence available, locally relevant data on COVID-19, and the expertise of our public health officials."

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, March 10, unanimously voted to extend the county's health emergency in its effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed one person and infected 44 others over the past six weeks.

The supervisors heard from several agency heads and elected officials, including county Chief Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, Sheriff Laurie Smith and representatives from the Social Services Agency, Emergency Medical Services, Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Office of Supportive Housing, Office of Education, the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System and others.

"It's all hands on deck. We each have a role to play," Cody told the supervisors.

"This is a new virus and no one has immunity to it, so it's going to spread," she said. The goal now is to slow the virus down so that large waves of ill people aren't overwhelming the health system, she said.

The various departments are focusing on identifying people in the most vulnerable populations who might have the virus and could spread the illness within their communities, including the homeless, prisoners in county jails and the elderly, particularly those living in senior care facilities. At the same time, they want to identify ways to protect workers who don't have health insurance and might be laid off so they can still be paid, receive medical care and keep their housing.

Multiple agencies said they are ramping up their deep cleaning efforts. VTA Chief of System, Safety and Security Angelique Galleda said the transportation agency, which operates the county's bus and light-rail systems, is looking to do advanced cleaning on buses, ticket-vending machines and other surfaces where riders make contact and is adding messaging on light-rail platforms and buses with tips on how people can help prevent spreading the virus.

Sharon Henry, head of Envision Integrated Delivery's American Medical Response ambulance services, which operates the county's ambulance system, said portable fogging units can spray the entire interior of an ambulance with disinfectant and kill all germs, including the coronavirus, within minutes.

Smith said there are no active or suspected COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County jail facilities, but the inmate population remains at high risk because it is a closed facility. Her office is looking for ways to limit the number of people housed in the facilities, including asking the court to postpone sentencing schedules and to find alternatives such as electronic monitoring for people who are criminally low risk. The department wants to establish isolated and quarantined areas in the jails if there is an outbreak, she said. They are also limiting who can come into the jails, suspending classes and having visits through windows rather than personal-contact visits, she said.

Santa Clara County issued its first mandatory, legal order in response to the new coronavirus outbreak: banning all events of 1,000 people or more starting this Wednesday, March 11, at midnight. The ban will remain in place until March 31, County Counsel James Williams said during a press conference at the sheriff's office's headquarters in San Jose on Monday, March 9.

The emergency order, which was issued by Cody, would make it illegal to hold any such large gathering. The rule will be enforced by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and police departments in individual cities. Law enforcement agencies will have discretion on how to enforce the order, Williams said.

The order, which was made under state and county health and safety ordinances, does not include airports or shopping malls, where people are in transit and are not likely to be close together. Schools are also not mandated for closure.

Twenty-one of the county's COVID-19 cases were transmitted within the community, Cody said Monday. A large proportion of those cases are hospitalized.

As more tests take place through commercial laboratories, Cody said she expects to see a smaller number of hospitalized cases in relation to a larger number of people who test positive for the infection.

Cody said her department is carefully following data on the illness and made the decision to cancel events after seeing an uptick in cases over the last five days.

"It was a tipping point for us," she said.

The order comes on the heels of the county's first fatality from the virus, which occurred on Monday morning, March 9, when a woman who had been under treatment at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View for several weeks succumbed to COVID-19, according to the Public Health Department.

The woman, who was the county's third case reported on Feb. 28, was in her 60s; her name has not been released to the public. She was the first case in the county to contract COVID-19 without recently traveling out of the country or coming into contact with a person carrying the disease. Cody said the woman had underlying health conditions but did not specify the nature of those conditions.

The news is a "tragic development," the department said in a statement. New cases have been announced every day this week: Six on March 9, five on March 8, eight on March 7. The department did not provide further information on these new cases. Over Twitter, the department has said that it's "not unexpected to have more cases" and that the cases are currently under investigation.

The county is also looking to provide supportive housing and shelter to homeless persons who need to self-isolate, County Executive Jeffrey Smith said during the March 9 press conference.

On Monday, March 9, the city of Palo Alto announced more than 30 events were modified or canceled through the end of the month in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The city has also made operational changes, including supplying protective gear for field staff and setting up more hand sanitizer stations.

"The city anticipates more details to be released later this week on longer-term planning and potential service delivery modifications," according to an announcement from City Manager Ed Shikada's office.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, based in Mountain View, has set up a regional response fund to support organizations that are leading public health and housing efforts in each Bay Area county. In Santa Clara County, funds will go to Destination: Home, a public-private partnership which will provide financial resources and help to people at risk of homelessness if coronavirus-related disruptions worsen. In San Mateo County, funds will go to support the county's core service agencies, which provide emergency housing and financial assistance for rent, mortgage, utilities, medical and transportation costs for people who risk homelessness due to hardships related to the new coronavirus outbreak. More information is available here.

On Thursday, March 5, Stanford University announced it was treating a "few" patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

A community message by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne didn't specify how many patients are receiving care through Stanford Medicine but said staff following reporting regulations by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and Santa Clara County.

Stanford has an emergency operations team assessing the community's risk and advising the university on ways to respond to the evolving situation, Tessier-Lavigne said. Stanford Health Care has developed a new diagnostic test approved by the Food and Drug Administration that could offer results in 12 to 24 hours.

The Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System's Palo Alto hospital confirmed that it is caring for a veteran who has tested positive for the disease and was transferred to the facility from another California county.

Due to privacy laws, Chief Communication Manager Armenthis Lester could not release information regarding the patient's age, gender or condition.

The patient is in isolation and under the care of staff trained in the latest treatment guidelines provided by the CDC. Staff members are also utilizing personal protective equipment and infection control techniques. The VA is preparing to receive other former service members diagnosed with the virus and has set aside a portion of the campus, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie confirmed during his testimony on Capitol Hill on March 4.

"We prepared a swath, a section of our Palo Alto campus to receive veterans who have this virus. We set it up for that, and that veteran is being taken care of there," Wilkie told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee.

"(The) VA is screening veterans and staff who present with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath who meet the CDC criteria for evaluation of COVID-19 infection," Lester said.

The number of known cases of the coronavirus has steadily increased within the county since Feb. 28, when there were only two. On that day, the county's Public Health Department reported a new case — an older woman who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness and has chronic health conditions. (She died from the disease on March 9.)

On Feb. 29, the county reported another case — a woman who is a "household contact" of the case reported Feb. 28. She has isolated herself at home, the county reported. Neither woman had recently traveled nor knowingly come into contact with someone who had recently traveled — a strong indication that the virus is now spreading throughout the community, according to the department.

On March 1, the Public Health Department confirmed three more cases of the coronavirus. One case involves an adult woman who concurrently has chronic health conditions, according to public health staff. An investigation into her case is ongoing, the department said in a statement.

The two other cases involve a couple, a husband with chronic health conditions and his wife, who recently traveled to Egypt. All three people are currently being hospitalized for the disease.

Two other cases reported on March 2 were two men who have isolated themselves at home. One man is a "household contact" of a confirmed case in another county. The other man is a "household contact" of a previous case in Santa Clara County.

Two more cases involving a woman and man currently in the hospital were reported on March 3. They remain under investigation to determine the source of transmission, according to the county Public Health Department. No information regarding age or condition of the patients was released during a press conference Tuesday at the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center.

The county announced an additional two cases on March 4. One case is a man currently hospitalized and currently under investigation to determine how he was exposed to the virus. Two more cases are both men who "are close contacts of an existing case," according to the county. The pair are isolated at home.

The six cases announced March 5 involved three women and three men, according to County Counsel Williams, who also serves as director of the county's Emergency Operations Center. Of the six people, four have self-isolated at home and were contacts of other known cases; two others have been hospitalized. Many of the cases have mild symptoms or have shown no symptoms, which is consistent with other cases around the globe, he added.

Four cases announced March 6 are not related to each other, according to a statement by the department. One of the cases is a man who is a household contact of a previous county case. The second is a female who is hospitalized. The third is a male who recently traveled to India and has been hospitalized. The fourth case is a male who has isolated himself at home.

The department is looking into how the second and fourth cases might have contracted the illness.

"The Public Health Department will continue to identify anyone who has come into contact with these cases," staff said in a statement. "The department also will be conducting community surveillance to determine the extent of possible disease spread in our community."

The statement did not specify the protocols or extent of the surveillance.

The first two cases reported in January involved travelers who arrived in the county from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the viral disease that has since been on lockdown. Though both patients had mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization, they remain in quarantine, according to public health staff. The first case has recovered, the department announced Feb. 20.

As of Wednesday, March 11, San Mateo County has reported 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The county issued a statement that signaled an aggressive approach to minimizing the risk of contracting coronavirus.

The county has opened a call center to take questions from residents with nonmedical questions about novel coronavirus and declared a state of emergency on March 10.

Action at local schools

Read the latest update on Palo Alto Unified: School district leaders: No schools will close

Read the latest update on Stanford: Stanford tells 7,000 undergrads to leave campus; class will be online only next quarter

Concerns over the disease have climbed at Palo Alto Unified School District, which sent home two students on Friday, Feb. 28, after learning their parent had been exposed to the disease. The students attend Palo Alto High School and JLS Middle School, Superintendent Don Austin said.

A team has formed at the district to evaluate the situation and provide information once it's available, Austin said in his Feb. 28 message to parents.

The district learned the parent was reportedly in "public proximity to an infected person" but that "there is no indication of infection at this time," Lana Conaway, the district's assistant superintendent of equity and student affairs, said on Feb. 28.

She encouraged parents and students to wash their hands often and to stay home if they have any symptoms, including fever or respiratory distress. Crews did an "aggressive" cleaning of all hard surfaces at JLS and Paly over the weekend, according to Conaway.

Also over the following weekend, an online petition emerged asking the district to take additional precautions, including starting spring break early and extending it to two weeks and providing online learning options to students who choose to stay home.

In a message to families on Sunday, March 1, Austin said that the district has consulted with a variety of public officials and health professionals and he does not see a reason to close schools at this point.

"As a Palo Alto resident, I see large crowds in supermarkets, parks, theaters, airports, restaurants and public places. They are operating as usual with no call for closures," he wrote. "Closing schools at this point would not eliminate the infinite interactions our students would have beyond PAUSD. We understand the responsibility afforded to PAUSD while caring for your students and treat the work seriously. We cannot control every aspect of student or community life, which is the only way a quarantine works."

He asked community members to "limit speculation and overreactions."

The district is continuing to follow guidance from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC.

On Tuesday, March 3, Menlo School in Atherton announced that the school would be closed through the weekend after learning a staff member had contact with a relative with the coronavirus, according to a letter by Head of School Than Healy. The school has canceled all school-related activities, including classes, sports, arts activities, club meetings and planned field trips.

In tandem with news of the VA case, parents with students in a high school work program that's held after school at the VA hospital in Palo Alto received a notice regarding the coronavirus case on Tuesday, March 3.

"We will be suspending student participation in the VA program for the present time. ... At no time has there been an elevated risk to student safety," Kristen Hardy, director of special education for the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, said in an email.

About 14 special education students from the district, mainly from Mountain View High School, but also Los Altos High School and the district's adult school, spend about an hour and a half at the VA hospital on weekdays gaining work experience, according to Kathy Brenner, an education specialist at the Mountain View-Los Altos district.

The decision, made in consultation with district administrators, comes out of considerations that some students have compromised immune systems and others may not always wash their hands according to best practices, she said.

"We just want to keep our kids safe. We don't want to overreact either, but we'd rather be safe than sorry," she said.

The district partners with other student work sites, so students who have been at the hospital will be temporarily reassigned and will gain exposure to other work experiences, she said.

The school district changed students' schedules and pick-up times from Mountain View and Los Altos high schools through March 30 and will be reviewing the changes with Palo Alto Unified School District. Case managers are working with students, she said.

Woodside Priory, a private school for students in grades 6 through 12, has canceled events for its Service Week scheduled March 16-20, including two trips to Guatemala and Costa Rica, according to an email from Director of Communications Kelly Sargent.

The school also plans to keep dormitories open during Easter break, scheduled April 6-13, to give students the choice to stay on campus instead of traveling and "due to international air travel uncertainty," Sargent said.

On Tuesday, March 3, Stanford University decided to postpone or cancel events on and off campus likely to attract 150 or more people, including Grad Alumni Day, the SIEPR Economic Summit, Holy Week Easter Services, Second Sunday Family Days at the Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection, and all Department of Music concerts scheduled through at least April 15. Stanford Athletics will continue to hold all sporting competitions at this time, with limited public attendance. The University said it will offer increased opportunities for livestreaming events. A full list of event changes can be found at news.stanford.edu.

On Friday, March 6, a student and staff members at the Menlo Park City School District were asked to stay home after learning they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Read more about the virus' impact on local schools here.

Company leaders to employees: Work at home

Read the latest update on local tech companies' response to the coronavirus: Local tech companies' best defense against the coronavirus — work from home

LinkedIn has heeded the county's warning, telling its Bay Area employees to do any work that can be done remotely at home through the end of March to mitigate the spread of the virus. Employees have also been asked to postpone all nonessential business travel and will not participate in external events in March and April, according to LinkedIn spokeswoman Kenly Walker. LinkedIn, headquartered in Sunnyvale and Mountain View, will not be shutting down its offices and intends to provide the same level of service to customers, members and partners, she added.

Menlo Park-based Facebook is also following through on the county's guidance by recommending a large portion of its workforce to begin working from home starting Friday, March 6.

On Monday, March 9, NASA Ames Research Center required employees work from home after learning a day earlier that one of its employees tested positive for the new coronavirus.

"The safety of our employees and their families is our top priority. Any decisions we have made, or will make, is with the safety of our workforce in mind," according to a NASA Ames statement.

Business has remained mostly normal at cloud infrastructure company VMware. The tech giant was informed last week by one of its employees that their spouse had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the Palo Alto-based company said in an email to the Weekly on Monday, March 9.

The employee, who is in self-isolation for 14 days, and their spouse have not shown symptoms of the new coronavirus. The company reopened the office the employee worked in on Monday morning, March 9, after a temporary closure that started at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, for the company to conduct a deep clean and disinfection of the building.

"Since this is a secondary contact situation, there is minimal risk of contagion based on guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control," the company said. "Our Palo Alto Campus and all other buildings remain open. However, any employee who would prefer to work from home is welcome to do so."

County heightens precautionary actions

On Friday, Feb. 28, county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said the county has implemented isolation and quarantine in response to the reported cases over the past five weeks but is taking further actions.

The county's public health lab has testing kits from the CDC, she said at a press conference in San Jose. The county's emergency operations center is getting support from assistance teams from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC.

The Public Health Department encourages the public to take proactive measures to slow down the spread of the disease. Staff recommend people frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails and countertops. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also recommended if hand-washing is not available. Officials also instruct the public to cough into a tissue or their elbow and avoid touching their faces.

The best current evidence shows that people are at higher risk for the coronavirus if they are ages 50 or older, Dr. Sara Cody, the county's public health officer, said at a March 3 press conference.

The risk of infection and its severity accelerates with age, so someone who is 60 years old is more vulnerable to the illness than someone who is 50, and someone 70 years old is at greater risk for severe infection than someone who is 60. Persons ages 80 and above are at the greatest risk.

People with underlying medical conditions are also at greater risk. These include: cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung conditions, cancer and compromised immune systems. Persons with these conditions should avoid large gatherings such as concerts, parades and sporting events. Organizations serving seniors are recommended to cancel large gatherings, such as bingo games and movie screenings, and to clean all surfaces with disinfectants including phones, keyboards, tablets and door handles.

The recommendations do not include avoiding office environments or grocery stores where people do not typically gather tightly together.

Businesses have been urged to cancel nonessential travel and not require doctors notes from employees who are sick to alleviate the workload of already burdened medical providers, Dr. Cody said at a March 6 press conference late last week.

New recommendations for businesses include expanding telecommuting options and staggering start and end times for workdays to minimize close contact between employees. The space between their contact should be no less than 3 feet apart, she added.

As it has in the past, county leaders at the press conference urged that large gatherings such as sporting events and conferences should be canceled. People who are most at risk due to pre-existing conditions or who are over the age of 50 should not attend large gatherings, she said.

Worldwide and in the U.S., there have not been many cases of children who have the disease, she said. Currently, county health leaders are not recommending school closures. The county will review that recommendation on a case-by-case basis if staff members or others in the school community are confirmed to have the coronavirus, she said.

"As much as possible, we really want children to go along with their lives and to continue their education that's so important for them," she said.

School districts should carefully consider the costs of benefits of closing their campuses, which has the potential to have a large impact, particularly for employed parents and their workplaces, she added.

Noting the recent hoarding of essentials at the Mountain View Costco and other locations, Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, urged people not to panic.

"If any of you've been to a Costco lately you'll know that ... we're teetering on the brink of not being calm and not being thoughtful. We want to make sure we're not hoarding goods that should be used for medical purposes and we're really being mindful that we are part of a community," she said at the press conference.

The county Public Health Department is publishing updates on local cases at sccgov.org.

Cities keeping watch

Read the latest update on the city of Palo Alto's response to the coronavirus: [Palo Alto declares coronavirus 'emergency'

As of Sunday, March 8, there were no confirmed local cases of the coronavirus in Palo Alto, City Manager Ed Shikada said in an email. The VA Palo Alto is caring for a patient who was transferred from another California county and is in isolation. The city is continuing to monitor reports of exposures to the disease.

Employees and community are advised to stay home if they are sick and alert city managers "of any unusual circumstances that could indicate exposure."

"We're on top of it as much as any agency can be, recognizing there are unknowns and many possible scenarios ahead of us," Shikada said.

The city also plans to prioritize hygiene at upcoming city events and is conducting a review of its "operational contingency plans."

City leaders have re-emphasized hygienic practices during the flu season and special protocols to its police officers and firefighters. Palo Alto is also maintaining communication with the county, school district, Stanford University and other agencies.

The city has created a webpage that will be regularly updated with information on the coronavirus and local response to the outbreak at cityofpaloalto.org.

East Palo Alto is also taking several steps to minimize the spread of the virus, including making arrangements for delivery of meals for senior citizens, increasing its cleaning of public areas under the city's jurisdiction and hiring a contractor to supplement the cleaning efforts, Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones announced Thursday morning, March 12.

The city also announced Thursday that it will close the Senior Center Management for one week, a decision that was made by agreement with the facility, Wallace-Jones said. City officials are participating in daily briefings with regional emergency management staff and minimizing public gatherings that have more than 50 attendees and that may include vulnerable populations. These gatherings are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis, according to the announcement.

Wallace-Jones urged residents to take seriously the guidelines that have been provided to the community by the San Mateo County Health Department.

"As the medical experts guiding our county through this crisis, their advice is science based and intended to save lives," Wallace-Jones wrote. "This is not the time to question the practices they have recommended, as not doing so may put your health at risk or illness or even death."

East Palo Alto is also monitoring developments in the coronavirus outbreak and is communicating with San Mateo County leaders and the CDC. East Palo Alto residents can find more information from their city and county at smchealth.org.

Virus threat leads to event cancellations

Several arts organizations have led arts and entertainment organizations on the Midpeninsula to cancel or postpone events, temporarily close or increase sanitation efforts. Read our latest updates on canceled or postponed events here.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and Almanac here.

Comments

Robyn
another community
on Mar 2, 2020 at 3:45 pm
Robyn, another community
on Mar 2, 2020 at 3:45 pm
18 people like this

Be responsible for yourself and your family.
Avoid ill people and wash your hands with soap and water, not ineffective anti-bacterials. We are avoiding crowded areas, especially buses and trains.
Our office allows tele-commuting and they have removed all eating utensils from the kitchen!
Regarding transparency, Google announced that one of their employees tested positive in Switzerland long before the government did.
Stay safe.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Mar 2, 2020 at 7:10 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Mar 2, 2020 at 7:10 pm
36 people like this

Based on traffic today, half of Silicon Valley workers did not go in. VOTERS: Fill out your ballots. They are due in a collection box - such as at the MV library - or postmarked by Tuesday. Don't forget who has dropped out if you have a Democratic ballot. Don't vote for a dropout.


Mountain View Resident
North Whisman
on Mar 6, 2020 at 6:15 am
Mountain View Resident, North Whisman
on Mar 6, 2020 at 6:15 am
26 people like this

I think that it may be safer for the school districts to close for at least some period of time as it seems that the virus will continue to spread and even though students may have a lower chance of the ill-effects of the virus they can unintentionally bring the virus home and infect their parents or older relatives who are more susceptible to the virus. In addition perhaps teachers can place both the gel disinfectant and tissues within their classrooms and inform their students to use them as there are not sinks or soap and water within classrooms.


Another MV Resident
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2020 at 8:54 am
Another MV Resident, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2020 at 8:54 am
19 people like this

@MountainViewResident: Think that you need to look at infection rates before making a call that kids are safer at home. Also need to think about impact on the community once thousands of parents need to figure out child care for thousands of kids for a period of time that could be weeks to months. May be easier for people with tech desk jobs to work from home but the contractor, the store manager, the restaurant worker... not so much. Start with something simple like how to pay for lunch for kids that are getting free meals at school now, and the health impact if they can’t be fed at home - they could be worse off if they have to stay home for an extended period. it gets complicated quickly and it’s not an easy decision...


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