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'On again, off again': State's watchlist creates uncertainty for businesses

County health leaders won't say how status will affect reopening decisions

Pedestrians walk by Ristorante Don Giovanni and St. Stephen's Green customers dining at outdoor tables placed on the street in downtown Mountain View on July 2, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement last week that counties on the state's coronavirus "watchlist" had to tighten their restrictions gave whiplash to certain Santa Clara County businesses that had just reopened on July 13.

With 37 of California's 58 counties under monitoring, it also raised huge questions about what will happen when a county gets off the watchlist — questions that Santa Clara County health leaders so far are unable to answer.

Santa Clara County found itself on the state Department of Public Health watchlist for the second time last week after a rise in hospitalizations. Because it remained on the watchlist for more than three days, the county had to order hair and nail salons and other businesses to end their indoor operations on July 15.

As of Monday, July 20, the county was off the watchlist. On Wednesday, it was back on due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

County health leaders were asked how they would decide to reopen businesses, given the on-again-off-again nature of being on the watchlist, but they refused to answer repeated inquiries.

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Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said he has no illusions about what the county will be charged with doing in the weeks and months ahead, nor what the pain to communities, schools and businesses will be.

"It has been clear from the outset of the pandemic that we are going to have to work through all of this with an ever-changing set of circumstances," he said by phone on Wednesday. "All of us are looking for certainty" but the coronavirus is uncharted territory.

The government and the state have struggled with whether to take actions on a county-by-county basis, a state basis or a blend of both, he said.

"The watchlist is particularly unsettling," he said.

Santa Clara County has a low hospitalization rate compared to other areas of the state, so even a modest uptick equates to a significant percentage, which places the county back on the watchlist, he said.

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"We're going to be whipsawed a bit by the state. Folks were told they can open nail and hair salons and fitness centers on Monday and then closed again on Wednesday. This whiplash works a terrible hardship on businesses," he said.

'It has been clear from the outset of the pandemic that we are going to have to work through all of this with an ever-changing set of circumstances.'

-Joe Simitian, supervisor, Santa Clara County

Judy Kleinberg, president of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, said the revolving door of health orders and the layers of state and county rulings are the source of great frustration for businesses and damaging to morale.

"Each business that has been able to open in a limited way has made commitments to workers and made financial outlays to accommodate the health restrictions, and then their plans have been abruptly changed. The tolerance for these abrupt changes is wearing thin with really no one to blame," she said.

"The 'we're all in this together' mantra is barely resonating at this point when some businesses are open, even partially, or are out on the street, and others are open, then closed, then open outside — and others aren't allowed to open at all," she said in an email.

While Santa Clara County is on the watchlist, San Mateo County is not, which also presents challenges.

"If there is any confusion, it's that neighboring counties have different rules, which undercuts confidence in the reasoning for backtracking on the reopening," she said. "We started with a coordinated response of all seven counties, and all businesses were in the same boat and the messaging was consistent. Now there are mixed messages and businesses can't function without certainty and a modicum of predictability," she said.

'The tolerance for these abrupt changes is wearing thin with really no one to blame.'

-Judy Kleinberg, president, Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce

Kleinberg favors regional decisions rather than county-by-county ones.

"I would re-establish the regional approach to have all Bay Area counties following the same rules and same timeline," Kleinberg said. "The difference from one county to another in terms of the watchlist is only due to the existence of political boundaries. That's just not how the Bay area functions socially or economically."

Simitian believes it's important for the state and counties to pick a set of metrics and stick with them.

"There is going to be this continual tension between economic activity and protecting people's health. Asking public health officers to thread that needle is going to take a lot of care."

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

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'On again, off again': State's watchlist creates uncertainty for businesses

County health leaders won't say how status will affect reopening decisions

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 24, 2020, 9:31 am

Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement last week that counties on the state's coronavirus "watchlist" had to tighten their restrictions gave whiplash to certain Santa Clara County businesses that had just reopened on July 13.

With 37 of California's 58 counties under monitoring, it also raised huge questions about what will happen when a county gets off the watchlist — questions that Santa Clara County health leaders so far are unable to answer.

Santa Clara County found itself on the state Department of Public Health watchlist for the second time last week after a rise in hospitalizations. Because it remained on the watchlist for more than three days, the county had to order hair and nail salons and other businesses to end their indoor operations on July 15.

As of Monday, July 20, the county was off the watchlist. On Wednesday, it was back on due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

County health leaders were asked how they would decide to reopen businesses, given the on-again-off-again nature of being on the watchlist, but they refused to answer repeated inquiries.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said he has no illusions about what the county will be charged with doing in the weeks and months ahead, nor what the pain to communities, schools and businesses will be.

"It has been clear from the outset of the pandemic that we are going to have to work through all of this with an ever-changing set of circumstances," he said by phone on Wednesday. "All of us are looking for certainty" but the coronavirus is uncharted territory.

The government and the state have struggled with whether to take actions on a county-by-county basis, a state basis or a blend of both, he said.

"The watchlist is particularly unsettling," he said.

Santa Clara County has a low hospitalization rate compared to other areas of the state, so even a modest uptick equates to a significant percentage, which places the county back on the watchlist, he said.

"We're going to be whipsawed a bit by the state. Folks were told they can open nail and hair salons and fitness centers on Monday and then closed again on Wednesday. This whiplash works a terrible hardship on businesses," he said.

Judy Kleinberg, president of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, said the revolving door of health orders and the layers of state and county rulings are the source of great frustration for businesses and damaging to morale.

"Each business that has been able to open in a limited way has made commitments to workers and made financial outlays to accommodate the health restrictions, and then their plans have been abruptly changed. The tolerance for these abrupt changes is wearing thin with really no one to blame," she said.

"The 'we're all in this together' mantra is barely resonating at this point when some businesses are open, even partially, or are out on the street, and others are open, then closed, then open outside — and others aren't allowed to open at all," she said in an email.

While Santa Clara County is on the watchlist, San Mateo County is not, which also presents challenges.

"If there is any confusion, it's that neighboring counties have different rules, which undercuts confidence in the reasoning for backtracking on the reopening," she said. "We started with a coordinated response of all seven counties, and all businesses were in the same boat and the messaging was consistent. Now there are mixed messages and businesses can't function without certainty and a modicum of predictability," she said.

Kleinberg favors regional decisions rather than county-by-county ones.

"I would re-establish the regional approach to have all Bay Area counties following the same rules and same timeline," Kleinberg said. "The difference from one county to another in terms of the watchlist is only due to the existence of political boundaries. That's just not how the Bay area functions socially or economically."

Simitian believes it's important for the state and counties to pick a set of metrics and stick with them.

"There is going to be this continual tension between economic activity and protecting people's health. Asking public health officers to thread that needle is going to take a lot of care."

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

Comments

Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:08 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:08 am
6 people like this

Tough situation. Plan to work and learn remotely. Some "in-person" contact will be allowed. But voting for the November election - here in California - will be by mail and collection boxes. Other states have moved to more voting by mail. But here is the problem. President Trump and his Republican allies are claiming that (1) voting by mail will enable voter fraud and (2) the U.S. Postal Service is broke. Trump will do anything to remain President - including shutting down all post offices as voting begins in October. If only 50% of registered voters cast ballots or get their ballots to election offices to be counted, 26% can carry the day. While Trump still could not realistically win in California, the Presidential election will be decided in swing states - not here.


The Business Man
Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:26 am
The Business Man, Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:26 am
5 people like this

The county by county approach was designed to cause this problem.

It makes it totally unstable regarding the benchmarks. Since they change daily.

The Business sector pushes the governments to open up because they are dying. These businesses never had disaster insurance to cover a pandemic even though the risk was known all along. Especially since Spanish Flu, Polio, HIV and so on.

As a professional business continuity expert, I knew that there were insurance policies that would mitigate the losses. Yes the businesses had to be smart enough NOT to buy garbage insurance, like all of us.

But the only way county by county control COULD work is that no one could cross county lines. Otherwise it was a DEFECTIVE plan.

Businesses should have also frozen themselves, thus they would have only taxes to pay on non existent revenue. The Federal, State, County and city taxes should have been frozen too. They should have arranged for a long term COVID plan expecting at least 1 to 2 years of business disruption.

The States were caught with no resources for this situation, especially when the federal laws establish that federal agencies were responsible to provide support to them. But the Trump administration dropped their obligations.

The response simply never was correct. And now you are seeing that politicians are complaining that people do not want to take the risk to get sick by not returning to work? The REALITY is that 100% of their recent earnings should be provided because they lost their work BY NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN. This is crazy. These people cannot afford to get sick and die for their financial situation and their dependents.

WE NEVER ACTED ON THE PROBLEM CORRECTLY, WE NEVER DID WHAT MOST OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE DONE. WE NEED TO GET REAL AND ACT ACCORDINGLY AND SIMPLY ACCEPT THE FACT WE ARE ALL IN TROUBLE AND NO ONE IS GOING TO GET OFF CHEAPLY.




[email protected]
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:17 pm
[email protected], Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:17 pm
Like this comment

I would like to point out that Brian Darrow, the Program Manager for the Office of the County Executive sent out a clarification to all elected and public officials on July 14 with the following:

"... These closures will remain in effect until the state Health Officer takes action to modify the health order. In other words, even if our local data improves and we are taken off of the monitoring list, these sectors will remain closed for indoor services until the State takes affirmative action. "


off again-the more you know..
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:47 pm
off again-the more you know.., Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:47 pm
7 people like this

Oh Gavin! We think Spirits and Beer should be on the same protocol guidance as your wineries.

Meanwhile, at PlumpJack Wineries, Gavin has issued his guidelines for outdoor wine drinking (aka drinking wine outside without the mandatory substantial food requirements that you and Sara Cody demand in Santa Clara County for outdoor dining)

"Newsom owns stock in PlumpJack Group, which includes a winery in Napa Valley's Oakville. That winery is open for tastings. According to Gov. Newsom's 2018 tax filings, he and his wife own shares in the group that produced a combined salary of nearly $600,000 in 2018.Jul 2, 2020" Wineries include PLUMPJACK ESTATE WINERY | CADE ESTATE WINERY | ODETTE ESTATE WINERY | 13TH VINEYARD

Below are PlumpJack Wineries current guidelines from their website as of today.....

"a few new guidelines, same warm hospitality, same great wines!WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT WHEN VISITING OUR TASTING Rooms-We want all of our guests and team members to feel comfortable and safe so everyone can enjoy their experience. We ask that you please take a moment to review a few new rules.TASTING EXPERIENCES ARE BY APPOINTMENT Only Guests must have an appointment for all tasting experiences and all experiences are private. We will only accept group sizes of 6 or less, 21 and older. At this time, we are not allowing dogs unless they are service animals."

"FACE COVERINGS ARE REQUIRED IN ALL PUBLIC Areas, Our team members are required to wear facial coverings at all times. We respectfully request our guests to wear facial coverings at all times when not seated at their designated tasting area".

"RELAX, DRINK WINE, ENJOY THE MOMENTWe are thrilled to be able to welcome you back to our Tasting Rooms. We look forward to hosting you in a space that is not only safe and sanitary, but in a space that encourages you to relax, drink excellent wine and enjoy living the #plumpjacklife."

So let me get this straight, while Gavin and Sara Cody have prepared their "strike teams" (ABC, FTB and public health) to actively look for outdoor dining violations in SC County, groups of 6 (non-family members) are allowed to drink wine without face masks at Gavin's wineries outside, guests don't have to order "substantial meals", nor does the group of six all need to be all family members under the same roof.

We all know, you buy the tasting $$$, pick up a bottle or 6 and head to a picnic table for an enjoyable outdoor (mask free) afternoon and hopefully, have a designated driver to get you home.

I am numb at this point on how to condemn these arbitrary guidelines issued by the state.

“He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” George Bernard Shaw

The science tells me to wash my hands, stay home when I'm sick and stay six feet away from others and wear a mask out of respect. Gavin, you open and close every Covid19 press conference with these same statements. Good to know, you know, the virus respects only your wine tasting guidelines.

The "county watch list" is arbitrary, capricious and an abject statistical interpretation failure.

A haircut between two consenting adults outside with masks is not an offense, nor a beverage without a substantial meal. I thought we did not live in the aggregate? SCC is being punished for being a success statistically speaking but your failure to understand the information presented causes mistrust, misuse and confusion. Good to know you are able to maintain your income stream:) during the pandemic. It's unfortunate that I need drive to Napa to have a glass of wine outside with a close friend or caregiver.









The Business Man
Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:50 pm
The Business Man, Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:50 pm
2 people like this

Given the continuing bad news we are getting in the state of CA, we are going to be forced to shutdown again, and it will be probably have to remain throughout the rest of the year.

I pray that our worldwide scientists can finally solve the COVID problem as fast as possible.

But we cannot cut corners, we cannot use an unsafe drug or gene cocktail.

The recent standards are that all they need is 50% effectiveness to get approved.

WAY TOO LOW


da staple genius
Bailey Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:42 am
da staple genius, Bailey Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:42 am
Like this comment

"But we cannot cut corners"

Ya mean bleach doesn't work?


amazing
Cuernavaca
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:33 am
amazing, Cuernavaca
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:33 am
6 people like this

I can't help but laugh at the person who wrote "a haircut between two consenting adults" as part of their rant. Also that they wear masks "out of respect".


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