The city's senior nutrition program, run by the nonprofit Community Services Agency (CSA), has been severely cut back to curb potential exposure to COVID-19. CSA Executive Director Tom Myers said the sit-down congregate meal program has been temporarily scrapped in favor of prepackaged takeout meals that will be available at the Mountain View Senior Center.
Though the program is a popular daily event and a good way to prevent isolation and loneliness among the city's seniors, Myers said the changes are the "new normal" until further notice from county health officials. All of the tables will be folded up so there's no temptation for seniors to sit down and eat at the senior center. The program serves between 150 and 200 people each weekday.
"The other option was to cancel the program, but we have seniors who rely on this food," Myers said.
With worries swirling over the spread of the virus and the cutbacks to the senior nutrition program, participation has plummeted. On Monday, the program served 87 meals — far fewer than usual — followed by 64 meals on Tuesday. Voice staff saw no more than 50 people show up for food on Wednesday.
Other services in the senior center have been canceled until further notice, including the exercise room, movie program, blood pressure screenings and March 25 Spring Fling Dance.
CSA's pantry services have also been heavily curtailed. Instead of allowing clients to handpick groceries at the nonprofit's distribution center on Stierlin Road, staff will be pre-bagging food and handing it off outside the facility. Clients are also being asked to schedule appointments to reduce the number of drop-in visitors.
CSA's clients include a high number of seniors and homeless residents who are more vulnerable to the virus, Myers said. County health officials say that anyone over the age of 50 is at heightened risk — which escalates "significantly" with increased age, with people over 80 considered at highest risk — as well as anyone with a health condition such as cancer, heart disease or chronic lung disease.
"We are dealing with a population that could potentially be at greater risk," Myers said. "We want to make sure to give people access to food or access to services and housing in a way that is as healthy as possible."
The nonprofit Hope's Corner, which operates a downtown meal program for needy residents on Saturday mornings, is also adjusting its practices. Breakfasts will be provided in a takeout container for guests seeking to minimize potential exposure or for those who arrive "appearing ill," Hope's Corner President Leslie Carmichael said in a statement Monday. Chairs and tables have been spread further apart, and previous self-service items like coffee are now being handled by volunteers only.
Though the safety of guests and volunteers is a top priority, Carmichael wrote that the meal program is also an important part of local safety net services.
"We serve some of the most vulnerable people in our community who have few other options to obtain food on the weekends," Carmichael wrote.
As of Monday morning, the city of Mountain View has postponed a March 10 community event to welcome new city manager Kimbra McCarthy; a March 18 neighborhood meeting at Huff Elementary School; and two teen job fairs originally scheduled for March 18 and 21. The city's March 14 Arbor Day celebration is also expected to be canceled.
On Monday, 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 effective Wednesday 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.
The city has ramped up efforts to clean surfaces in public areas and has installed numerous hand sanitizer dispensers throughout all of the city's facilities, including the bathrooms, said city spokeswoman Shonda Ranson. The city has not conducted a so-called deep cleaning of its buildings, as some Bay Area school districts have done.
Though county public health officials have released limited information about each of the 45 known cases of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, one patient was confirmed to have been treated at El Camino Hospital's Mountain View campus. NASA Ames officials announced Monday that one of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting a mandatory work-from-home status for the research center.
Here's the list of canceled upcoming events announced by the city on Monday morning:
•3/12: Green Streets Symposium, postponed
•3/13: Leadership Mountain View session at PD/FD Admin and Fire Station 4, canceled
•3/18: Council Neighborhoods Committee meeting at Huff Elementary, postponed
•3/18 and 3/21: Teen job fairs, canceled, may be rescheduled
•3/14: Arbor Day celebration will likely be canceled
•3/25 Spring Fling Dance at Senior Center, canceled
•3/30: Civility Roundtable, postponed
•Senior Center: Will remain open; many programs canceled or postponed; the nutrition program will provide to-go meals only.
•Youth and recreation programs: Will continue until further notice
•Center for the Performing Arts: Will continue until further notice; check mvcpa.com
•Library: All programs canceled or postponed through March 14; check mountainview.gov/library
•City Council and advisory body meetings: Will continue as scheduled. City is assessing potential risks of virus exposure and Brown Act requirements associated with public meetings.
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