On day one of the unprecedented stay-at-home order, some in Palo Alto try to keep it 'business as usual' | News | Palo Alto Online |

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On day one of the unprecedented stay-at-home order, some in Palo Alto try to keep it 'business as usual'

Essential workers stay on the job while parents and others adjust to new routines

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Few people walk along University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto on March 16. "Essential" workers can continue to operate under a shelter-in-place order that went into effect on March 17 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

In the face of the new coronavirus pandemic that's now killed six people in Santa Clara County, residents, employees and the homeless of Palo Alto are all left with the same option — cope.

A sweeping order issued Monday by health officials of six Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara, instructed everyone to stay at home and limit all outside traveling to essentials such as grocery shopping or picking up medication.

It doesn't mean people aren't allowed to step outside. And that's especially true for employees of businesses that local county officials have labeled as "essential" and can continue to operate.

Outside of Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels shop on California Avenue, which has limited its operation to takeout and delivery orders, Clyde Salazar was eating his lunch on Tuesday and taking a break from his current construction project at 2515 El Camino Real, where 13 housing units, including a space for businesses, are in development. Because the site includes housing, the construction is considered essential under the county order.

"I can't work from home," Salazar, 46, said. "I'm a commercial plumber."

It wasn't stated as a gripe. Even as someone who is considered an essential worker, Salazar says the construction crew of around 70 people was slashed by half on Tuesday; he doesn't know what happened to the rest of the employees. But he knows he's lucky.

"My wife — she's not working, she had to file for unemployment," Salazar said. "She's in construction, also, as an office manager, and her company said, 'All nonessential personnel — stay home.'"

Near the Southgate neighborhood, David Nitoff was working through his usual 12-hour shift as a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, which the county considers essential.

"Gotta keep food on the table," Nitoff said. "Everyone's still out and about (and) we've been short-staffed for a while, in general."

With a spike in online shopping — significantly localized in Amazon.com, which is now temporarily prioritizing "high-demand products" such as household necessities and medical supplies — Nitoff says parcel volumes have gone up in the past two weeks, most likely due to the coronavirus.

So besides following the public health recommendation to keep a 6-foot distance from other people, Nitoff will be using disinfectant wipes to clean everyday objects he runs into during his route.

For many parents, the adjustment will not only have to include working from home, if the option is available, but also attending to their children's "distance learning" programs rolled out as schools shut down.

Lisa Rende Taylor would normally be operating her nonprofit organization Issara Institute, which aids vulnerable migrant workers across the globe, from the office. But with her 5-year-old twins out of Laurel School in Menlo Park, she was taking some time on Tuesday afternoon to play trackball at Eleanor Pardee Park as part of her sons' recommended physical education period.

"We have our instructions from the school; we've been working remotely for the past few weeks for work anyway, so we're just trying to keep it business as usual," Taylor said.

The city of Palo Alto has created a webpage with information on local, state and federal resources available for businesses during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Ruqayyah Ernestine, who is homeless, stood outside the Bluemercury cosmetic store in downtown Palo Alto, hoping to get enough money for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If she's lucky, she'll have some leftover funds to set aside for a new job-interview outfit from clothing store T.J.Maxx.

"I gave myself a goal," the former nursing assistant said. "I want to save three $20 bills over what I originally saved. I had two $50 bills and nine $20s — this was 12 weeks ago."

Ernestine, like other individuals experiencing homelessness, is exempt from the stay-at-home order. Though officials strongly urged homeless persons to find shelter, she prefers to stay out in the cold because she was once attacked in a shelter in New York City.

"What am I doing about all the craziness?" she asked rhetorically. "Doing the same thing. Nothing is different for me."

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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Comments

10 people like this
Posted by DaveT
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2020 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for this story. It's nice to have some "eyes and ears" out there to get some sense of what's going on locally while your readers are "sheltering in place" and not going out (beyond a walk in the neighborhood). Keep up the good work!!


9 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Mar 18, 2020 at 1:23 pm

Please post the hours for seniors at grocery stores.


7 people like this
Posted by Professorville 99
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 18, 2020 at 1:54 pm

To Chris - Whole Foods is open from 8am -9am for seniors. Such a great idea!


17 people like this
Posted by Downfall
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 18, 2020 at 2:32 pm

While I am fully supportive of the stay at home order I believe the essential businesses/services have been defined too broadly. I read that Tesla is staying open keeping manufacturing going, this does not seem to be in any way essential. Also allowing restaurant delivery seems like a bad idea, allows an infected delivery driver to spread broadly. I know there is the same risk with mail/package delivery but why not minimize it as much as possible.

Allowing housing construction to continue because it is essential is absurd. Just another instance of Bay Area liberal ideals being prioritized over general well being. In my neighborhood construction is continuing on homes that must be $3.5 to $5 million, how is finishing these homes essential.

I still do not think this threat is being taken seriously enough.


5 people like this
Posted by Helen
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2020 at 2:56 pm

Uh Oh...
Web Link

“ CDC analysis shows coronavirus poses serious risk for younger people “


8 people like this
Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2020 at 5:42 pm

Ruqayyah Ernestine could walk over to the food closet at All Saints Episcopal Church on Hamilton, which is still open. As for restaurants open for take-out downtown, I plan to buy from them a lot over the next 3 weeks. I normally don't eat at many of them, but I want them to be able to stay open during all this.


21 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2020 at 6:41 pm

While most of us have been ask to remain confined to our homes a SFO webpage entitled "Important Travel Information Regarding COVID-19" seems to be inviting travelers to continue to take advantage of SFO's passenger services:

"SFO is open and providing services to our traveling guests and our airline partners. Food service is available pre and post security. Please check the Shop, Dine, and Relax pages for more information"

Air travel is way down, but shouldn't SFO's COVID-19 webpage be discouraging all non-essential travel through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic? It seems irresponsible to invite traveler's to enjoy SFO's services when air travel is the primary vector through which COVID-19 has spread to 173 countries and now 50 of the US's states.

"SFO: Important Travel Information Regarding COVID-19" Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Carlito waysmann
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2020 at 10:32 am

All county officials put a serious face during the press conference announcing the shelter in place order, they said that all non-essential work should shut down and workers to stay at home.

I thought that finally they grasped the seriousness of this pandemic. Yesterday. on the second day of the county's order, I see a gardener doing his job with a gas powered blower, we called the non emergency police number to report, the lady answering the phone said that the gardener shouldn't be out there, but Palo Alto is not enforcing the county's order and no police was going to be sent to check on the culprit.
Next. please explain why multimillion dollars single family home building is considered essential work/service in Palo Alto? Did they get the county's letter authorizing them to proceed because of the essential nature of that work?

The public officials say that we are in this together, are we?


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 10:50 am

>> To Chris - Whole Foods is open from 8am -9am for seniors. Such a great idea!

Any others stores doing this? Does anyone have a list?


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 10:58 am

Posted by Carlito waysmann, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> All county officials put a serious face during the press conference announcing the shelter in place order, they said that all non-essential work should shut down and workers to stay at home.

>> I thought that finally they grasped the seriousness of this pandemic. Yesterday. on the second day of the county's order, I see a gardener doing his job with a gas powered blower

The gas powered blower is out of line, but, seriously, people working alone outside are not a threat, any more than people walking the dog outside, alone. People in contact with each other are a threat. People not maintaining social distancing. A lot of people seem to think that being up close with a single friend is OK. Unless that is your SO -- then, it is NOT OK. "Serial meetings" are NOT OK. Use FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, whatever.

"Back off!"


5 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2020 at 11:16 am

Piazza market is also opening early for seniors.


Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 19, 2020 at 12:29 pm

Actually, Piazza’s decided to NOT have special times for seniors. I’m disappointed and won’t shop there as a result.


19 people like this
Posted by Pence ignored pandemic study on 2019
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2020 at 12:42 pm

All y'all freaking out about gardeners and SFO need to take a step back.

You will never make it a month, if that's the thing that's blowing your top already.


15 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 2:06 pm

The State Department issued a blanket Level 4 travel advisory today covering all international travel.

"Under the State Department's advisory system, Level 4 means "do not travel." While it is not a legal prohibition, it is considered a stringent warning of life-threatening hazards and is typically reserved for war zones and countries with uncontained dangerous situations, like disease outbreaks or financial collapse."

The ordinary methods we are being encouraged to practice to avoid COVID-19 - frequent hand washing and maintaining a social distance of at least six feet - may not be effective within the tight confines of a aircraft cabin.

"The US issued its highest-level travel alert for every country in the world"
Business Insider ~ March 19, 2020 Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2020 at 11:16 pm

Gardeners are no more risk than people walking dogs alone. Yes, can't agree more on that with Aron.

Also, while food delivery and takeout poses some risk, it provides an excellent alternative to already crowded grocery stores (and is probably safer to actually keep it open).

Social distancing is of course useful, but overdoing it can cause more harm than good. Those who insist on "stopping everything" are asking to unnecessarily put way too many people out of work (let gardeners earn their paychecks, let small restaurants survive, use logic not panic).


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 20, 2020 at 9:45 am

Trader Joe’s is the only grocery store I’m aware of who is actually implementing useful steps to disinfect checkout areas. Every other store I’ve been in the checkers are happily transferring pathogens on the outside of their non sterile gloves. You are getting a gift from every customer who checked out before you or who touched the pin pad.

Also pissed at the number of selfish people wearing N95 masks. They are probably not even aware of of to take them off safely for disposal and using the same contaminated item every time they go out.


24 people like this
Posted by Wand3r3r
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 20, 2020 at 4:17 pm

>> To Rick - I vote we play the give-others-the-benefit-of-the-doubt game. Maybe the “selfish” people wearing the N95 masks do dispose of them correctly. They aren’t contaminating you by wearing them anyway. Furthermore, as I am guessing you think that by their having the masks they took from healthcare professionals or emergency responders, there’s this: You have no idea when they purchased said masks: last week? Last year? Last century? Maybe they have a legitimate reason for wearing them due to a pulmonary or other medical condition. Besides, nunya.

There. No need to be p***ed anymore.


13 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2020 at 10:16 pm

Reported by TMZ:

"A 34-year-old man has died in California after testing positive of coronavirus just days ago, and 2 weeks after visiting Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida ... on March 7 he developed a cough, and the next day he coughed up blood. He flew back to LAX on March 9 ... and immediately went to the ER, where he also had a high fever."

Why are the airports/airlines still taking people of uncertain health, packing them into a confined space for anywhere from one to eight hours, and distributing them all over the country?

"CA Man Dies at 34 Recently Visited Disney World in FL"
TMZ ~ March 19, 2020 Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2020 at 8:48 am

Jetman,

“Why are the airports/airlines still taking people of uncertain health, packing them into a confined space for anywhere from one to eight hours, and distributing them all over the country?”

I want to know why there’s so much jet noise even with less travelers. According to this article, flights are being cut
www.sfgate.com/travel/amp/Routes-Airlines-roundup-cuts-15146063.php

But noise has been same or worse :(


2 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2020 at 7:43 pm

@ Ares,

The pressing concern is the role airports/airlines play in transmission of COVID-19 and the efficacy of ordinary precautions (frequent hand washing and social distancing) in the heavily trafficked and confined space of an aircraft cabin. We can get back to the noise issue once we get through this.

International traffic (which has been halted) is only about 10% of the the traffic going in and out of SFO. It looks like domestic carriers have reduced flights on average by about 20%, so there is still a lot of traffic going in and out of SFO and other local airports. The reduction in traffic makes it easier for SFO air traffic control to sequence aircraft without vectoring them off of the standard flight paths which track over Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Jane Doe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2020 at 8:08 pm

@ Jetman,

There are wide swaths of Palo Alto where vectored flights are not the only issue. I do not know where "ares" lives, but in some areas of Palo Alto we are still pounded by reverse SJC traffic for example, especially with bad weather. Additionally, we still get BDEGA traffic with their U turns above us, as well as SERFR traffic. So, even though there are definitely less planes overhead and much appreciated quieter stretches, we still have periods of absolutely atrocious noise, especially courtesy of the San Jose Airport. Late at night, we tend to be slammed during the last hour before the SJC curfew, when SJC is in reverse.

That said, I agree with you that airplane passenger traffic is a major vector of disease transmission. This is nothing new but something that should really be controlled.


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2020 at 9:11 am

@Wand3r3r:

Happy to give people the benefit of the doubt. Not.

I'm much more willing to believe that 99% of these new mask and glove wearers have no idea how to wear them safely or how to don and doff them without cross-contaminating themselves or everything else around them. Thinking that PPE will help you, without training on how to use it, is like using a fire extinguisher without training. You will just use up a valuable safety device to no good purpose. It is like weapons in this country. Improper use tends to kill more family and friends than save lives from bad guys.


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