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Santa Clara County gains state clearance for plan to reopen economy

State Department of Public Health approves county's attestation, allowing July 2 order to take effect

Diners eat at Local Union 271 restaurant, which served around 40 people during lunch rush hour, on June 27. Photo by Lloyd Lee.

After an initial setback, Santa Clara County received the go-ahead from the state on Monday night for its plan to reopen the economy and allow hair salons and gyms to resume operations on July 13.

The variance attestation, which the state Department of Public Health posted on its website July 6, is a requirement for counties that want to reopen their economies more quickly than allowed under the state's shelter-in-place order. The variance will allow the county to move ahead with the health order that county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody issued on Thursday, allowing hair salons, gyms and other businesses to reopen on July 13.

The July 2 order also includes a set of rules that all businesses must follow during the pandemic. These include allowing telework when possible, shifting operations outdoors and imposing density restrictions, with no more than one employee per 250 square feet of gross floor area.

The approval followed a weekend of confusion and disappointment, with the state informing the county on July 4 that it had not met all the "metrics" for readiness, a necessary prerequisite for receiving the state clearance. As such, the county's attestation was deemed incomplete and was not posted on the state Department of Public Health's website.

That changed on Monday night, however. According to the state department, the county submitted a complete attestation to the application and the attestation was posted on the site late in the day.

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The state's earlier denial seemed to have caught just about all local and county officials by surprise, given that it was the first instance since the shutdown took effect on March 17 in which the state explicitly rejected an order from the county's health officer. While county officials acknowledged last week that the order would require approval from the state, they expressed optimism that the approval would be forthcoming.

Cody said at a Tuesday news briefing that the county has worked "closely with the California Department of Public Health over the weekend to make sure we met the metrics and met the criteria, and ultimately we were approved."

The state's approval of the attestation also creates some clarity for restaurant owners, in Palo Alto and elsewhere, who have been expanding outdoor dining by setting up tables in newly built parklets and recently closed thoroughfares. As part of its "Summer Streets" program, Palo Alto has recently closed California and University avenues to traffic to promote outdoor dining.

While serving meals outside was consistent with the county's June 5 order, which allows such an activity, it clashed with the state's shelter-in-place order, which does not. Because the county had not received a state variance before Monday night, it was not technically allowed to move ahead with indoor or outdoor dining, according to state officials.

County leaders had argued that because the state had not explicitly banned outdoor dining, and because other parts of the state have been allowing outdoor dining without seeking variances, they had assumed such a variance was not needed.

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The issue didn't surface until last weekend, when agents from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control visited several businesses in Gilroy and Morgan Hill to tell them that outdoor dining is not allowed, according to a report from The Mercury News. On Monday, Santa Clara County Deputy County Executive David Campos said that the direction from the state on outdoor dining created confusion for some businesses.

"What we want them to know is, as far as the County of Santa Clara is concerned, we believe that outdoor dining is allowed under our order and that is consistent with the state order," Campos said Monday, before the state officially approved the county's attestation.

On Tuesday, with the state's approval at hand, Campos said the county is "grateful to the governor and the state for working with us and getting us to this point."

Cody also confirmed Tuesday that the state's approval on Monday night allows the outdoor-dining programs to remain in effect.

"If we want to continue outdoor dining, with this variance we can continue to allow outdoor dining as well as some other sectors and activities," Cody said. "We can enable them to come online."

The new order, which is now set to take effect on July 13, as originally scheduled, represents a shift toward "risk-reduction thinking," Cody said. Rather than focusing on specific business sectors, the order provides a set of universal rules and principles for all businesses to follow. These include shifting operations to outdoor space, requiring physical distancing and limiting the duration of contacts between people.

The order underscores the existing requirement for always wearing a face covering when indoors in a place of business. And it prohibits businesses and activities where adhering to these principles is not feasible, including indoor dining and swimming, concerts and nightclubs.

"We know that this pandemic has been with us for a while. We know this pandemic will be with us for a while longer," Cody said Tuesday. "And at the end of the day, Mother Nature is in charge and we must adapt."

County Executive Jeff Smith emphasized that the state's decision to grant the variance does not mean that the county is doing better in regard to COVID-19. The situation, he said, is in fact getting worse.

"The reason we have applied for the variance is because we realized that the success of dealing with the virus in the long-term depends on individual responsibility, not based on sectors that are open," Smith said. "Rather than having a focus on which businesses are open and having a focus on asking businesses to enforce distancing, this order focuses on personal responsibility."

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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Santa Clara County gains state clearance for plan to reopen economy

State Department of Public Health approves county's attestation, allowing July 2 order to take effect

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 7, 2020, 9:54 am

After an initial setback, Santa Clara County received the go-ahead from the state on Monday night for its plan to reopen the economy and allow hair salons and gyms to resume operations on July 13.

The variance attestation, which the state Department of Public Health posted on its website July 6, is a requirement for counties that want to reopen their economies more quickly than allowed under the state's shelter-in-place order. The variance will allow the county to move ahead with the health order that county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody issued on Thursday, allowing hair salons, gyms and other businesses to reopen on July 13.

The July 2 order also includes a set of rules that all businesses must follow during the pandemic. These include allowing telework when possible, shifting operations outdoors and imposing density restrictions, with no more than one employee per 250 square feet of gross floor area.

The approval followed a weekend of confusion and disappointment, with the state informing the county on July 4 that it had not met all the "metrics" for readiness, a necessary prerequisite for receiving the state clearance. As such, the county's attestation was deemed incomplete and was not posted on the state Department of Public Health's website.

That changed on Monday night, however. According to the state department, the county submitted a complete attestation to the application and the attestation was posted on the site late in the day.

The state's earlier denial seemed to have caught just about all local and county officials by surprise, given that it was the first instance since the shutdown took effect on March 17 in which the state explicitly rejected an order from the county's health officer. While county officials acknowledged last week that the order would require approval from the state, they expressed optimism that the approval would be forthcoming.

Cody said at a Tuesday news briefing that the county has worked "closely with the California Department of Public Health over the weekend to make sure we met the metrics and met the criteria, and ultimately we were approved."

The state's approval of the attestation also creates some clarity for restaurant owners, in Palo Alto and elsewhere, who have been expanding outdoor dining by setting up tables in newly built parklets and recently closed thoroughfares. As part of its "Summer Streets" program, Palo Alto has recently closed California and University avenues to traffic to promote outdoor dining.

While serving meals outside was consistent with the county's June 5 order, which allows such an activity, it clashed with the state's shelter-in-place order, which does not. Because the county had not received a state variance before Monday night, it was not technically allowed to move ahead with indoor or outdoor dining, according to state officials.

County leaders had argued that because the state had not explicitly banned outdoor dining, and because other parts of the state have been allowing outdoor dining without seeking variances, they had assumed such a variance was not needed.

The issue didn't surface until last weekend, when agents from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control visited several businesses in Gilroy and Morgan Hill to tell them that outdoor dining is not allowed, according to a report from The Mercury News. On Monday, Santa Clara County Deputy County Executive David Campos said that the direction from the state on outdoor dining created confusion for some businesses.

"What we want them to know is, as far as the County of Santa Clara is concerned, we believe that outdoor dining is allowed under our order and that is consistent with the state order," Campos said Monday, before the state officially approved the county's attestation.

On Tuesday, with the state's approval at hand, Campos said the county is "grateful to the governor and the state for working with us and getting us to this point."

Cody also confirmed Tuesday that the state's approval on Monday night allows the outdoor-dining programs to remain in effect.

"If we want to continue outdoor dining, with this variance we can continue to allow outdoor dining as well as some other sectors and activities," Cody said. "We can enable them to come online."

The new order, which is now set to take effect on July 13, as originally scheduled, represents a shift toward "risk-reduction thinking," Cody said. Rather than focusing on specific business sectors, the order provides a set of universal rules and principles for all businesses to follow. These include shifting operations to outdoor space, requiring physical distancing and limiting the duration of contacts between people.

The order underscores the existing requirement for always wearing a face covering when indoors in a place of business. And it prohibits businesses and activities where adhering to these principles is not feasible, including indoor dining and swimming, concerts and nightclubs.

"We know that this pandemic has been with us for a while. We know this pandemic will be with us for a while longer," Cody said Tuesday. "And at the end of the day, Mother Nature is in charge and we must adapt."

County Executive Jeff Smith emphasized that the state's decision to grant the variance does not mean that the county is doing better in regard to COVID-19. The situation, he said, is in fact getting worse.

"The reason we have applied for the variance is because we realized that the success of dealing with the virus in the long-term depends on individual responsibility, not based on sectors that are open," Smith said. "Rather than having a focus on which businesses are open and having a focus on asking businesses to enforce distancing, this order focuses on personal responsibility."

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

backwards
Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 10:36 am
backwards, Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 10:36 am
27 people like this

Not understanding why now is the time to reopen gyms, etc. The pandemic is far worse now than it's ever been in California so seems backwards to me.


parent
Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2020 at 11:15 am
parent, Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2020 at 11:15 am
34 people like this

I agree that indoor businesses like gyms, bars, churches are still way too risky. Salons may be less risky since most customers don't go there more than once a month. COVID is surging in many parts of the county. Now is not the time to push the limits, only to see COVID push back.


Spanview
another community
on Jul 7, 2020 at 11:15 am
Spanview, another community
on Jul 7, 2020 at 11:15 am
25 people like this

Those of us who choose our risks will choose our risks. We do not need or even want others telling us what risks to assume in our lives.And many of us with higher risk underlying conditions are appalled that we have been and continue to shackle the young and healthy to the concerns of us old or unhealthy. We can SIP, order out, etc until there is a vaccine if we want, but the rest of the population has to get back their lives and livelihood, their schools and jobs and recreation. The collateral damage from continued lockdown or near lockdown is immense. Already even on the CDC site we see 50,000 MORE than expected deaths in the USA from the last few months from OTHER causes compared to last year. Though well intentioned and logical at first, to prevent overwhelming our hospitals and give us time to learn more, we are well past that time and know that the risks of death or disability to the healthy are higher from accidents than from CV19.


MyOpinion
Esther Clark Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:11 pm
MyOpinion, Esther Clark Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:11 pm
19 people like this

A better first step.. why not outdoor haircuts? Many of the hair stylists are self employed, and I do not think eligible for unemployment, this has been a real hardship on them. A haircut with the stylist and customer wearing masks outdoors, is far less risky than eating a meal outside with other people 6 feet away.


backwards
Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:22 pm
backwards, Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:22 pm
14 people like this

Spanview - I could accept your view except for the fact that our hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. How is this fair for hospital staff to have to go thru what NY went thru? I do understand how difficult it is for those out of work, my family is dealing with that too, but those who are working in the hospitals do not deserve collateral damage either.


Gale Johnson
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:22 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:22 pm
6 people like this

My head is abuzz and hurting, and it has nothing to do directly with having the virus. I am scheduled for testing later this week, however, in advance of a scheduled appointment at Kaiser Permanente's Hospital in SF.

It's about all the false starts, misinformation, misunderstandings, and overall confusion on this issue. It's hard to keep up with the daily changes in the rules and regulations...bombarded by local, county, state, and federal guidance and regulations. I will continue to shelter in place, as much as possible, and will not eat anywhere other than in my own dining room. I'm a great cook (actually I fantasize of being a great chef), and I'll keep walking for exercise, and taking up new hobbies to keep me busy...gardening, feeding birds in my backyard, etc. My favorite new hobby, with a goal to do a documentary, is a story with video clips about all the activity happening at my corner intersection...Ross and Louis Rds and in my local park, Remos, up around the corner of Ross Rd. I don't know how to describe myself in this venture. Am I a columnist?, journalist?, a local reporter? a human interest story teller?, or just an old guy living in a corner house and spying on passersby?

I have seen and video recorded so many interesting events on my corner that I feel a need to tell and share them with others.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:23 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:23 pm
17 people like this

Posted by Spanview, a resident of another community

>> Those of us who choose our risks will choose our risks. We do not need or even want others telling us what risks to assume in our lives.

Your individualistic viewpoint is not consistent with the *facts*. That's right. I'm sure you are wondering how a viewpoint or orientation could be *wrong*, but, here's the problem:

You *can't*, while living in a city, control your risks by yourself. You depend on water and electricity serviced by utility employees, you either buy food or someone brings it to you, and services you choose to utilize are provided by another person who is at risk and who may be a risk to you.

I've met a couple of miners over the years out in the back woods who bought canned food once or twice a year. Someone like that may not know about the pandemic yet. But, you live somewhere with internet access (where?). On the grid. We're all in it together whether we want to be or not, and are dependent on the good behavior of others, and they are depending on our good behavior. That includes you.


Dan
Professorville
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Dan, Professorville
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm
29 people like this

Scientists are finally beginning to understand the infection fatality rate (IFR) for Covid-19, which tells us "What are my chances of dying if I get infected by Covid-19." This very recent research paper lays it out pretty well and points to well-sourced scientific studies - Web Link
What's most striking about this data is how age-related your chance of dying if you catch Covid-19 is. According to the above studies, your chances of dying if you become infected by Covid-19 are:
1 in 62,000 if you are 0-9 years old
1 in 310,000 if you are 10-19 years old
1 in 11,000 if you are 20-49 years old
1 in 700 if you are 50-64 years old
1 in 18 if you are 65 or older
This study did not break the numbers out for folks with pre-existing conditions - but I still feel like if most people understood these numbers they would be much better informed in their own personal behavior, and would understand better why it's so important we protect our at risk populations.
Scientists also now have a pretty good idea of how you catch Covid-19- Web Link
This nets out to that it's most likely to catch Covid-19 when you are indoors in close proximity to other people, it's not very easy to catch it from surfaces, it's rare to catch it when you are outside, and you should always stay away from close proximity with large crowds.
Where I think we are falling down is that our public health officials are not doing a great job of publicizing these facts. This makes it harder for individuals to make every day risk-reward decisions, makes it harder for our lawmakers to put in place sensible and consistent policies, provides an opening for conspiracy theories that are not science-based and makes it more likely that citizens won't comply.


Chris
University South
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:38 pm
Chris, University South
on Jul 7, 2020 at 12:38 pm
17 people like this

Spanview,

Your view, which is shared by too many, is what is causing this spread of the virus to be dragged out for far too long. In countries where they took the hard medicine early and contained the virus, they have been able to resume far more activities with precautions than we have.

These attitudes have caused Americans to be the laughingstock and pariahs of the world.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 1:58 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 1:58 pm
6 people like this

Posted by Dan, a resident of Professorville

>> 1 in 18 if you are 65 or older

IOW, for (us) seniors, add an existing medical condition or two and it is Russian roulette. How many people would fly if there was a 1-in-18 chance the plane would crash? 1-in-700? Oh, to be 49 again.


No facts from cody
Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 2:47 pm
No facts from cody, Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 2:47 pm
13 people like this

Dan - thanks for sharing. What we get from Sara Cody is " we are in the same situation that we were in in March". How better to keep us in fear and locked up at home.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 4:07 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2020 at 4:07 pm
Like this comment

Posted by No facts from cody, a resident of Crescent Park

>> Dan - thanks for sharing. What we get from Sara Cody is " we are in the same situation that we were in in March".

In many respects the numbers look worse than late March, early April, although the death rate is down because the LTCF rate is down. IOW, what is your point?

>> How better to keep us in fear and locked up at home.

I go outside for walks all the time. Keeping my mask on and my social distance. I do a little esential shopping in places that are senior-friendly. It is a virus. I'm working to avoid getting it and working to avoid passing it on if I do get it.


No facts from cody
Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 5:31 pm
No facts from cody, Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 5:31 pm
13 people like this

Anon says

"In many respects the numbers look worse than late March, early April,"

A big misconception. Back then what was considered a " case" - if you had symptoms. There was little to no testing and they did not realize that people were asymptomatic. They're are studies that suggest that cases were 10x the amount reported


DickD
Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 6:06 pm
DickD, Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2020 at 6:06 pm
14 people like this

Despite those pushing for freedom to do whatever they want – this is common cause situation – by prancing around mask free as close as you want to whoever is a danger to you at some level, but your breathing possibly with sneezes too puts OTHERS AT RISK.


Spanview
another community
on Jul 7, 2020 at 9:41 pm
Spanview, another community
on Jul 7, 2020 at 9:41 pm
14 people like this

There is a HUGE and highly misunderstood difference between CASE FATALITY RATE and INFECTION FATALITY RATE. The CASE FATALITY RATE for flu is 5%... The INFECTION FATALITY RATE .1%. Think about what you are reading in the MSM. A huge problem with much, including the supposed "scientific" report of above is CFR vs IFR. the IFR in this country is now. .2-.3 even by CDC. Ie, 2-3 times the flu in a good year WITH A VACCINE. 2 years ago, when we had 80,000,000 deaths from the flu WITH A VACCINE the IFR was .2. Think about this folks. Do not let the complete hype by a "if it bleeds it leads" media keep scaring you. This is insane. Young or no underlying conditions, get back to living. The rest of us, SIP.


Nayeli
Midtown
on Jul 7, 2020 at 10:02 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on Jul 7, 2020 at 10:02 pm
12 people like this

It seems like the wisest thing to do is to have an ongoing shelter-in-place order for the elderly and anyone with preexisting health conditions (that might place them at greater risk). After all, many people will continue to contract COVID-19 throughout the next year. We cannot shut down the economy when the greatest risk is for the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.

I'd argue that a state initiative to require employers to allow the elderly or those deemed most at-risk to work-from-home (or fund a replacement). The state should assist those who are displaced from work too.

In addition to moratoriums on mortgages (in which your deadline for paying it is off-set and extended without interest during the crisis), the state should do the same with rents (by agreeing to compensate property owners through tax incentives or rebates).

This economy is costing a fortune to families who cannot afford to miss work. This is particularly true when most of those families are simply at risk of contracting a disease that doesn't place them at a terribly high risk of mortality.


resident
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2020 at 10:34 am
resident, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2020 at 10:34 am
8 people like this

The locations that locked down hard and retarded the early spread are now experiencing increased numbers of cases, which is no surprise. What is surprising is the number of people who think the spread would stop as a result of lockdowns. We're braking on an incline, not on level ground. No matter how long you leave the brakes on - 5 min or 5 years - you are going to start rolling again as soon as you let the brakes off.

All we're doing with lockdowns at this point is piling an extra burden on top of the harm due directly to the virus. Instead let's intelligently manage the risk and protect our vulnerable populations without adding indiscriminate damage.


Mortality & Morbidity
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 8, 2020 at 11:01 am
Mortality & Morbidity , Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 8, 2020 at 11:01 am
4 people like this

I would like to add my heartfelt sympathy to those who have been so greatly affected by this current pandemic. The cost of lives and the cost to our economy have been overwhelming. But, I am concerned that people are encouraging others to gage the risk of certain activities by only bringing up mortality (the death rate of COVID-19.) This virus is far too new for us to truly understand the morbidity of the disease. Just recently an article out of the UK, published in the Journal "Brain", showed people with mild symptoms of COVID having brain "complications ranged from brain inflammation and delirium to nerve damage and stroke." It is not my place to tell people they have to stay inside. But please do not encourage people to take more risk by minimizing the effects of this disease to just its reported death rate. And no matter what...wear a mask!


nat
Midtown
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:00 pm
nat, Midtown
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Like this comment

I'm still confused about what will be allowed in Palo Alto, since the Council is on recess this month.

Will hair salons open this month in this city or does the City Council have to approve e this first?


No facts from cody
Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2020 at 3:22 pm
No facts from cody, Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2020 at 3:22 pm
3 people like this

Nat- what will be allowed in the county order will be allowed in Palo alto. City council has no say whatsoever in what is allowed or not.


Jonathan Brown
Ventura
on Jul 8, 2020 at 9:27 pm
Jonathan Brown, Ventura
on Jul 8, 2020 at 9:27 pm
Like this comment

I would think indoor gyms would be more dangerous than indoor dining. Why allow the former when banning the latter? These public health orders are so arbitrary, the state and county can’t even seem to agree on their application. Thank you, Dan, for pointing out ways in which our fellow citizens deserve better leadership.


richard
Ventura
on Jul 9, 2020 at 5:31 pm
richard, Ventura
on Jul 9, 2020 at 5:31 pm
1 person likes this

No one ever says what they mean by "protecting our vulnerable populations" while allowing everyone else to get sick and spread the infection to others. Does it mean... restaurants setting up separate dining rooms for the elderly? Does it mean helping families split up in order to sequester elderly family members? Any suggestion sounds absurd. How can we keep the chronically ill and elderly folk in a bubble while letting the disease run rampant?

My best guess is that people who talk about "protecting our vulnerable populations" don't mean anything by it at all, except to be contrary and distracting.


Anonymous
Greenmeadow
on Jul 9, 2020 at 5:33 pm
Anonymous, Greenmeadow
on Jul 9, 2020 at 5:33 pm
11 people like this

Spanview:
>>Those of us who choose our risks will choose our risks. We do not need or even want others telling us what risks to assume in our lives<<
The problem is that many of us don't want you to take the risk and expose yourself to the virus and then in turn expose others who in turn expose others. This scenario is what we are all trying to avoid. We all want this pandemic to end, but call a spade a spade-it is a highly contagious virus that we all want to stop from spreading. It is hard to believe anyone could think otherwise.


parent
Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2020 at 6:04 pm
parent, Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2020 at 6:04 pm
9 people like this

149 people died from COVID-19 on July 8 in California, the largest daily death count ever in California. Santa Clara County has the highest number of fatalities in Northern California. Not only does reopening businesses expose more people to the virus, but it also encourages complacency and recklessness in some people even though the virus is more deadly now than ever.

CBS News report "California COVID-19 Deaths Set New Single-Day Record": Web Link


parent
Downtown North
on Jul 11, 2020 at 9:47 am
parent, Downtown North
on Jul 11, 2020 at 9:47 am
Like this comment

I just read that New York state is now averaging less than 10 COVID deaths per day, while California is over 100 deaths per day. New York used to have the worst COVID rates in the USA. What are they doing right that California is failing at?


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