News

Business community calls on Santa Clara County to ease public health restrictions

Coalition group pushes for resuming indoor dining, according to less-stringent state rules

A group of business leaders are seeking to roll back Santa Clara County's prohibition on indoor dining. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

A coalition of business leaders across Santa Clara County are calling on public health officials to loosen COVID-19 restrictions that they say have crippled local businesses for the last six months.

The group, made up of 15 chambers of commerce and dozens of elected officials and small businesses, is demanding that the county work with the business community to find ways to safely reopen sectors of the economy that have been closed or curtailed during the coronavirus pandemic. The coalition took particular aim at county restrictions that under new state guidelines can now be lifted but remain in effect, such as indoor dining.

At a virtual press conference Monday, Silicon Valley Organization President Matt Mahood said COVID-19 isn't expected to go away any time soon, but keeping a significant part of the economy shut down is not a solution. Small businesses and the working poor simply won't survive the crisis absent county action, Mahood said, and business owners are eager and willing to reopen in a way that is safe.

"At a minimum, the county must clearly communicate how we can find solutions to safely reopen, using evidence-based approaches to reduce the spread of COVID-19," he said.

Last month, California released a new framework for reopening the economy, introducing a color-coded tier system that dictates what activities are allowed. In the early days of the framework, Santa Clara County was initially placed in purple, the worst tier.

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Santa Clara County has since been upgraded to the red tier, allowing for numerous businesses to start limited indoor activities, including restaurants, gyms, nail salons and personal care services. But county health officials have been reluctant to adopt all of the state's guidelines, and are still prohibiting all indoor dining.

In a virtual town hall on Sunday, County Executive Jeff Smith acknowledged that Santa Clara County is taking a more restrictive approach than required by the state, particularly its ban on indoor dining, movie theaters and indoor gatherings. The decision to rescind those rules is made by Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, he said, who has reviewed the scientific literature and determined that indoor dining and gatherings are still too risky.

Several business owners at the press conference insisted that indoor dining and other activities can safely resume if they are given the chance, and that proper ventilation, temperature checks, face masks and Plexiglas dividers can go a long way towards preventing the spread of the virus. Randy Musterer, owner of the company Sushi Confidential, said indoor dining has worked in other places without a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, and that businesses are so desperate to survive that some may go rogue and reopen in spite of county health orders.

"It's going to come down to putting food on the table for the family or filing for bankruptcy and losing everything," Musterer said. "Our restaurants, businesses and employees just want a fighting chance to survive."

Any indoor activity where people aren't wearing face masks — as is the case in restaurants — brings greater risk, county officials said in a press release Monday.

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"A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control confirms that eating out is one of the riskiest activities for COVID-19 and according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, adults with COVID-19 are twice as likely to have dined out in the 14 days before becoming sick than those who tested negative," the statement said.

Jacqueline Tran, who owns the business Polished Salon in east San Jose, said the nail and hair salon industries have been hard hit by the public health restrictions and are struggling to survive. Many of the owners and workers are immigrants and are often the sole source of income for their households, yet they have had to face six months of closures during COVID-19. If the prohibitions continue, she urged the county to consider some type of financial relief.

"I really hope and urge the county to please find a plan to reopen safely, or find a plan to support those whose livelihoods are being destroyed," Tran said.

Peter Katz, president and CEO of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, said the stories are similar to what he has been hearing from businesses in Mountain View for months. He said it's been difficult to understand the inconsistencies between state and local public health orders, particularly when the business community isn't included when crafting public health guidelines.

"Our businesses are demonstrating a willingness to follow the rules," Katz said. "The challenge is that the rules keep changing, or that there are rules that seem to apply to one kind of business but not another."

Katz also advocated for some type of financial aid to businesses that will bear the brunt of the county's more restrictive public health order, many of which have "suffered immensely" over the last six months.

Elected officials from Gilroy and San Jose also made a pitch during the press conference for reopening businesses under the state's guidelines. San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis said cities and counties rely on a robust local economy for their revenue, and that getting people back to work is the only plausible path forward. Government funding to keep businesses afloat won't be enough, he said, particularly when faced with declining tax revenue.

"Government can't be all about saying 'No,' because there is no amount of government-run programs that will help the unemployed stay in their homes," Khamis said.

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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Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Business community calls on Santa Clara County to ease public health restrictions

Coalition group pushes for resuming indoor dining, according to less-stringent state rules

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Sep 14, 2020, 1:53 pm

A coalition of business leaders across Santa Clara County are calling on public health officials to loosen COVID-19 restrictions that they say have crippled local businesses for the last six months.

The group, made up of 15 chambers of commerce and dozens of elected officials and small businesses, is demanding that the county work with the business community to find ways to safely reopen sectors of the economy that have been closed or curtailed during the coronavirus pandemic. The coalition took particular aim at county restrictions that under new state guidelines can now be lifted but remain in effect, such as indoor dining.

At a virtual press conference Monday, Silicon Valley Organization President Matt Mahood said COVID-19 isn't expected to go away any time soon, but keeping a significant part of the economy shut down is not a solution. Small businesses and the working poor simply won't survive the crisis absent county action, Mahood said, and business owners are eager and willing to reopen in a way that is safe.

"At a minimum, the county must clearly communicate how we can find solutions to safely reopen, using evidence-based approaches to reduce the spread of COVID-19," he said.

Last month, California released a new framework for reopening the economy, introducing a color-coded tier system that dictates what activities are allowed. In the early days of the framework, Santa Clara County was initially placed in purple, the worst tier.

Santa Clara County has since been upgraded to the red tier, allowing for numerous businesses to start limited indoor activities, including restaurants, gyms, nail salons and personal care services. But county health officials have been reluctant to adopt all of the state's guidelines, and are still prohibiting all indoor dining.

In a virtual town hall on Sunday, County Executive Jeff Smith acknowledged that Santa Clara County is taking a more restrictive approach than required by the state, particularly its ban on indoor dining, movie theaters and indoor gatherings. The decision to rescind those rules is made by Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, he said, who has reviewed the scientific literature and determined that indoor dining and gatherings are still too risky.

Several business owners at the press conference insisted that indoor dining and other activities can safely resume if they are given the chance, and that proper ventilation, temperature checks, face masks and Plexiglas dividers can go a long way towards preventing the spread of the virus. Randy Musterer, owner of the company Sushi Confidential, said indoor dining has worked in other places without a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, and that businesses are so desperate to survive that some may go rogue and reopen in spite of county health orders.

"It's going to come down to putting food on the table for the family or filing for bankruptcy and losing everything," Musterer said. "Our restaurants, businesses and employees just want a fighting chance to survive."

Any indoor activity where people aren't wearing face masks — as is the case in restaurants — brings greater risk, county officials said in a press release Monday.

"A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control confirms that eating out is one of the riskiest activities for COVID-19 and according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, adults with COVID-19 are twice as likely to have dined out in the 14 days before becoming sick than those who tested negative," the statement said.

Jacqueline Tran, who owns the business Polished Salon in east San Jose, said the nail and hair salon industries have been hard hit by the public health restrictions and are struggling to survive. Many of the owners and workers are immigrants and are often the sole source of income for their households, yet they have had to face six months of closures during COVID-19. If the prohibitions continue, she urged the county to consider some type of financial relief.

"I really hope and urge the county to please find a plan to reopen safely, or find a plan to support those whose livelihoods are being destroyed," Tran said.

Peter Katz, president and CEO of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, said the stories are similar to what he has been hearing from businesses in Mountain View for months. He said it's been difficult to understand the inconsistencies between state and local public health orders, particularly when the business community isn't included when crafting public health guidelines.

"Our businesses are demonstrating a willingness to follow the rules," Katz said. "The challenge is that the rules keep changing, or that there are rules that seem to apply to one kind of business but not another."

Katz also advocated for some type of financial aid to businesses that will bear the brunt of the county's more restrictive public health order, many of which have "suffered immensely" over the last six months.

Elected officials from Gilroy and San Jose also made a pitch during the press conference for reopening businesses under the state's guidelines. San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis said cities and counties rely on a robust local economy for their revenue, and that getting people back to work is the only plausible path forward. Government funding to keep businesses afloat won't be enough, he said, particularly when faced with declining tax revenue.

"Government can't be all about saying 'No,' because there is no amount of government-run programs that will help the unemployed stay in their homes," Khamis said.

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

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2020 at 5:13 pm
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2020 at 5:13 pm
11 people like this

I listened to Dr. Jeff Smith who on Sunday spoke about Santa Clara County's regulations on Supervisor Joe Simitian's Town Hall. I agree with the county executive and Dr. Cody that we do not want indoor dining at this time. Just take a cold fish eye look at Georgia and other states where that is allowed. Look at the close gatherings of young people especially at schools like Northeastern in Boston where students would not agree to follow the rules. Now we have spikes at many campuses. We all want to go to a restaurant and bar. These are hard times but we have to adhere to the prudent guidance of our public health officials.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2020 at 7:37 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2020 at 7:37 pm
22 people like this

How about localizing the stats? Santa Clara County, for example, is large geographically as well as highly populated. But continuing to penalize the extreme north county, (such as Palo Alto), because there are challenges in East San Jose seems unnecessary.
We have no control over their crowded settings, immigrant status and compliance with quarantining, etc. I read that these ARE challenges in that region and I am sorry about it, but do not agree the business community and resident population of downtown Palo Alto should be held responsible for a section of San Jose that’s 25 odd miles away.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Sep 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
8 people like this

Resident,

There are no wall between the cities in the Bay Area. You mention East San Jose but you don't mention East Palo Alto or East Menlo Park. You also don't mention the safety of the workers as well as the customers. The workers are exposed to hundreds of customers a day. Even if the infection rate is low, that is a high degree of exposure.

You should also rethink how "safe" Palo Alto is. Its infection rate is more than double that of Cupertino. There is a lot of unsafe and careless behavior in Palo Alto.


Facts and Figures
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2020 at 9:56 pm
Facts and Figures, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2020 at 9:56 pm
11 people like this

@Chris,

You are right. Cupertino is extremely low, but you can do a zip code cut on the cumulative data from day 1, and Palo Alto is very low too, just not as low as Cupertino.


Only 18 zip codes in Santa Clara County were over 1% (1K/100K) in cumulative cases (about one week ago). And, the 2% areas (remember this is cumulative, from day one) are all in Southeast County.


Schools not restaurants
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2020 at 10:01 pm
Schools not restaurants, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2020 at 10:01 pm
20 people like this

I would much rather be talking about getting our kids back in school than getting diners back in restaurants. Getting kids back in school will help kids, parents, and their employers. But there's no lobbyist for kids and families.

For the record, I think it's a very bad idea to have people eating in restaurants right now. It is absolutely unnecessary and it is complicated to make safe. I hope Cody et al stay tough on this one.


Corine
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2020 at 1:00 am
Corine, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 1:00 am
26 people like this

It's about time people stood up for their livelihoods and, frankly, ordinary life. The virus is not going away and we have to live with it, just like we live with other risks. If you are afraid of dining in restaurants, then don't go. Stay home and live your brave new normal.

If fear of c19 makes restaurants clean up more and space out the tables more, then that just makes it all that more pleasant. Piling people on top of each other has never been sanitary.

Most people get over c19 just fine, if they even get sick. Those who are vulnerable can take precautions as they should have been doing anyway.

We should be reopening schools as well -- if we had to choose, that should be the priority, but the workers in that industry (teachers) aren't forming a coalition in favor of it.


Mary
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2020 at 8:00 am
Mary, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 8:00 am
15 people like this

[Post removed.]


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2020 at 11:14 am
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 11:14 am
12 people like this

Corine couldn't have stated it any better. It's time to begin a return to normal and those that are fearful should avoid what they are fearful of.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2020 at 11:28 am
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 11:28 am
7 people like this

[Post removed.]


Judy Buttrill
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 15, 2020 at 11:55 am
Judy Buttrill, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 11:55 am
Like this comment

If you want to partition different areas off and make decisions based on their cases per 100K, look at 94301 vs the rest of Palo Alto. That is where many of the bars and restaurants that would open inside are located, and we have a higher rate than the rest of the city. It could easily get much worse if bars and restaurants are allowed to open inside.
I realize our numbers are not that high, but remember when someone said, "there are only 15 cases, and soon it will be zero." We need to be careful!


form a new county
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 15, 2020 at 12:47 pm
form a new county, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2020 at 12:47 pm
2 people like this

Can we form a new county jettisoning San Jose? San Jose can be like San Francisco then, which they always wanted to be (sort of).


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