News

Santa Clara County to step up enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions for holiday weekend

Grace period for fines suspended from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday

Santa Clara County plans to deploy its public health enforcement team to ensure businesses are complying with local COVID-19 rules at shopping centers, such as Stanford Shopping Center, this weekend. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Black Friday shopping, just like almost everything else in 2020, will look very different this year — no crowds, no late-night in-person sales and no camping out in front of stores before they open.

The statewide curfew for counties in California's purple tier, the most restrictive in California's tiered system to respond to the pandemic, requires retailers to close their doors from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and residents to shelter in place as well, with some exceptions such as for grocery stores.

But Santa Clara County will also be stricter in enforcing capacity limits and social distancing protocols this weekend by suspending the grace period for fines starting on Thanksgiving and lasting until Sunday.

"Normally, when we go out and do compliance, we provide a grace period, we provide warnings. People know the rules by now," County Counsel James Williams said. "With the rising number of cases and rising number of hospitalizations, we are suspending the grace period. We are serious about the enforcement and we will be out there proactively."

Typically, businesses that don't comply with COVID-19 protocols are given time to fix the mistake and be absolved of the fine. Now with the new policy, retailers or shopping centers that fail to adhere to safety protocols will receive a fine immediately and are required to pay.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Fines start at $250 and can rise into the thousands for offending businesses. Businesses can also be fined multiple times for repeat violations.

Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams stands in front of the Sheriff's Office while wearing a Public Health Department mask to share new Black Friday shopping enforcement protocols on Nov. 24. Photo by Jana Kadah/BCN Foundation.

"Things are not trending well right now. We need to come together as a community and one part of that is businesses very diligently adhering to these important safety rules," Williams said. "We know holiday shopping is critical to our Santa Clara County businesses ... if people are shopping in person, we want the experience to be as safe as possible for employees and the public."

The state has seen a rise in case counts and hospitalizations and Santa Clara County has experienced similar trends. As of Tuesday, there were 512 new cases, three new deaths and 30 new hospitalizations in the county.

Williams said the grace period suspension is part of the county's effort to "curb superspreading events" like Black Friday shopping and work to decrease COVID-19 rates locally.

The county's public health enforcement team, which is made up of civilians, will be in bright-colored jackets at different shopping centers and stores to ensure business compliance.

Currently, grocery stores must limit capacity to 50% and retail stores and shopping centers have a 25% capacity limit.

"The primary issue we're seeing right now is capacity limits," said Michael Balliet, the county's director of community and business engagement. "Business must maintain the set limit inside their stores and strictly enforce face covering and social distancing. Additionally, customers should be looking for the orange check mark sign in front to ensure a proper business plan has been approved."

Williams recommended that residents shopping be patient and brace themselves for potentially long lines and wait times.

"Bring a chair, bring a book, bring something else to do. Maybe have a phone call with the family you weren't able to gather with on Thanksgiving, but we have to prioritize the implementation of these safety protocols," Williams said. "We cannot afford more cases; our families can't afford that and in fact our businesses can't afford that."

Anyone wishing to report suspected violations can do so at sccCOVIDconcerns.org.

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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Santa Clara County to step up enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions for holiday weekend

Grace period for fines suspended from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday

by / Bay City News Service

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 24, 2020, 4:28 pm

Black Friday shopping, just like almost everything else in 2020, will look very different this year — no crowds, no late-night in-person sales and no camping out in front of stores before they open.

The statewide curfew for counties in California's purple tier, the most restrictive in California's tiered system to respond to the pandemic, requires retailers to close their doors from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and residents to shelter in place as well, with some exceptions such as for grocery stores.

But Santa Clara County will also be stricter in enforcing capacity limits and social distancing protocols this weekend by suspending the grace period for fines starting on Thanksgiving and lasting until Sunday.

"Normally, when we go out and do compliance, we provide a grace period, we provide warnings. People know the rules by now," County Counsel James Williams said. "With the rising number of cases and rising number of hospitalizations, we are suspending the grace period. We are serious about the enforcement and we will be out there proactively."

Typically, businesses that don't comply with COVID-19 protocols are given time to fix the mistake and be absolved of the fine. Now with the new policy, retailers or shopping centers that fail to adhere to safety protocols will receive a fine immediately and are required to pay.

Fines start at $250 and can rise into the thousands for offending businesses. Businesses can also be fined multiple times for repeat violations.

"Things are not trending well right now. We need to come together as a community and one part of that is businesses very diligently adhering to these important safety rules," Williams said. "We know holiday shopping is critical to our Santa Clara County businesses ... if people are shopping in person, we want the experience to be as safe as possible for employees and the public."

The state has seen a rise in case counts and hospitalizations and Santa Clara County has experienced similar trends. As of Tuesday, there were 512 new cases, three new deaths and 30 new hospitalizations in the county.

Williams said the grace period suspension is part of the county's effort to "curb superspreading events" like Black Friday shopping and work to decrease COVID-19 rates locally.

The county's public health enforcement team, which is made up of civilians, will be in bright-colored jackets at different shopping centers and stores to ensure business compliance.

Currently, grocery stores must limit capacity to 50% and retail stores and shopping centers have a 25% capacity limit.

"The primary issue we're seeing right now is capacity limits," said Michael Balliet, the county's director of community and business engagement. "Business must maintain the set limit inside their stores and strictly enforce face covering and social distancing. Additionally, customers should be looking for the orange check mark sign in front to ensure a proper business plan has been approved."

Williams recommended that residents shopping be patient and brace themselves for potentially long lines and wait times.

"Bring a chair, bring a book, bring something else to do. Maybe have a phone call with the family you weren't able to gather with on Thanksgiving, but we have to prioritize the implementation of these safety protocols," Williams said. "We cannot afford more cases; our families can't afford that and in fact our businesses can't afford that."

Anyone wishing to report suspected violations can do so at sccCOVIDconcerns.org.

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

Aletheia
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Nov 25, 2020 at 10:49 am
Aletheia, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2020 at 10:49 am
8 people like this

What about our car camper community? Does the curfew apply? If so, I guess all we need to do to avoid the restriction is sit in our car, yes?


Bob
Registered user
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Nov 25, 2020 at 12:45 pm
Bob, Greendell/Walnut Grove
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2020 at 12:45 pm
12 people like this

It’s odd that this crackdown is coming right now, when by the information on the Health Department’s own website, COVID-19-positive patients occupy a mere 6.6% of all hospital beds in the County.

Curiously, too, just as our Tier level has returned to Purple and the alarm bell is being rung again this week, the County reports that the total number of staffed ICU beds has plunged from its longstanding average of over 500 beds to now just a little over 300. That’s not unoccupied ICU beds, but total ICU-equipped beds that have staff available. Have too many ICU staff been granted the Thanksgiving week off? If so, why? Either we’re in a crisis or we’re not. If we are, then all hands should be on deck, and those beds should be staffed. If we’re not, and hospital capacities are NOT threatened, why this enhanced crackdown on business and shoppers right now?

I urge all citizens of this well-educated city to examine the data themselves using the data dashboards at www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/home.aspx.


Years O'Nurse
Registered user
another community
on Nov 25, 2020 at 4:33 pm
Years O'Nurse, another community
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2020 at 4:33 pm
1 person likes this

Thank God our elected and appointed leaders are backing this much needed shelter in place with enforcement even thought our area is better than most in being cautious. Kudos to Californians.

As someone who has worked in Emergency Medicine and ICU - this conservative... uh no.... actual CAUTIOUS measure is of the utmost importance. People do not understand most ICU nurses last only 2 years in an ICU because it is so stressful in NORMAL times. We are in a PANDEMIC of a respiratory transmitted vascular illness (seems red blood cells affected from my last update as we learn more about SARS Co V2 or SARS2!). This adds a layer of not only more stress and more patients to take care of (think how things go when a waiter is serving too many tables now multiply the complexity). Ventilators aerosolize whatever is in the patients lungs into the working environment of the ICU. SAR2 stays alive in the air under normal conditions 15 minutes for just one exhale. The staff is walking through an potentially hazardous space which plays the Hades casino of making themselves or someone they care about infected/ill. This is an illness with a 12% + chance of hospitalization and lower death rate than ebola but even with a 2-8% death rate how will the public (& hospital staff) react when the numbers get into a 790K dead in California (pop 39.5 million) alone? Also staff could be a victim or infect loved ones as asymptomatic individuals (or themselves) of a possibly long term or permanent heart/kidney/? damage as is becoming evident in post acute recovery accounts.
So how are you going to force them to work?
How are you going to stop them from quitting?
How are you going to stop them from taking time off work for illness of self or others (who they might have made sick!)???

NOW understand -- IF you are in a hospital and sick enough to get around the clock highly skilled RN and Respiritaroy Therapy (& other staff needed with intermittent visit consultations from MD's) then you are in severe need. Meanwhile nothing is stopping the usual high numbers of patients that fill the hospitals during flu season, not to mention the other auto accidents, and other illness and diseases. If those hospitals and especially ICU's become over whelmed and can not be staffed (1 ventilator patient takes a big team and Herculean effort to save) - then people get turned away. When people get turned away they will possibly die at home with hopefully with a prescription sedative and pain medication if there is not a run on them and there is a way to get them. When the public learns of this problem from an inflamed media situation there will be PANIC which is not good and will lead to all other kinds of problems.

So this sheltering in place is essential which would have been better in January and February when contact tracers had a chance. Note I am not using the inflammatory words "lock down" which this is not! You are not locked in on a Psychiatric unit, or a school with an active shooter or in a prison with a riot going on. See this link: Web Link
You are asked to shelter in place and limit activities outside your home. One leader in Australia advises not using that term in addressing their governing body. Businesses have a economic motivation but that needs to be balanced with their own health and the communities health. Right now the physical health of the community will help the economic health for all.

So what is happening is reasonable and the sacrifices smaller than they could be. TG there is room in the ICU's and in the regular hospital so people can access now and in the future care by Healthy and Safe Nurses, our precious Respiratory Therapists and other hospital employees who keep it all going. So lets broaden the perspective.


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Nov 25, 2020 at 7:23 pm
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2020 at 7:23 pm
18 people like this

At this point it is now just bureaucracy justifying itself. Governments panicked, went overboard, and now it's very hard for them to reverse because that would indicate they initially overreacted. Same with the medical bureaucracies. They panicked, overtreated, and killed a bunch of people and now they're having trouble backpedalling.

It's going to be a while before this bureaucratic cluster burns itself out.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Nov 25, 2020 at 9:48 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2020 at 9:48 pm
2 people like this

Jane,

The number of cases are soaring. Because of denialists like you, compliance is low.

Americans are being put to shame by almost every other developed country in the world.

What is your plan to stop the spread? Do you realize your promotion of non-compliance will actually result in much stricter controls being placed on you.


Jamie
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 26, 2020 at 7:47 am
Jamie , Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 26, 2020 at 7:47 am
4 people like this

I'm okay with this if it saves even one life, but it reminds me so much of the TSA. We've all been taking our shoes off at security for 20 years because...optics.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 26, 2020 at 8:08 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 26, 2020 at 8:08 am
33 people like this

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor (5-4) of large church gatherings in a suit brought about by the Archdiocese of Brooklyn & the Hassidic Jews in New York City (who recently held a 7,000 guest wedding sans face masks & safe distancing guidelines).

As a result...the state government cannot require religious groups to adhere to Covid-19 public health mandates (i.e. restricted gatherings) as it is a violation of the First Amendment (freedom of religion).

Comey, Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh & Gorsuch (5).

Sotomayer, Breyer, Kagan & Roberts (4).

So here we go again...religion/church VS the scientific community/secular world.

And in today's SCOTUS (with its originalist/conservative leanings)...church apparently wins (though many of its ardent followers may be putting themselves at further risk).


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 26, 2020 at 10:38 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 26, 2020 at 10:38 pm
6 people like this

@ Years
I appreciate your detailed, informed perspective.
Why do you suppose our Governor Gavin Newsom (D) California, felt confident to attend a birthday event, maskless, with approx 12 in close proximity at The French Laundry?
A terrible “leader,” in my opinion.
Wondering:
Do he and his family receive frequent, privileged Covid testing and (if necessary) will undoubtedly receive comforting, immediate, privileged care a la Trump (in case of Covid or other illness?)
Getting prompt, high attention medical care makes a difference, as you describe.
Perhaps the privilege of these condescending, lecturing, hypocrite politicians should be removed.
I am listed as LAST to get vaccinated for Covid (middle age), while as a heavily burdened taxpayer I will pay for felons in prisons, partying twenty somethings, illegal aliens enjoying their lives in CA to be vaccinated before me - it’s stunning! - and...Governor Newsom, his billionaire-heiress wife and kids, no doubt, will cunningly also get vacccinated ahead of me....while I’m told condescendingly to shelter in place for the next year or so. (This appears to be Governor Newsom’s “plan,” from what I’ve read of his “priorities.”)
IMO felons should pay their debt to society and NOT be prioritized before me!
Of course, I fully prioritize medical personnel and first responders, and thank them for their vital services.
I really wish I could leave this state, but it’s not possible at this time.


taxpayer
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2020 at 11:47 pm
taxpayer, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 26, 2020 at 11:47 pm
1 person likes this

@Anonymous, as they say in poker, if you’ve been in the game 30 minutes and you don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2020 at 7:16 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2020 at 7:16 am
15 people like this

>"Why do you suppose our Governor Gavin Newsom (D) California, felt confident to attend a birthday event, maskless, with approx 12 in close proximity at The French Laundry?"

^ Confidence or sheer arrogance?

>"...as a heavily burdened taxpayer I will pay for felons in prisons, partying twenty somethings, illegal aliens enjoying their lives in CA to be vaccinated before me -"

^ Human guinea pigs to ensure a herd immunity?


Anneke
Registered user
Professorville
on Nov 27, 2020 at 1:47 pm
Anneke, Professorville
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2020 at 1:47 pm
1 person likes this

It appears that COVID-19 is still an intangible experience for many people in this country. May be if we related the number of daily COVID-19 deaths to a more concrete experience all people could visualize, would the naysayers then be willing to accept the responsibility of reality?

As an example, let's take a full Boeing 737 with 187 passengers, 4 flight attendants and 2 pilots (193 people in total) and linking that to 2,194 US COVID deaths on November 24, 2020, which would equal the number of 11 Boeing 737s crashing and killing every soul on board that day and on....

EVERY DAY for the near future.

If that happened, the American public would be screaming at the FAA and Boeing and refusing to fly, and yet it does not seem to bother a fairly large segment of the American population that Donald Trump not only ignores the recommendations of scientists and professionals, thereby making their jobs much more difficult, but that he actually encourages them to, so to speak, GET ON PLANES!

Governor Gavin Newson made 3 terrible mistakes:

1. Visiting a restaurant where the prices for a meal are just outrageous, thereby making a mockery of so many people in this country who do not have enough funding to even feed their families. I would like to see if he expensed his and his wife's charges to his Governor's expense account.

2. Not practicing the protocols he preached and put in practice.

3. Not being truthful about "sitting outside."

As a Democrat I am disgusted with Donald Trump and I am deeply disappointed in Gavin Newson.


Anneke
Registered user
Professorville
on Nov 27, 2020 at 1:52 pm
Anneke, Professorville
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2020 at 1:52 pm
1 person likes this

Forgive me: I wanted to say "put in place," not "put in practice."


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2020 at 2:09 pm
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2020 at 2:09 pm
28 people like this

>"As a Democrat I am disgusted with Donald Trump and I am deeply disappointed in Gavin Newson."

^ As a registered Independent, I concur with your sentiments & also view both political figures as highly SANCTIMONIOUS.

And the same could probably be said of a few PACC members.


Anneke
Registered user
Professorville
on Nov 28, 2020 at 5:36 pm
Anneke, Professorville
Registered user
on Nov 28, 2020 at 5:36 pm
Like this comment

Lee, stop voting for yourself so much........


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.