Santa Clara County Sets Strict New Criteria For Reopenings

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise, Santa Clara County health officials announced on Thursday a new health order that sets mandatory criteria businesses and activities must meet in order to reopen.

The new order does not include "phases" or specific dates when businesses might reopen. County officials say the strategy is long-term risk reduction. Businesses must:

  • Limit the number of workers to 1 per 250 square feet and customers to 1 per 150 square feet.
  • Report positive cases to the county's health department within 4 hours.
  • File a new social distancing protocol.
  • Make the most of telework and outdoor operations.

Gatherings of up to 60 people outside and 20 people inside are permitted, but "strongly discouraged." Facial coverings will be mandatory in most cases outside the home, in accordance with state guidelines.

Higher-risk businesses such as theaters, indoor restaurants and pools will remain closed at this time.

The new rules are slated to take effect July 13, pending state approval.

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"Today’s order offers a long-term containment strategy that we believe will need to remain in place for the coming months,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody in a statement.

–Peter Arcuni (@peterarcuni)

Family Gatherings Are Contributing to Coronavirus Spikes, Health Officers Say

Some Bay Area health officials say family gatherings have contributed to recent spikes in cases of the coronavirus and are urging people to avoid them over the Fourth of July weekend.

Solano County Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas says a major driver of the county's current surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are family and other weekend social gatherings stemming as far back as Memorial Day weekend.

"The vast majority of the people that are being reported as cases have been getting together in gatherings with extended family, with friends, that include a lot of people who are sick," Matyas said, "We're seeing clusters of cases from these gatherings."

Matyas says more than half of Solano County's total cases have come in the past three weeks, and daily hospitalizations are now the highest they've been since the pandemic began.

Alameda County Interim Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss says cases traced to social gatherings are also being observed by the county's health department.

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"One thing we've noticed recently, as people have begun to be more active and interact a little bit more, is people having gatherings, parties, situations where they're interacting with lots of people, particularly indoors." Moss said. "That's a place where COVID can really spread. And while it's not driving our whole epidemic, it's certainly part of the story."

For the Fourth of July weekend, Moss advises residents to avoid large gatherings and to wear face coverings when out of the house.

"Instead of a big barbecue or a party," he said, "Let's try to find ways to celebrate with our immediate household members and members of our own social bubble."

— Peter Arcuni (@peterarcuni)

COVID-19 Patients From San Quentin Outbreak Swell Hospitalizations in San Mateo County

At least 1,135 people incarcerated at San Quentin have active cases of COVID-19, according to state correctional statistics.

A dozen of those individuals have been transferred from the prison to Seton Medical Center in Daly City to receive care. Corrections officials told San Mateo County to expect up to 50 patients ill from the prison outbreak.

But the county’s coronavirus dashboard does not discern between patients transferred from San Quentin and people who were infected within the community.

County Supervisor David Canepa said he’s worried the reporting issue could lead the public to assume the virus is spreading more rapidly in San Mateo County than is the case.

“I want to alleviate that right away,” Canepa said during a supervisors' meeting on Monday.

County Health Officer Louise Rogers told the supervisors that the county is meeting state hospitalization benchmarks related to reopening the economy “but with the numbers of transfers from the prison system that may be thrown off; we'll be trying to account for that in our reporting.”

—  Kevin Stark (@StarkKev)

Newsom Orders Closure of Bars, Restaurants and Movie Theaters in 19 Counties Ahead of July 4 Weekend

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced the three-week closure of many commercial indoor activities in 19 counties — including three in the Bay Area — in an attempt to control rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“We want to be proactive and get us through the Fourth of July weekend in a way not to see a spike in cases," Newsom said in a midday briefing.

The order, from the state Department of Public Health, includes the closure of indoor operations in restaurants, wineries, bars and tasting rooms, movie theaters, zoos, museums and card rooms.

The action is part of the governor's “dimmer switch” approach to reopening the state, in which restrictions can be reinstated as well as eased. The 19 counties have been on a watch list for at least three consecutive days, and represent more than 70% of the state’s population. They include Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Solano Counties in the Bay Area.

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Parking lots at many state beaches near highly populated areas throughout the state will also be closed over the weekend, including in the Bay Area. In counties that have closed local beaches, state beaches will close. In the Bay Area, parking lots will be closed for beaches over the weekend in the following counties: Marin, Monterey, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Sonoma.

Gov. Newsom also recommended the counties with mandatory closures consider canceling July Fourth fireworks displays — something San Francisco and other areas have already announced.

—  Danielle Venton (@DanielleVenton) and Carly Severn (@teacupinthebay)

 

Recently Deceased San Quentin Prisoner Had COVID-19, Marin County Coroner Confirms

The Marin County coroner has announced that the inmate who died at San Quentin State Prison last week tested positive for COVID-19. Death row inmate, 71-year-old Richard Stitely, was found dead in his cell on June 24. The cause of death is still under investigation.

During an inspection earlier this month, federal receivers — who oversee health care in California state prisons — reported that condemned inmates were not wearing masks, or social distancing while in the yard. 

There are currently more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates at San Quentin, and around 90 staff have tested positive. The outbreak began two weeks after 121 inmates were transferred from The California Institute for Men in Southern California, which has seen hundreds of cases and more than a dozen deaths.

Prior to the transfer, San Quentin had no COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated population.

The new arrivals were housed together, apart from San Quentin inmates, but movement of staff between housing blocks allowed the virus to enter the existing population. 

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“In the absence of really aggressive infection control practices, it's almost inevitable that an outbreak like this would would accelerate very rapidly once it's gained a foothold there," said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis.

So far, 40 inmates have been transferred to nearby hospitals. Prison officials say all San Quentin staff undergo mandatory testing, and that they have performed 2,500 tests among the incarcerated population. CDCR said it will also set up air-conditioned tent structures within the prison, and are working to determine the best use of additional medical triage and housing space.

— Alice Woelfle (@turfstarwolf)

Solano County on State's COVID-19 Watch List after Spike in Hospitalizations

A recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has landed Solano County on the state of California's list for "targeted engagement," to slow further spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday.

While cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations are on the rise throughout California, the state is zeroing in on counties experiencing the most acute spikes.

"Being on the county monitoring list brings with it additional attention and focus, additional assistance, some additional resources at the state level," said Mark Ghaly, secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency.

Ghaly hopes the designation "really galvanizes the response at the county level in order to ... make sure that spread does not increase so rapidly."

Nineteen counties have been placed under increased monitoring by the state, covering nearly three quarters of California's population. On Monday, Glenn, Merced and Orange counties were added along with Solano.

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In Solano County, hospitals have seen a 23% increase in their three-day average of COVID-19 patients. The spike has been attributed in part to a jump in infections among dozens of North Bay farmworkers, many of whom work in Napa and Sonoma, but reside in Solano County.

State and county health officials have identified a list of steps to improve virus mitigation, including working with vineyard management companies to implement physical distancing measures and enlisting Spanish interpreters to educate workers on public health guidelines.

UCSF Pays Hackers $1.14 million, Says COVID-19 Work Not Affected

University of California San Francisco paid hackers $1.14 million, officials said late Friday, after a breach into the UCSF School of Medicine's data in early June.

While those hackers managed to access key UCSF data and lock it away, the payment should restore that access. University officials said the incident did not impact coronavirus work.

"Importantly, this incident did not affect our patient care delivery options, overall campus network, or COVID-19 work," UCSF officials said, in a statement.

A malware attack encrypted some servers at the UCSF School of Medicine, making them inaccessible. UCSF worked with a cyber-security consultant and outside experts to reinforce its defenses against further attacks, which are known as "ransomware" attacks.

The data breached by hackers include some important to "academic work we pursue as a university serving the public good," UCSF officials said. Patient medical records were not exposed, UCSF believes.

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"This incident reflects the growing use of malware by cyber-criminals around the world seeking monetary gain," UCSF officials said. "We continue to cooperate with law enforcement, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding that we are limited in what we can share while we continue with our investigation."

— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (@FitztheReporter)