Coronavirus central: San Mateo County reports new death, 44 additional cases | News | Almanac Online |


Coronavirus central: San Mateo County reports new death, 44 additional cases

Santa Clara County total jumps to 542 with 83 new cases

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NEW COVID-19 CASES, DEATHS: The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has reported a total of 542 coronavirus cases, 83 of which were announced on Thursday, March 26. The county also reported two more people died of the disease, bringing the death toll to 19. A sixth Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy and a light-rail operator trainee for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has tested positive for the coronavirus. On Friday, March 27, San Mateo County announced a provisional total of 239 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and six people who have died from the disease. That's an increase of 44 new confirmed cases since Thursday.

MEDICAL STUDENTS STEP UP: A group of Stanford School of Medicine students is holding donation drives for personal protection equipment this Friday, March 27, from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside of the Stanford Shopping Center.

MEALS FOR KIDS, MAPPED: A group of Stanford University students, in partnership with local school districts and nonprofit organizations, have created a digital map with detailed information about where local children can access free meals during the school closures in 10 Bay Area counties. View it here.

TRANSIT SERVICE CHANGES: On Wednesday, SamTrans implemented a new practice, having riders board at the rear of busses with multiple doors, to follow social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority plans to reduce service starting Monday, March 30. The agency aims to prioritize service to hospitals, food banks and shelters.

NEW STANFORD CASE COUNT: As of March 25, Stanford University has said that it's aware of 26 individuals connected to the Stanford community either as faculty, staff, students or postdocs, who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Below is comprehensive coverage of the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and Almanac in chronological order. For coverage by subject — how the virus is affecting public health, residents, schools, cities, businesses, nonprofits, arts groups, etc. — please go to our Wakelet page.


On Friday, March 27, San Mateo County announced a provisional total of 239 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and six people who have died from the disease. That's an increase of 44 new confirmed cases since Thursday.


Santa Clara County recorded 83 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday and two more deaths from the disease. The new cases represent the second-highest one-day jump nearly two months since public health leaders announced the first local COVID-19 patient.

The county provided a breakdown of the age ranges for the total 542 people in the county with the coronavirus. A majority of the cases are people between 41-50 years old.

• People 20 years old or under: 19.

• People between 21 and 30 years old: 48.

• People between 31 and 40 years old: 99.

• People between 41 and 50 years old: 115.

• People between 51 and 60 years old: 104.

• People between 61 and 70 years old: 68.

• People between 71 and 80 years old: 51.

• People 80 years old or over: 30.

• People of unknown age: 8.

The county's total represents nearly half of the cases reported in the Bay Area, which has 1,322 cases.

No further details on the two deaths. The county plans to release a new website with "additional aggregate data" on its cases.

A sixth sheriff's deputy has tested positive for the coronavirus, the sheriff's office announced Thursday evening. The employee, assigned to the custody bureau, is in isolation at home and is one of three deputies who the agency determined was possibly exposed to the disease.

The sheriff's office is working to identify other staff members and inmates possibly exposed to the coronavirus.

In San Mateo County, 195 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and five people have died from the disease as of Thursday, March 26. That's an increase of 30 new confirmed cases over the last 24 hours.


A light-rail operator trainee for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the transit agency to suspend light-rail service until further notice, a VTA spokeswoman said Thursday.

Six light-car trains were running when service was suspended at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. Agency personnel checked train platforms to make sure no riders were left stranded, according to spokeswoman Brandi Childress.

Light-rail trains will stay at the VTA's operating division and "undergo thorough cleaning," in addition to the operating division, Childress said.

Read the more from the VTA's Headways blog, which can be found here.

Starting Monday, Caltrain will reduce weekday service indefinitely. The rail commuter service will run 42 trains instead of 92, according to a press release issued Thursday. The trains will make all stops between San Francisco and San Jose about every 30-60 minutes. Limited and Baby Bullet has been temporarily shut down until further notice. An updated schedule can be here. The agency's weekend service will remain normal.

Donation drive

A group of Stanford School of Medicine students is holding donation drives for personal protection equipment this Friday, March 27, from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside of the Stanford Shopping Center.

They plan to set up in the parking lot just north of the Neiman Marcus department store. Donations can be opened or unopened but must be new. If items are open from the packaging, they must be placed in plastic zip-close bags. The group plans to safely sanitize any items before they are given away.

Telephone town hall

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, plans to discuss new federal funding to address the coronavirus crisis and available community resources at a telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, March 26, starting at 7:35 p.m. Those interested in joining can register here.


The latest Santa Clara County total of 459 coronavirus cases released Wednesday shows nearly half of the people presumably caught the disease within the community.

Of the 459 cases, 217 are presumed to have been community transmitted, 137 people are hospitalized and 88 are close contacts of known cases, according to the Public Health Department. No information was provided on cases associated with international travel.

The county also reported one more person died of the disease, bringing the death toll to 17.

A fifth Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy has tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency announced on Twitter. The individual, assigned to the custody bureau, is in isolation at home. Four of the five deputies worked on the same team.

In San Mateo County, 165 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and five people have died from the disease as of Wednesday, March 25. That's an increase of four new confirmed cases and four more deaths over the last 24 hours.

Stanford University announced that it's aware of 24 individuals who are connected to the Stanford community either as faculty, staff, students or postdocs, who have tested positive for COVID-19. They are living in the Bay Area and beyond, Stanford said. The university had previously reported one on-campus case involving a student who is self-isolating on campus. The new count "should not be considered comprehensive, given that it is partly based on self-reporting to the university ... and given the quickly changing nature of the COVID-19 spread," Stanford said, it is encouraging its community members to report test results to the university. Later on Wednesday, the university learned of two more people who have tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total to 26 individuals.

Social media giant's contribution

Facebook contributed $250,000 to the Sequoia Union High School District to give 2,000 students access to Wi-Fi hotspots for distance learning. High school district officials had reached out to Facebook because they anticipated the need for tech support for many of its families.

"We're proud to partner with the District and contribute $250,000 to ensure 2,000 SUHSD (Sequoia Union High School District) students — who would normally not have access to reliable internet at home — can access their online schoolwork from home," said Chloe Meyere, a Facebook spokesperson. "We're grateful for the District's leadership on this critical issue, and will continue to support our neighbors struggling with the impact of COVID-19."

Transit service

On Wednesday, SamTrans implemented a new practice, having riders board at the rear of busses with multiple doors, to follow social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Passengers with disabilities or in need of assistance will be exempt from the practice. The agency is calling on patrons to stay 6 feet apart as requested by the CDC. Rides are currently free until further notice.

SamTrans has seen its weekday ridership drop 65-70% and expects to see lose $1.3 million in monthly revenue fare.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority plans to reduce service on its bus, light-rail and paratransit services starting Monday, March 30. The agency aims to prioritize service to hospitals, food banks and shelters.

"We find ourselves in an unprecedented situation of balancing how we provide that service amid a health pandemic in which ridership is extremely sparse," spokesman Ken Blackstone wrote on the VTA's "Headways" blog.

The changes include cutting down light-rail service frequency to every 30 minutes; ending bus and light-rail trips after 9 p.m., with the exception of Route 22 (which will continue to run 24/7 between the Palo Alto Transit Center and San Jose's Eastridge Transit Center); and adjustments to the Express 181 bus to coincide with BART's reduced service schedule.

A map of the reduced service changes can be found at


On Tuesday, Santa Clara County joined six other Bay Area jurisdictions in issuing new reporting requirements for laboratories testing for the new coronavirus, the county said in a press release.

The county, along with the city of Berkeley and Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, are seeking more detailed information to help health leaders understand the rate of infection and possibly identify areas of dense infection.

Altogether, the jurisdictions have reported 930 confirmed cases, which makes up over half of the state's total, and 19 deaths. (Those numbers have since changed since Santa Clara County announcements of additional cases and deaths on Tuesday afternoon.)

Under the order, labs not only need to report positive results, which has prevented public health leaders from knowing the total number of people tested, but also negative and inconclusive readings. The test results for residents in each jurisdiction must be sent to the health care provider seeking the test and appropriate state and local authorities.

Public health labs are limited in the number of tests they can run compared to the commercial and academic labs, where testing is more readily available, according to the Santa Clara County press release.

"Receiving this critical information from those labs will help local health departments respond to COVID-19 during this unprecedented time," Dr. Sara Cody said in the press release.

Read the Santa Clara County order here.

Shelter-at-home order could last 12 weeks

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday, March 24 that a shelter-at-home order would last through April and as long as 12 weeks. Newsom said Californians have much to do to flatten the curve to levels where contagion of the COVID-19 virus would be greatly reduced.

Newsom's comments made over Facebook Live are at odds with those of President Donald Trump, who wants the country to get back to work by Easter, April 12. Newsom said it's "misleading" to think the state could reduce its stay-at-home order by that date.

"April, for California, would be sooner than any of the experts that I talk to would believe is possible," he said.

Newsom said the next six to eight weeks will be pivotal. California couldn't make any potential adjustments to the order for at least six weeks. In eight to 12 weeks "we will be in a very different place," he said.

He noted that people must do more to heed the shelter and social distancing order, and the impact of the disease on younger people can't be underestimated. Disproportionately, 50% of the positive coronavirus cases are among people ages 18 to 49, he said, although the majority of hospitalizations and deaths are still among people ages 60 and older. A teenager in Lancaster, a city about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, has died from the disease, he said.

New COVID-19 cases, deaths

Santa Clara County reported 54 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday. The county now has a total of 375 cases, 125 of which are people hospitalized, 91 of which are presumed to have been community transmitted; 82 of which are close contacts of known cases and 30 of which are associated with international travel.

The county also announced three more deaths from the disease, raising its death toll to 16. Further details on the new deaths weren't released.

San Mateo County added 19 cases to its total, which is now 161 as of Tuesday morning, March 24.

Fourth deputy has COVID-19

A fourth Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy has tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency announced on Twitter. The employee works at the custody division and is under quarantine at home. The sheriff's office announced its three other cases on Monday.

Federal Medical Station

A temporary Federal Medical Station that Santa Clara County is setting up in collaboration with the U.S. Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response will serve less-acute COVID-19 cases, the county clarified on Tuesday in a press release. The county had previously said the station wouldn't care for coronavirus patients.

The station will be set up at the Santa Clara Convention Center to accommodate up to 250 people. It will also care for short-term inpatient patients with subacute medical, mental health or other needs. The station will be supplied with beds, supplies and medicines, the county said. More information on the stations can be found at

Food closet

Downtown Street Team's food closet located at All Saints Episcopal Church in Palo Alto is staying stocked with fresh groceries to help a community in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the organization's senior manager David Vyfvinkel, the downtown food closet has received two to three times more fresh produce than it usually serves thanks to donations from various retails and organizations such as Trader Joe's and Second Harvest Food Bank.

And besides a few newcomers coming in from the South Palo Alto Food Closet at Covenant Presbyterian Church, which is currently closed, the team is serving fewer clients than usual.

"We usually have about 60-75 people on any given day," Vyfvinkel said. "Now we're getting 40 to 45."

The three volunteers, including Vyfvinkel, who were operating the food closet on Tuesday wore masks and gloves to protect themselves while they handled food. To keep 6 feet of distance from the public, as recommended by public health officials, Vyfvinkel said they now make visitors wait outside while the team fills people's grocery bags with food and brings it outside.

The food closet is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.


Santa Clara County has reported a total of 321 cases, 19 of which were announced on Monday. Of the 321 cases, 116 people are hospitalized, 91 presumed to have been community transmitted; 77 are close contacts of known cases; 28 are associated with international travel; and 13 people have died, according to the county's public health department.

Also on Monday, the county started releasing data on the people who have died. Of the 13 deaths, nine were men and four were women. The county also reported age ranges for the deceased:

• One person was between 41 and 50 years old.

• Two people were between 51 and 60 years old.

• Four people were between 61 and 70 years old.

• Two people were between 71 and 80 years old.

• Four people were between 81 and 90 years old.

Also, eight of the deaths involved people with pre-existing conditions and the remaining five had no pre-existing conditions.

San Mateo County now has 142 coronavirus cases, 25 of which were reported Monday morning, and one death.

At a press conference on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California needs 50,000 hospital beds, up from 20,000, in response to the coronavirus after the state recalibrated its needs based on updated modeling. The increase means the state will seek to identify places to establish an additional 17,000 net new beds to add to its existing stock.

Coronavirus testing

On Monday, March 23, Santa Clara County issued an update on local testing for coronavirus. It has tested 1,044 samples for 647 patients as of Sunday, March 22.

The county noted that its public health laboratory can only run up to 100 tests daily through kits provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lab is neither able to run tests at the high rates of private, commercial labs nor structured to handle such a volume. Its current focus is to test hospital patients; people living or working in high-risk places, such as long-term care facilities; health care professionals; and first responders.

In light of these limitations, the county has called on large commercial laboratories to report all positive and negative results for COVID-19 tests, plus other key information, according to the update. The details would allow the county to determine which parts of the community are seeing "more intense transmission."

Read the rest of the statement here.

State parks, beaches 'soft' close

Following a weekend of packed beaches despite a state order to shelter at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Newsom ordered parking lots at most state parks and beaches to close. Newsom called the move a "soft closure" to discourage people from overcrowding the open spaces. Park rangers would also enforce the 6-foot-distance rule between people. All campgrounds are closed. Locally, the following parking lots are closed: Año Nuevo and Burleigh Murray state parks; Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park; and Bean Hollow, Cowell Ranch, Gray Whale Cove, Half Moon Bay, Montara, Pescadero, Pomponio and San Gregorio state beaches. A full list of all of the park closures is available here.

Air National Guard arrives

Following Gov. Newsom's order, members of the California Air National Guard deployed to five counties around the state, including Santa Clara County, to help package and distribute food.

Newsom decided to use the National Guard for food distribution to the needy after nonprofit organizations around the state saw a large decrease in volunteers. Many of those volunteers are traditionally seniors and retired people, and they are among the most vulnerable to having serious complications from the COVID-19 illness and are adhering to the statewide stay-at-home order.

Last week, Newsom activated nearly 500 soldiers with Joint Task Force 115 to support county food banks. Soldiers and air personnel from the California National Guard began supporting food-bank warehouses in Sacramento. On Monday, March 23, the National Guard will send service members to support food banks in Amador, Monterey, Riverside, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. The personnel will assist at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, 750 Curtner Ave. in San Jose, in Santa Clara County, according to a statement released Monday evening.

Air personnel from the Fresno-based, 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, deployed their Medical Detachment 1's Homeland Response Force to support the California Emergency Medical Services Authority and assist at a medical supply warehouse in Sacramento.

Another 10 personnel from the 144th Flight Wing were sent to Pacific Grove to assist the California Emergency Medical Services with caring for 19 quarantined passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship.

Inmates, deputies confirmed with COVID-19

A county inmate has tested positive for coronavirus, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office announced Monday. The inmate is a 31-year-old man who was arrested on Friday and booked into the county's Main Jail in San Jose. While he was getting booked into jail, he reported feeling sick and told deputies that a family member returned home from Europe days earlier, according to a sheriff's office press release.

Once booked, the man was "masked" and placed under isolation in an infirmary, where he was tested for coronavirus, according to the press release. The results showed a positive reading for COVID-19, medical staff learned on Sunday.

The inmate remains in quarantine and is being monitored. The sheriff's office notified San Jose police that the initial arresting officer or officers may have been exposed to the disease.

In response, custody medical staff plans to screen new arrestees outside of the jail's sally port area and health care workers will assess whether they have dry cough, shortness of breath, fever or been exposed to someone with the coronavirus.

Three sheriff's deputies — two assigned to the patrol division and the other assigned to the custody bureau — have also tested positive for the new coronavirus, the agency announced Monday. Of the three deputies, were confirmed with COVID-19 Sunday and the other on Monday.

Two of the three deputies are under self-quarantine and the other is in stable condition at a hospital.

Telephone town halls

Santa Clara County Public Health Department is partnering with local Congressional leaders to host a telephone town hall on Tuesday, March 24, at 1 p.m. to answer the community's questions on COVID-19.

The event is a collaboration with Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont; and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley.

The community can join the call when the event begins by calling 855-962-1194. Questions about the event can be made to the Public Health Department at 408-271-8700.

More information on the event can be found here.

The Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System also plans to host a tele-town hall for veterans on March 30 from 6-7 p.m. Those interested in joining the meeting will need to register online at Registrants will receive a call before the event starts.

Supplying respirators

Foothill College has made respirators from its respiratory therapy program available for the state Health and Human Services Agency to use in response to the pandemic. Of the 12 respirators on its Los Alto Hills campus, two of them are the same ones used at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, according to Dr. Ram Subrahmaniam, the college's dean of STEM.


Increasing health care capacity

Santa Clara County is working with local hospitals to prepare for an expected surge in coronavirus patients, County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center CEO Paul Lorenz said at a press conference on Sunday.

Lorenz said there are approximately 2,500 hospital beds in the county. Roughly 400 of the beds are dedicated to pediatric care and 350 are for critical care, 75% to 80% of which are currently occupied. Approximately 290 additional beds can be converted to an "ICU level of care," he said.

"If in fact the demand goes beyond our capacity, we are working with the county emergency operations center to come up with a communitywide search plan," he said. "That plan would include looking at all 2,100 adult beds that we can equip and staff for critically ill patients."

The Valley Medical Center Foundation is continuing to collect monetary donations online and protective equipment, which can be dropped off beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, March 23, at the foundation's office on the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center campus, 2400 Clove Drive in San Jose.

Read more from the press conference here.

The county has teamed up with the U.S. Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response to establish a temporary Federal Medical Station at the Santa Clara Convention Center to accommodate up to 250 people, according to a statement issued Saturday. The station will be managed by the federal office to serve patients in need of short-term, subacute care and do not have COVID-19. It will be equipped with beds, supplies and medicines, according to the county.

The state can also increase capacity at clinics, mobile health care units and adult day care facilities as part of its COVID-19 response under an executive order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday.

New COVID-19 cases, deaths

Santa Clara County now has 302 cases of the new coronavirus, 106 of which were announced on Saturday and Sunday. The COVID-19 death toll now stands at 10 with the announcement of two more deaths over the weekend.

Of Santa Clara County's COVID-19 cases, 108 people are hospitalized; 77 are presumed to have been community transmitted; 75 are close contacts of known cases; 22 are associated with international travel; and 10 people have died, according to the county's public health department.

The ninth and 10th recorded deaths in the county were women in their 60s and 40s, respectively. Both women died Saturday, March 21. The woman in her 40s was hospitalized Monday, March 16, according to the county. Further information was not provided.

San Mateo County announced 10 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and seven more on Sunday, bringing its county total to 11. The county currently has one death stemming from the disease.

Menlo fire begins pandemic response unit

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District now has a Pandemic Emergency Response Unit staffed by a two-person team. The unit is tasked with taking calls of suspected COVID-19 cases, according to a press release issued Saturday.

The district recently received seven calls of suspected COVID-19 in one day and expects to see that number go up.

Staff assigned to the unit will utilize the "highest level of Emergency Medical Services" and personal protective equipment. The district said they will aim to minimize contact with whoever may have COVID-19 while on a call to decrease possible exposure to the disease.


Santa Clara County now has 196 cases of the new coronavirus, seven of which were announced Friday. The county also reported two more deaths, bringing its total to eight. San Mateo County's total case count hit the 100 mark on Friday morning.

On Friday afternoon, Santa Clara County reported two more deaths and seven new infections as a result of the coronavirus. The seventh recorded death was an adult male in his 80s who was hospitalized on Tuesday, March 3, and died on Tuesday, March 17. The eighth reported death was an adult male in his 70s.

In San Mateo County, 100 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and one person died from the disease as of Friday, March 20, at 8:57 a.m.

Also on March 20, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order extending the deadline for the official canvass of the March 3 election by 21 days. The certification of election results was initially due by April 2; it will now be by April 23. The change was made because of the difficulties presented by the social distancing order of public health officials in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Despite the extension, Friday's executive order stated: "Counties are urged to complete activities related to the official canvass according to the deadlines ordinarily imposed by state law, to the extent possible."


The state of California has issued a mandatory, stay-at-home order, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced at a press conference on Thursday evening, March 19. Employees of "critical sectors" are advised to go to work, according to a tweet from Newsom. Businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and banks will remain open. More information is available on the state's new website dedicated to coronavirus updates,

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has reported a total of 189 coronavirus cases, 14 of which were announced on Thursday, March 19.

Of the 189 cases, 70 are presumed community transmitted; 62 people are hospitalized; 18 are associated with international travel; 43 are close contacts of known cases and six people have died, according to the public health department.

In San Mateo County, 89 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and one person died from the disease as of Thursday, March 19, at 10:24 a.m.


Stanford announced Thursday, March 19, that the university doesn't expect to be able to hold this year's commencement "in its traditional form" due to the "strong likelihood that prohibitions on large gatherings will remain in place by later this spring." Classes will also be taught online for all of spring quarter, through June. "We are making the decision in recognition of the seriousness of the global public health challenge in front of us, and we are making it now in order to assist your planning to the greatest extent possible," Provost Persis Drell said.

The Palo Alto Unified School District released on Thursday answers to a set of frequently asked questions from students and families, related to online learning offerings, teacher availability during school closures, grades and other issues. The district also said it will no longer send out announcements if students are diagnosed with COVID-19. "The County Public Health Department has said we should all operate as though everyone is exposed," the district said.


Tootsie's at the Stanford Barn in Palo Alto has launched an "adopt a doc and a nurse" menu for people to donate meals to Stanford Hospital staff. People can choose a designated department or the hospital will determine where the food is most needed. To place an order, email or text Tootsie's owner Rocco Scordella at 347-633-7132.

Preserves open, with restrictions: Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves and trails are open to the public as is allowed during the current shelter-at-home directive but has put new health and safety measures in place, including: restrooms are closed effective Friday, March 20; areas with high use will be intermittently closed without notice to promote safe social distancing; group gathering areas are closed; and group activities are suspended. Preserve visitors are reminded to stay at home if they are sick, and to maintain social distances of at least 6 feet from others.


A man in his 60s died from the coronavirus on Tuesday, March 17, marking the sixth death in Santa Clara County, the Public Health Department announced on Wednesday, March 18.

The man had been hospitalized since March 5 and died of the disease 12 days later, the department said in a press release Wednesday morning.

City declares emergency

The East Palo Alto City Council declared a local state of emergency during a meeting on Tuesday, March 17. The declaration allows the city manager to ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to proclaim the city to be in a state of emergency and to request a federal declaration to aid residents with financial aid for losses and emergency repairs.

Under the order, the city manager can also award contracts to repair, alter or improve city facilities without multiple bids and direct staff to roll out measures to respond to the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the city manager has jurisdiction over all public facilities and parks, which includes the ability to change hours of operations, close, or restrict access to public facilities.

The council will vote on additional emergency measures, including an emergency moratorium on evictions and protections for tenants, seniors, children, RV dwellers, small businesses, nonprofits, homeowners and other impacted groups at a later date.

For updates on the city's response to the coronavirus, visit

Health organization responds

Sutter Health, which includes the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, has added an online symptom assessment for COVID-19, which builds on its existing medical symptom checker. Palo Alto Medical Foundation and other Sutter Health patients can access the assessment tool through their My Health Online portal.

The platform assesses the patient's symptoms and gives appropriate care options, from self-care to attending a walk-in clinic to seeking emergency assistance.

Sutter is also collecting test samples for COVID-19 and influenza in high-risk patients. Patients who feel ill should schedule a video visit or call their doctor to receive guidance and see if they meet the criteria for testing.

"It is important for patients to contact us first before visiting a care site, as you need a referral and appointment to get tested," Sutter said in a statement. "If your symptoms are mild to moderate, you do not need testing. Please stay home to rest, get well and prevent exposure to others."


On March 17, Stanford Shopping Center closed temporarily to comply with the shelter-at-home order, stating: "We must all adhere strictly to these governmental orders — these are not merely advice or guidance, but instead mandatory legal requirements." Some restaurants at the mall remain open for takeout and/or delivery.

Grocery stores in Palo Alto have made special accommodations for seniors, who public health officials say face a higher risk for the coronavirus, amid the pandemic.

The downtown Whole Foods Market at 774 Emerson St. will exclusively service customers ages 60 and older from 8-9 a.m. (The store has also adjusted its hours to 9 a.m.-8 p.m.) The company also plans to restock shelves and sanitize surfaces after closing each day.

Piazza's Fine Foods at 3922 Middlefield Road at the Charleston Shopping Center will give seniors priority checkout from 7-8 a.m. daily. The store observed many seniors shopped during the store's first hours of operation, according to an Instagram post by the Piazza family.

"As with other matters during the current virus crisis, developments are fluid and we are prepared to make proper adjustments immediately as needed," the post states.

Piazza's recently adjusted its hours, which are now from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and has dedicated the last hour for "comprehensive cleaning, sanitizing and restocking of shelves."

In a tweet, Country Sun Natural Foods at 440 California Ave. announced that seniors will be given special access to its store on Wednesdays from 8-10 a.m. The market has also reduced its hours to 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

On Wednesday, Safeway announced that it would be reserving early-morning shopping hours for seniors and other vulnerable populations. Though the accommodations may change for each store, the company said in a social media post that all locations will designate 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for seniors and at-risk community members, including pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.

Those seeking to order online for pickup or delivery from Safeway may be faced with waits as long as one week as stores scramble to restock popular items after a surge of panic buying starting this month.

There are 10 Safeway locations on the Midpeninsula in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Mountain View, Woodside and Los Altos.

Raley's, the parent company operating the Nob Hill Foods on Grant Road in Mountain View, announced a long list of accommodations for seniors rolling out starting this week. Starting Thursday, March 19, the store will offer curbside pick-up for pharmacy prescriptions, though customers are expected to call and notify pharmacy staff ahead of time. The store will also have more time slots available for pickup and delivery for groceries starting Sunday.

Nob Hill is also expected to launch on Saturday a new program called "Senior Essential Bags," essentially pre-bagged groceries that will be available for curbside pickup at a discounted price for customers ages 65 and older or are otherwise considered at-risk. The company will have a $20 bag with fruit and pantry staples and a $35 bag with cooked, ready-to-eat meals.

"We call upon our customers to respect the intended purpose of this program, which is to serve seniors or those at risk," according to a statement released by the company.

The Rose International Market on Castro Street and El Camino Real in Mountain View is taking precautions amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19, but has not designated any store hours specifically for seniors.

Ava's Downtown Market & Deli in Mountain View is considering adjustments to its store schedule to accommodate at-risk customers starting Friday, store management said Thursday. The market does not have a large population of senior clients, they said. The Poke Bar inside the store has temporarily closed down because of the reduced foot traffic into the store, management said.

Bianchini's Market, which runs at Portola Valley store, will be open from 9-10 a.m. daily for people ages 65 and older, expectant mothers and community members with disabilities. The market has adjusted its operating hours to 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Roberts Market has designated a daily seniors shopping time from 9:30-10 a.m. at its Woodside store.

Target has also set aside the first hour of shopping on Wednesdays to "vulnerable guests," including seniors and people with underlying health conditions, according to a message from Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. The company has locations in East Palo Alto and Mountain View.


The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has reported a total of 175 coronavirus cases as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17.

Of the 175 cases, 70 are presumed community transmitted; 56 people are hospitalized; 18 are associated with international travel; 38 are close contacts of known cases and five people have died, according to the public health department.

The fifth death from COVID-19 was a man in his 50s. He was hospitalized on March 9 and died earlier in the day on Tuesday, according to the department.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a hit on daily life on the Midpeninsula, including in Palo Alto, where the City Council extended its state of emergency declaration by 60 days.

On Wednesday, March 18, at 1 p.m., the city of Palo Alto plans to roll out a Community Support Call Center where residents and businesses can find information related to the coronavirus crisis on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Residents can call the center at 650-272-3181.

The city has also created utility rate relief programs for residences and businesses. Palo Alto Utilities customers can expect a temporary ban on service shut-offs for not paying a bill, and extended repayment plans. The city has also expanded medical rate and financial rate assistance programs to help customers in financial hardship with a 25% discount on gas and electricity charges and 20% on storm drain charges, if eligible. More information on the programs can be found at The city currently has a program that offers one-time bill assistance supported through customer donations. More details about that program can be found here.

The public health crisis has forced numerous operational changes at City Hall, however, the city will continue to stream meetings through the Midpeninsula Media Center. The Palo Alto-based company will also broadcast Palo Alto Board of Education meetings and other public meetings with its partner cities, according to Midpen Media CEO Keri Stokstad.

"Continuing this coverage is especially crucial for our cable viewers that depend on their local channels for information from their city representatives," Stokstad told the Weekly in an email.

The center has closed classes, events and equipment reservations, among other nonessential functions.

On Tuesday, March 17, Palo Alto Unified reported a Fletcher Middle School student has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Local residents have raised concerns about construction work continuing despite a shelter in place order that went into effect at midnight Tuesday. The order allows for work related to "Essential Infrastructure," such as public works construction and housing construction.

Local playgrounds

Midpeninsula cities have advised families to keep children away from playgrounds, reinforcing a public health order issued by local leaders to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to other community members.

In an email issue Tuesday, the Magical Bridge Playground called on the public to stay away from its playground in Palo Alto and other public playgrounds in the Bay Area.

"While this breaks our hearts, we know these necessary steps are needed to stop the spread of the Covid-19," the email states.

East Palo Alto's parks, in addition to restrooms at those sites, remain open, but playgrounds have been shut down through April 7, according to a press release.

Menlo Park has also suspended services at its playgrounds, which falls under the list of the city's closed buildings and facilities in response to the pandemic, according to an email sent Monday morning. Parks will stay open, but organized or team activities have been banned.

Congresswoman taking questions

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is holding tele-town hall meetings to provide an update on Congress' actions in response to the new coronavirus and to answer questions. The meetings will be held on Wednesday, March 18, from 2:55-3:55 p.m. and Thursday, March 19, from 4:15-5:15 p.m.

"During these challenging and uncertain times, it's essential for me to hear from you directly, and ensure that you and your loved ones have the information you need to stay safe and healthy," Eshoo said in a statement.

Anyone interested in participating in the meetings can sign up here. Constituents can also register by texting "REPANNAESHOO" to 833-898-5483.

Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which runs a center in Palo Alto, remains open with staff functioning as first responders, Executive Director Anita Friedman said in a statement on Tuesday, March 17. The organization is offering specific services for seniors, adults, families and parents during the COVID-19 crisis through its action alert program.

All JFCS clinics and group social programs have been canceled. Instead, social work and medical staff are serving every client in their own home, Friedman said. Clients and patients receiving services can call the JFCS Bay Area Critical Help Line at 415-449-3700. The agency is continuing to provide home care to its older adult clients and patients and deliver cooked meals and groceries. It has implemented a “Safe At Home Program” to closely monitor high-risk and lone elderly and disabled clients.

Emergency counseling is available for people who need help coping with the crisis. Online workshops are available to help parents understand how to help their children with the added anxiety that they may be experiencing. Parents can also find tips on supporting children here and how to help children manage stress here.

JFCS is also asking for donations to its Community Emergency Fund, which has a $500,000 matching grant. In addition, volunteers are needed for several activities, including making phone calls to isolated, homebound seniors and purchasing and delivering groceries (such as Passover care packages) to Holocaust survivors, frail seniors and homebound disabled adults. Details on services, volunteer opportunities and making donations can be found here.


Residents of six Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara and San Mateo, are being ordered to stay at home for all but "essential reasons" for the next three weeks starting at 12:01 a.m., Tuesday, March 17, as the cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.

The order makes exceptions for people to leave their homes for work related to health care, infrastructure and "essential activities," such as gathering necessary supplies (for example, canned foods, dry goods and pet supplies).

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has confirmed 24 additional cases of COVID-19 virus, totaling 138 as of 5 p.m. on March 15. Of those, 63 are presumed community transmitted; 52 people are hospitalized; 17 are associated with international travel; 30 are close contacts of known cases and two people have died, the health department announced on Monday afternoon. In San Mateo County, 41 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, and the county announced its first death due to the coronavirus.

Two more people have died from COVID-19 infections, bringing the total to four within Santa Clara County, county public health officials said on Monday afternoon, March 16. Two men — a man in his 50s and one in his 80s — died on March 15. The man in his 50s was hospitalized beginning March 12; the older man entered the hospital on March 7.

San Mateo County has issued guidance regarding its county "shelter-in-place" order for COVID-19:

Santa Clara County Superior Court

The clerk's office will be closed to the public. Potential jurors scheduled to appear March 16-30 for service are excused and mustn't arrive at court. Empaneled jurors already in trial will receive instruction on a case-by-case basis. The court strongly encourages social distancing and using CourtCall (1-888-88-COURT) to appear telephonically whenever possible.

Only the following essential functions will go forward during this time: Criminal Courthouse Hall of Justice: In-custody arraignments including: misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence and parole violations. In- and out-of-custody family violence arraignments, time not waived preliminary hearings and collaborative courts parole violations.

Family Justice Center Courthouse: Domestic violence restraining orders; juvenile dependency detentions; mental health emergency review.

Civil Courthouse Downtown Superior Courthouse: Civil harassment restraining orders; mental health conservatorships; conservatorship and elder abuse; writ temporary restraining orders.

Juvenile Justice: Juvenile detentions.

To check the status of continued matters visit here.

Coronavirus testing

Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet, has launched an online tool to help screen patients for COVID-19 testing. The tool, called Project Baseline, triages people who are concerned about their COVID-19 risk and sends them to testing sites if they fit criteria based on their symptoms, according to an announcement by the company.

The pilot program is available to residents of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties who can take the screener survey starting Monday, March 16.

To use the screening tool, visit

Local schools respond

In light of school closures, announced on Friday, March 13, both the Palo Alto Unified and Ravenswood City school districts are providing free meals for all students at pick-up sites during the school closures. More information about the Palo Alto Unified meals and pick-up locations can be found here and Ravenswood, here.

The Ravenswood Education Foundation has launched an emergency fund to provide financial relief related to the school closures for families, teachers and staff in the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto. The district is working to identify needs for the funds, including food access and distribution; support with rent, bills and groceries; and distance learning.


New cases of COVID-19

In Santa Clara County, which has the most cases of any county in California, the number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 jumped from 79 to 114 between Friday and Sunday. Of those, two people have died, 48 are hospitalized; 52 cases were a result of community transmission.

San Mateo County reported its first death due the coronavirus this weekend, an older adult with underlying medical conditions. The county did not release further information. In San Mateo County, 31 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday, March 15. The number of cases stood at 20 on Friday.

State of California

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new state restrictions in a Sunday press conference, including home isolation of everyone in the state over age 65, closure of all bars, wineries and nightclubs and requiring restaurants to reduce their occupancy by half. Newsom also said that 51% of all California school districts have closed and that 80-85% of all students statewide will no longer be in class starting Monday, March 16.

"These are profoundly significant steps in real time and they're significant steps up from two days ago," Newsom said. "We're guided deeply not by anxiety, not by fear but a very pragmatic response to meet this moment without creating other unintended consequences."

City of Palo Alto

The City of Palo Alto activated its emergency operations center on Sunday, March 15, and is launching a community support call center early this week. Mayor Adrian Fine is also convening a meeting of the Citizen Corps Council, which provides coordination between government and community institutions including Stanford University and Healthcare, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Palo Alto Unified School District, as well as business and volunteer organizations.

Palo Alto will keep all libraries and community centers closed starting Saturday in response to the coronavirus and recent guidance from Santa Clara County, the city announced Friday evening. As of Friday, all in-person library programs and services in Mountain View have been canceled or postponed through April 6.

The city, which had already canceled more than 30 events, is also instituting a hiring freeze, City Manager Ed Shikada announced Friday.

In addition to libraries, the city will keep the Palo Alto Art Center, the Mitchell Park Community Center, the Lucie Stern Community Center, the Junior Museum and Zoo, the Children’s Theatre and Rinconada Pool closed as of Saturday. The Palo Alto Animal Shelter will also be closed and all events at programs at Cubberley Community Center will be suspended.

Tenants at Cubberley may modify or suspend their activities in accordance with county guidance, the city announced, referring to the county’s Friday order banning all events with more than 100 people and requiring precautionary measures for all events with more than 35 people.

Stanford Health Care

Stanford Health Care announced on Sunday, March 15, that drive-through appointments for Stanford Medicine's COVID-19 test are now available for patients who have been referred by their medical providers. Patients remain in their cars for the tests, which take a few minutes and are administered by a physician, advanced practice provider or nurse outfitted in protective clothing, including a gown, goggles, mask and gloves, Stanford Health Care said. Patients will be notified of their COVID-19 test results within 24 hours; if the result is positive, their doctors will make sure they get appropriate care, which can range from hospitalization for people showing severe symptoms to telemedicine visits and self-quarantine for those with mild cases. The drive-through tests are available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, at Express Care's Hoover Pavilion location in Palo Alto. Patients can call 650-498-9000 to speak with a nurse who will assess the next step for their care.


Safeway supermarkets in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park have shortened their hours to enable staff to restock the shelves and clean the stores, according to signs posted on the doors and phone recordings. The Safeways are open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the following exceptions, which are open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.: Menlo Park at 525 El Camino Real; Mountain View at 645 San Antonio Road.

Mass transit

Caltrain is reducing its weekday service "in response to a significant decline in ridership stemming from efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus." The changes are effective Tuesday, March 17.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), the multi-billion dollar agency that plans and operates the county's road and transit network, announced today, March 14, that starting on Monday, March 16, it will reduce capacity on its light rail vehicles, running one-car trains instead of two- and three-car trains. It will also suspend its school-trip service for three weeks in light of school closures.


Bishop Oscar Cantu asked all parishes, missions and chapels in the Diocese of San José to suspend public masses beginning today, March 14, until further notice. There are diocese churches in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos.

San Mateo County

The San Mateo County health department announced Saturday evening that it is banning gatherings of more than 50 people for three weeks starting on Sunday. The order also advises against get togethers of more than 10 people. This amends its Thursday order, which barred all gatherings larger than 250 people starting on Friday.

The health department issued an order on Friday to close all schools in the county for three weeks starting Monday.

San Mateo County Libraries announced on Friday that all of its library branches would close starting Monday until March 31.

On Friday, the San Mateo County Probation Department suspended visitation at the Youth Services Center – Juvenile Hall and the Margaret J. Kemp Camp (Camp Kemp) facilities until further notice to curb the spread of the virus.

San Mateo County and Parks will stay open, but the county is taking immediate protective actions, county officials said Friday. Visitors will pay at designated pay stations rather than at gate house; all staff and docent-led events, including hikes and tours, are canceled through March; the Bicycle Sunday event is canceled through March and the Parks department's main office in Redwood City and Coyote Point Marina office will be closed to the public indefinitely.

Menlo Park declared a local state of emergency on Thursday, closing City Hall and other facilities. Atherton followed suit on Friday, canceling events and scaling back public meetings.

Nonprofits and events

Organizations are also announcing temporary closures. In Palo Alto, the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center will close for at least two weeks starting Sunday night, March 15, according to a March 13 email from CEO Zack Bodner.

Preschool and Club J will be closed as well. However, he wrote, "In the coming days, we will be working to find creative ways to keep connecting people with each other, whether that is through distance learning or exercise broadcasts or check-ins with isolated people in our community."

There has not been any confirmed case of COVID-19 at the JCC, the email stated.

"At this time, we will not be able to issue refunds for March membership or tuition," Bodner wrote.

The annual Stanford Powwow, which takes place on Mother's Day weekend, has also been canceled, organizers said on their website.

On Thursday, Little House Activity Center and the Rosener House Adult Care center, two Menlo Park programs that cater to seniors, will be closed as of the end of the day Friday for two weeks.

For a look at how the public health emergency has affected arts organizations, go here .


Public health

A second person in Santa Clara County has died of COVID-19, the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced on March 13. The woman was in her 80s, and she was hospitalized on March 9. The department did not include any information on the woman's city of residence. It also did not make a spokesperson available to the media.

She was among the latest cases of COVID-19 announced by the department. There are 79 cases as of March 13, which accounts for more than a quarter of the cases in the state, which has 277, including four deaths.

Santa Clara County Public Health officials on March 13 ordered all public schools to close for three weeks, starting Monday, March 16, through April 3. Palo Alto schools, Mountain View and Los Altos schools will be closed for one month since spring break is scheduled to start on April 4. San Mateo County health officials also directed their county’s schools to close.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department also banned all gatherings of 100 persons or more.

Restaurants in Santa Clara County were also given new restrictions on March 13 to reduce spread of the novel coronavirus, including specific guidance on intensive cleaning, personal hygiene and options for delivery of foods.


Cities respond

On March 12, both Palo Alto and Mountain View declared states of emergency. Emergency declarations allow local jurisdictions to activate their emergency plans and become eligible for reimbursements from federal and state governments.

East Palo Alto also announced several steps it would be taking to minimize the spread of the virus, including making arrangements for delivery of meals for senior citizens, increasing its cleaning of public areas under the city's jurisdiction and hiring a contractor to supplement the cleaning efforts.

The city also stated it will close the Senior Center Management for one week, a decision that was made by agreement with the facility, Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones said. City officials are participating in daily briefings with regional emergency management staff and minimizing public gatherings that have more than 50 attendees and that may include vulnerable populations. These gatherings are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis, according to the announcement.

Wallace-Jones urged residents to take seriously the guidelines that have been provided to the community by the San Mateo County Health Department.

"As the medical experts guiding our county through this crisis, their advice is science based and intended to save lives," Wallace-Jones wrote. "This is not the time to question the practices they have recommended, as not doing so may put your health at risk or illness or even death."

East Palo Alto is also monitoring developments in the coronavirus outbreak and is communicating with San Mateo County leaders and the CDC. East Palo Alto residents can find more information from their city and county at

Local schools respond

On March 12, the Palo Alto Board of Education decided that it will not close schools in the face of the coronavirus but has decided to offer online-learning options to families who wish their children to remain at home. (This decision was reversed the next day, following county orders.)

Tech companies respond

Read the latest update on how local tech companies and their employees are impacted by the coronavirus: Local tech companies' best defense against the coronavirus — work from home

State of California responds

California could have thousands of more test kits and multiple new laboratories up and running to detect the virus associated with the COVID-19 infection as soon as next week, Gov. Gavin Newson said during a Thursday press conference. Only 48 hours ago, Santa Clara County officials said their county laboratory could only process 30 to 40 tests per day, and Stanford University's laboratory, which has a new FDA-approved test, could only run 80 to 100 tests per day.


SCC Public Health

On Wednesday, March 11, the White House coronavirus task force announced 30-day "mitigation strategies" for Santa Clara County. The strategies, the task force announced, are "designed to address the effects of COVID-19 on areas that are experiencing community spread." The group also released a separate set of strategies for Seattle-King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in Washington state, which as of Wednesday has the most cases in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The plan for Santa Clara County includes strategies for individuals, schools, senior facilities, workplaces and community- and faith-based organizations. Individuals are being advised to monitor local information, ensure a 30-day supply of medicine and wash their hands. Those at risk of severe illness should stay at home and avoid gatherings with 10 or more people.

Schools are advised to arrange distance learning and e-learning for students at risk of severe illness. They are also asked to adopt "social distancing" measures by canceling large gatherings, limiting interschool interactions and altering schedules to reduce mixing, possibly by staggering recess times. Other measures include extending spring breaks, canceling all school-associated congregations and conducting regular health checks.

The task force recommends assisted-living and senior-living facilities to undertake "social distancing" measures and limiting programs with external staff. They should also consider suspending visitor access, implementing short-term closures as needed for cleaning and contact tracing and opting for longer-term closure or quarantine of facilities until the situation is resolved. The group recommends facilities screen temperature and respiratory symptoms of attendees and staff. Staff should wear masks and wash hands before entering and after existing rooms of inhabitants.

Workplaces are asked to encourage staff to telework, expand sick leave policies, eliminate large work-related gatherings and cancel nonessential work travel as well as work-sponsored conferences. Community- and faith-based organizations are advised to cancel large gatherings, as well as professional and college sporting events. Those organizations that serve high-risk communities are asked to cancel gatherings of more than 10 people and to stagger access to support services.

According to the task force's announcement, the mitigation strategies are recommended for 30 days, after which time local and state public health officials, in coordination with CDC, will reassess the individual community situations.

Hours after the strategies were released, Santa Clara County issued a statement that said it was "pleased" the White House adopted many of the local Public Health Department's previously issued recommendations. At the same time, the county also called on local residents to adhere to the county's ban on events with 1,000 people or more that went into effect Wednesday and cancel large events, including but not limited to ones expected to bring 250 people or more.

"We continue to work in partnership with public health experts at the CDC, the state of California, and other significantly impacted communities to issue guidance to the public," according to the statement. "We will continue to make decisions based on the best evidence available, locally relevant data on COVID-19, and the expertise of our public health officials."

San Mateo County update

As of Wednesday, March 11, San Mateo County has reported 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The county issued a statement that signaled an aggressive approach to minimizing the risk of contracting coronavirus.

Stanford University responds

Stanford University announced on March 11 two new confirmed coronavirus cases, including one in Stanford Medicine as well as one on the main campus. A School of Medicine faculty member also tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Also on March 11, Stanford University Athletics closed upcoming competitions to the public through May 15. The action is in accordance with a Santa Clara County order banning events expected bring to 1,000 people or more. Read more here.

State of California responds

On March 11, California public health officials stated that non-essential gatherings of 250 or more people should be postponed or canceled until the end of March. At smaller events, attendees should keep six feet between themselves.

"Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "That's the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease." The full public health policy is posted here.


San Mateo County update

San Mateo County has opened a call center to take questions from residents with nonmedical questions about novel coronavirus and declared a state of emergency on March 10.

SCC Public Health response

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on March 10 unanimously voted to extend the county's health emergency in its effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed one person and infected 44 others over the past six weeks.

The supervisors heard from several agency heads and elected officials, including county Chief Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, Sheriff Laurie Smith and representatives from the Social Services Agency, Emergency Medical Services, Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Office of Supportive Housing, Office of Education, the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System and others.

"It's all hands on deck. We each have a role to play," Cody told the supervisors.

"This is a new virus and no one has immunity to it, so it's going to spread," she said. The goal now is to slow the virus down so that large waves of ill people aren't overwhelming the health system, she said.

The various departments are focusing on identifying people in the most vulnerable populations who might have the virus and could spread the illness within their communities, including the homeless, prisoners in county jails and the elderly, particularly those living in senior care facilities. At the same time, they want to identify ways to protect workers who don't have health insurance and might be laid off so they can still be paid, receive medical care and keep their housing.

Multiple agencies said they are ramping up their deep cleaning efforts. VTA Chief of System, Safety and Security Angelique Galleda said the transportation agency, which operates the county's bus and light-rail systems, is looking to do advanced cleaning on buses, ticket-vending machines and other surfaces where riders make contact and is adding messaging on light-rail platforms and buses with tips on how people can help prevent spreading the virus.

Sharon Henry, head of Envision Integrated Delivery's American Medical Response ambulance services, which operates the county's ambulance system, said portable fogging units can spray the entire interior of an ambulance with disinfectant and kill all germs, including the coronavirus, within minutes.

Smith said there are no active or suspected COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County jail facilities, but the inmate population remains at high risk because it is a closed facility. Her office is looking for ways to limit the number of people housed in the facilities, including asking the court to postpone sentencing schedules and to find alternatives such as electronic monitoring for people who are criminally low risk. The department wants to establish isolated and quarantined areas in the jails if there is an outbreak, she said. They are also limiting who can come into the jails, suspending classes and having visits through windows rather than personal-contact visits, she said.

Churches and nonprofits

On Monday, March 10, a Palo Alto Church reported that a person with COVID-19 had been in a classroom at the Cowper Street church, and a relative of the person had been on campus on March 7. Faith communities are reporting the cancellation of in-person services and other campus activities, turning to livestreaming and social media to continue services to their members.


Public Health response

Santa Clara County issued its first mandatory, legal order in response to the new coronavirus outbreak: banning all events of 1,000 people or more starting this Wednesday, March 11, at midnight. The ban will remain in place until March 31, County Counsel James Williams said during a press conference at the sheriff's office's headquarters in San Jose on Monday, March 9.

The emergency order, which was issued by Dr. Sara Cody, would make it illegal to hold any such large gathering. The rule will be enforced by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and police departments in individual cities. Law enforcement agencies will have discretion on how to enforce the order, Williams said.

The order, which was made under state and county health and safety ordinances, does not include airports or shopping malls, where people are in transit and are not likely to be close together. Schools are also not mandated for closure.

Twenty-one of the county's COVID-19 cases were transmitted within the community, Cody said Monday. A large proportion of those cases are hospitalized.

As more tests take place through commercial laboratories, Cody said she expects to see a smaller number of hospitalized cases in relation to a larger number of people who test positive for the infection.

Cody said her department is carefully following data on the illness and made the decision to cancel events after seeing an uptick in cases over the last five days.

"It was a tipping point for us," she said.

First COVID-19 death

The order comes on the heels of the county's first fatality from the virus, which occurred on Monday morning, March 9, when a woman who had been under treatment at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View for several weeks succumbed to COVID-19, according to the Public Health Department.

The woman, who was the county's third case reported on Feb. 28, was in her 60s; her name has not been released to the public. She was the first case in the county to contract COVID-19 without recently traveling out of the country or coming into contact with a person carrying the disease. Cody said the woman had underlying health conditions but did not specify the nature of those conditions.

The news is a "tragic development," the department said in a statement. New cases have been announced every day this week: Six on March 9, five on March 8, eight on March 7. The department did not provide further information on these new cases. Over Twitter, the department has said that it's "not unexpected to have more cases" and that the cases are currently under investigation.

The county is also looking to provide supportive housing and shelter to homeless persons who need to self-isolate, County Executive Jeffrey Smith said during the March 9 press conference.

City of Palo Alto response

On Monday, March 9, the city of Palo Alto announced more than 30 events were modified or canceled through the end of the month in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The city has also made operational changes, including supplying protective gear for field staff and setting up more hand sanitizer stations.

"The city anticipates more details to be released later this week on longer-term planning and potential service delivery modifications," according to an announcement from City Manager Ed Shikada's office.

Nonprofits’ response

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, based in Mountain View, has set up a regional response fund to support organizations that are leading public health and housing efforts in each Bay Area county. In Santa Clara County, funds will go to Destination: Home, a public-private partnership which will provide financial resources and help to people at risk of homelessness if coronavirus-related disruptions worsen. In San Mateo County, funds will go to support the county's core service agencies, which provide emergency housing and financial assistance for rent, mortgage, utilities, medical and transportation costs for people who risk homelessness due to hardships related to the new coronavirus outbreak. More information is available here.

Tech companies respond

On Monday, March 9, NASA Ames Research Center required employees work from home after learning a day earlier that one of its employees tested positive for the new coronavirus.

"The safety of our employees and their families is our top priority. Any decisions we have made, or will make, is with the safety of our workforce in mind," according to a NASA Ames statement.

Business has remained mostly normal at cloud infrastructure company VMware. The tech giant was informed last week by one of its employees that their spouse had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the Palo Alto-based company said in an email to the Weekly on Monday, March 9.

The employee, who is in self-isolation for 14 days, and their spouse have not shown symptoms of the new coronavirus. The company reopened the office the employee worked in on Monday morning, March 9, after a temporary closure that started at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, for the company to conduct a deep clean and disinfection of the building.

"Since this is a secondary contact situation, there is minimal risk of contagion based on guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control," the company said. "Our Palo Alto campus and all other buildings remain open. However, any employee who would prefer to work from home is welcome to do so."


Stanford University update

On Thursday, March 5, Stanford University announced it was treating a "few" patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

A community message by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne didn't specify how many patients are receiving care through Stanford Medicine but said staff following reporting regulations by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and Santa Clara County.

Stanford has an emergency operations team assessing the community's risk and advising the university on ways to respond to the evolving situation, Tessier-Lavigne said. Stanford Health Care has developed a new diagnostic test approved by the Food and Drug Administration that could offer results in 12 to 24 hours.

VA Hospital treats patient

The Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System's Palo Alto hospital confirmed that it is caring for a veteran who has tested positive for the disease and was transferred to the facility from another California county.

Due to privacy laws, Chief Communication Manager Armenthis Lester could not release information regarding the patient's age, gender or condition.

The patient is in isolation and under the care of staff trained in the latest treatment guidelines provided by the CDC. Staff members are also utilizing personal protective equipment and infection control techniques. The VA is preparing to receive other former service members diagnosed with the virus and has set aside a portion of the campus, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie confirmed during his testimony on Capitol Hill on March 4.

"We prepared a swath, a section of our Palo Alto campus to receive veterans who have this virus. We set it up for that, and that veteran is being taken care of there," Wilkie told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee.

"(The) VA is screening veterans and staff who present with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath who meet the CDC criteria for evaluation of COVID-19 infection," Lester said.

New cases confirmed

Six COVID-19 cases announced March 5 involved three women and three men, according to Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams, who also serves as director of the county's Emergency Operations Center. Of the six people, four have self-isolated at home and were contacts of other known cases; two others have been hospitalized. Many of the cases have mild symptoms or have shown no symptoms, which is consistent with other cases around the globe, he added.

Four cases announced March 6 are not related to each other, according to a statement by the department. One of the cases is a man who is a household contact of a previous county case. The second is a female who is hospitalized. The third is a male who recently traveled to India and has been hospitalized. The fourth case is a male who has isolated himself at home.

The department is looking into how the second and fourth cases might have contracted the illness.

"The Public Health Department will continue to identify anyone who has come into contact with these cases," staff said in a statement. "The department also will be conducting community surveillance to determine the extent of possible disease spread in our community."

The statement did not specify the protocols or extent of the surveillance.

The first two cases reported in January involved travelers who arrived in the county from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the viral disease that has since been on lockdown. Though both patients had mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization, they remain in quarantine, according to public health staff. The first case has recovered, the department announced Feb. 20.

SCC Public Health responds

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody at a March 6 press conference announced new guidance for county businesses and residents. Businesses have been urged to cancel nonessential travel and not require doctors notes from employees who are sick to alleviate the workload of already burdened medical providers.

New recommendations for businesses include expanding telecommuting options and staggering start and end times for workdays to minimize close contact between employees. The space between their contact should be no less than 3 feet apart, she added.

As it has in the past, county leaders at the press conference urged that large gatherings such as sporting events and conferences should be canceled. People who are most at risk due to pre-existing conditions or who are over the age of 50 should not attend large gatherings, she said.

Worldwide and in the U.S., there have not been many cases of children who have the disease, she said. Currently, county health leaders are not recommending school closures. The county will review that recommendation on a case-by-case basis if staff members or others in the school community are confirmed to have the coronavirus, she said.

"As much as possible, we really want children to go along with their lives and to continue their education that's so important for them," she said.

School districts should carefully consider the costs of benefits of closing their campuses, which has the potential to have a large impact, particularly for employed parents and their workplaces, she added.

Noting the recent hoarding of essentials at the Mountain View Costco and other locations, Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, urged people not to panic.

"If any of you've been to a Costco lately you'll know that ... we're teetering on the brink of not being calm and not being thoughtful. We want to make sure we're not hoarding goods that should be used for medical purposes and we're really being mindful that we are part of a community," she said at the press conference.

Local schools respond

On Friday, March 6, a student and staff members at the Menlo Park City School District were asked to stay home after learning they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Tech companies respond

Menlo Park-based Facebook is following through on the county's guidance by recommending a large portion of its workforce to begin working from home starting Friday, March 6.

Cities keep watch

As of Sunday, March 8, there were no confirmed local cases of the coronavirus in Palo Alto, City Manager Ed Shikada said in an email. The VA Palo Alto is caring for a patient who was transferred from another California county and is in isolation. The city is continuing to monitor reports of exposures to the disease.

Employees and community are advised to stay home if they are sick and alert city managers "of any unusual circumstances that could indicate exposure."

"We're on top of it as much as any agency can be, recognizing there are unknowns and many possible scenarios ahead of us," Shikada said.

The city also plans to prioritize hygiene at upcoming city events and is conducting a review of its "operational contingency plans."

City leaders have re-emphasized hygienic practices during the flu season and special protocols to its police officers and firefighters. Palo Alto is also maintaining communication with the county, school district, Stanford University and other agencies.

The city has created a webpage that will be regularly updated with information on the coronavirus and local response to the outbreak at


New cases confirmed in SCC

The number of known cases of the coronavirus has steadily increased within the county since Feb. 28, when there were only two. On that day, the county's Public Health Department reported a new case — an older woman who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness and has chronic health conditions. (She died from the disease on March 9.)

On Feb. 29, the county reported another case — a woman who is a "household contact" of the case reported Feb. 28. She has isolated herself at home, the county reported. Neither woman had recently traveled nor knowingly come into contact with someone who had recently traveled — a strong indication that the virus is now spreading throughout the community, according to the department.

On March 1, the Public Health Department confirmed three more cases of the coronavirus. One case involves an adult woman who concurrently has chronic health conditions, according to public health staff. An investigation into her case is ongoing, the department said in a statement.

The two other cases involve a couple, a husband with chronic health conditions and his wife, who recently traveled to Egypt. All three people are currently being hospitalized for the disease.

Two other cases reported on March 2 were two men who have isolated themselves at home. One man is a "household contact" of a confirmed case in another county. The other man is a "household contact" of a previous case in Santa Clara County.

Two more cases involving a woman and man currently in the hospital were reported on March 3. They remain under investigation to determine the source of transmission, according to the county Public Health Department. No information regarding age or condition of the patients was released during a press conference Tuesday at the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center.

The county announced an additional two cases on March 4. One case is a man currently hospitalized and currently under investigation to determine how he was exposed to the virus. Two more cases are both men who "are close contacts of an existing case," according to the county. The pair are isolated at home.

SCC Public Health response

On Friday, Feb. 28, county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said the county has implemented isolation and quarantine in response to the reported cases over the past five weeks but is taking further actions.

The county's public health lab has testing kits from the CDC, she said at a press conference in San Jose. The county's emergency operations center is getting support from assistance teams from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC.

The Public Health Department encourages the public to take proactive measures to slow down the spread of the disease. Staff recommend people frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails and countertops. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also recommended if hand-washing is not available. Officials also instruct the public to cough into a tissue or their elbow and avoid touching their faces.

The best current evidence shows that people are at higher risk for the coronavirus if they are ages 50 or older, Dr. Sara Cody, the county's public health officer, said at a March 3 press conference.

The risk of infection and its severity accelerates with age, so someone who is 60 years old is more vulnerable to the illness than someone who is 50, and someone 70 years old is at greater risk for severe infection than someone who is 60. Persons ages 80 and above are at the greatest risk.

People with underlying medical conditions are also at greater risk. These include: cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung conditions, cancer and compromised immune systems. Persons with these conditions should avoid large gatherings such as concerts, parades and sporting events. Organizations serving seniors are recommended to cancel large gatherings, such as bingo games and movie screenings, and to clean all surfaces with disinfectants including phones, keyboards, tablets and door handles.

The recommendations do not include avoiding office environments or grocery stores where people do not typically gather tightly together.

The county Public Health Department is publishing updates on local cases at

Local schools respond

Concerns over the disease have climbed at Palo Alto Unified School District, which sent home two students on Friday, Feb. 28, after learning their parent had been exposed to the disease. The students attend Palo Alto High School and JLS Middle School, Superintendent Don Austin said.

A team has formed at the district to evaluate the situation and provide information once it's available, Austin said in his Feb. 28 message to parents.

The district learned the parent was reportedly in "public proximity to an infected person" but that "there is no indication of infection at this time," Lana Conaway, the district's assistant superintendent of equity and student affairs, said on Feb. 28.

She encouraged parents and students to wash their hands often and to stay home if they have any symptoms, including fever or respiratory distress. Crews did an "aggressive" cleaning of all hard surfaces at JLS and Paly over the weekend, according to Conaway.

Also over the following weekend, an online petition emerged asking the district to take additional precautions, including starting spring break early and extending it to two weeks and providing online learning options to students who choose to stay home.

In a message to families on Sunday, March 1, Austin said that the district has consulted with a variety of public officials and health professionals and he does not see a reason to close schools at this point.

"As a Palo Alto resident, I see large crowds in supermarkets, parks, theaters, airports, restaurants and public places. They are operating as usual with no call for closures," he wrote. "Closing schools at this point would not eliminate the infinite interactions our students would have beyond PAUSD. We understand the responsibility afforded to PAUSD while caring for your students and treat the work seriously. We cannot control every aspect of student or community life, which is the only way a quarantine works."

He asked community members to "limit speculation and overreactions."

The district is continuing to follow guidance from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC.

(Read more about the virus' impact on local schools here.)

On Tuesday, March 3, Menlo School in Atherton announced that the school would be closed through the weekend after learning a staff member had contact with a relative with the coronavirus, according to a letter by Head of School Than Healy. The school has canceled all school-related activities, including classes, sports, arts activities, club meetings and planned field trips.

In tandem with news of the VA case, parents with students in a high school work program that's held after school at the VA hospital in Palo Alto received a notice regarding the coronavirus case on Tuesday, March 3.

"We will be suspending student participation in the VA program for the present time. ... At no time has there been an elevated risk to student safety," Kristen Hardy, director of special education for the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, said in an email.

About 14 special education students from the district, mainly from Mountain View High School, but also Los Altos High School and the district's adult school, spend about an hour and a half at the VA hospital on weekdays gaining work experience, according to Kathy Brenner, an education specialist at the Mountain View-Los Altos district.

The decision, made in consultation with district administrators, comes out of considerations that some students have compromised immune systems and others may not always wash their hands according to best practices, she said.

"We just want to keep our kids safe. We don't want to overreact either, but we'd rather be safe than sorry," she said.

The district partners with other student work sites, so students who have been at the hospital will be temporarily reassigned and will gain exposure to other work experiences, she said.

The school district changed students' schedules and pick-up times from Mountain View and Los Altos high schools through March 30 and will be reviewing the changes with Palo Alto Unified School District. Case managers are working with students, she said.

Woodside Priory, a private school for students in grades 6 through 12, has canceled events for its Service Week scheduled March 16-20, including two trips to Guatemala and Costa Rica, according to an email from Director of Communications Kelly Sargent.

The school also plans to keep dormitories open during Easter break, scheduled April 6-13, to give students the choice to stay on campus instead of traveling and "due to international air travel uncertainty," Sargent said.

Stanford University update

On Tuesday, March 3, Stanford University decided to postpone or cancel events on and off campus likely to attract 150 or more people, including Grad Alumni Day, the SIEPR Economic Summit, Holy Week Easter Services, Second Sunday Family Days at the Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection, and all Department of Music concerts scheduled through at least April 15. Stanford Athletics will continue to hold all sporting competitions at this time, with limited public attendance. The University said it will offer increased opportunities for livestreaming events. A full list of event changes can be found at

Tech companies respond

LinkedIn has heeded the county's warning, telling its Bay Area employees to do any work that can be done remotely at home through the end of March to mitigate the spread of the virus. Employees have also been asked to postpone all nonessential business travel and will not participate in external events in March and April, according to LinkedIn spokeswoman Kenly Walker. LinkedIn, headquartered in Sunnyvale and Mountain View, will not be shutting down its offices and intends to provide the same level of service to customers, members and partners, she added.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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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