County removes trailers for Covid-19 patients

Nearly 20 travel trailers were located at corner of Eighth and Alexander streets in Gilroy

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EMPTY UNITS A handful of travel trailers, which were in place to house Covid-19-positive patients, remained on the corner of Eighth and Alexander streets as seen on Aug. 1. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

The nearly 20 trailers intended to house people with Covid-19 have largely been removed near downtown Gilroy, but not before neighbors and city officials criticized the county for placing them near residences.

Residents in early July began noticing the trailers being stored at a vacant industrial yard at 7190 Forest St. owned by Santa Clara County, visible from the corner of Eighth and Alexander streets.

According to a statement by county officials, the trailers were provided to Santa Clara County in February by the California Department of General Services. The trailers, which have also been placed in San Jose, were meant to house Covid-19 patients who are homeless or unable to isolate themselves in their own homes.

However, the county was able to secure more than 700 hotel rooms for Covid-19 patients in Gilroy, San Jose, Santa Clara and other cities, which have been adequate and eliminated the need for the trailers for now, according to officials.

As of Aug. 3, one trailer remained.

“County administration intends to use them in the near future for Covid-19 isolation and quarantine and for vulnerable individuals,” the statement read. “After the pandemic, the trailers would be used to support homeless individuals and families.”

The appearance of the trailers led to some residents contacting the city as well as the Dispatch.

One resident, who chose to remain anonymous, questioned why the neighbors weren’t notified in a way similar to when a business applies for an alcohol license. They added that the location was inappropriate due to the amount of residences and stores nearby, expressing concern that the virus could be spread easily in the area.

Interim City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said city officials were not notified by the county on the placement of the trailers.

“This is a subject of frustration of staff as well,” he said during the Gilroy City Council’s Aug. 3 meeting.

Mayor Roland Velasco said he had hoped the county would have notified the city beforehand, but that was not the case.

“It would be nice if the county came to us and said, ‘hey, we have this property here and this is what we’re planning on doing,’ so the council can be on board and be able to say, ‘yes, we understand what’s happening,’” he said. “But instead, the county, because they own that land, they are going to do whatever they want. That’s my frustration and I’ve shared it.”

Councilmember Carol Marques said she was concerned that the trailers would house people from outside the city and cause a rise of cases locally.

“I don’t mind taking care of the citizens of Gilroy who are Covid-positive, but I do have an objection to bringing outsiders to Gilroy that are Covid-positive,” she said.

County officials have said a hotel in Santa Clara has been sufficient in housing Covid-19 patients, according to Councilmember Marie Blankley.

“I would like to ask us all to be careful in how we’re looking at this,” she told the council. “The people who do have Covid-19 need to isolate, and not everyone has a place to isolate.”

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