Santa Clara County public health officials on Monday, March 9 announced a mandatory three-week ban on any gathering of 1,000 or more people, beginning at noon Wednesday, March 11 in response to an accelerating number of COVID-19 cases in the county and across the state.
The county announcement came Monday evening following a day in which one 60-year-old female county resident died of COVID-19, the state’s second death attributed to the disease, and the number of verified infections in the county grew to 24.
Also Monday, the cruise ship Grand Princess was allowed to dock in Oakland, as local, state and public health officials began slowly allowing 3,100 passengers to disembark through a rigorous screening and testing quarantine process. On the cruise ship, 21 people — including 19 crew members — tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has swept worldwide after appearing in China in late 2019.
And in Washington, President Donald Trump and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials reported that the U.S. total COVID-19 cases had grown to 423 as of March 9, with 19 deaths, across 35 states. Worldwide, the World Health Organization reported 109,577 confirmed (3993 new) cases, with 3,809 deaths (225 new) in 104 countries on all populated continents, with more than 25 percent now outside of China.
The Santa Clara County order, signed by county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, said that “In light of significantly increasing rates of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, the County’s Public Health Department is taking further steps to protect the health of our community.”
“This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County. The strong measures we are taking today are designed to slow the spread of disease,” Cody said. “Today’s order and new recommendations will reduce the number of people who develop severe illness and will help prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. This is critically important for anyone with healthcare needs, not just those most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.”
Cody briefed the county Board of Supervisors about the expanding new coronavirus contagion at the March 10 board meeting in San Jose.
The order requires cancelation of “mass gatherings” in the county, through March 31.
This order is “based on evidence of increasing transmission of COVID-19 within the county, scientific evidence regarding the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable diseases generally and COVID-19 specifically, as well as best practices as currently known and available to protect vulnerable members of the public from avoidable risk of serious illness or death resulting from exposure to COVID-19.”
“The age, condition and health of a significant portion of the population of the county places it at risk for serious health complications, including death, from COVID-19,” the order warned.
“Although most individuals who contract COVID-19 do not become seriously ill, persons with mild symptoms and asymptomatic persons with COVID-19 may place other vulnerable members of the public at significant risk.”
The heightened public anxiety about COVID-19 in the South County was demonstrated over the weekend.
A middle-aged Gilroy man identified March 7 by Mayor Roland Velasco as testing positive for COVID-19 was confirmed as testing NEGATIVE for the disease the next day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and county health officials.
In light of the initial negative test result, a Gilroy fire crew that had been placed under medical surveillance following the possible exposure to this patient was been released from surveillance, according to a city spokesperson.
“The City of Gilroy continues to work closely with the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, the Santa Clara County EMS Agency, and the CDC as part of standard protocol to monitor and respond to this ongoing and dynamic situation,” the city said in a statement March 8. The case would have been the first known case of the virus in the city. County health officials have scrupulously avoided identifying any city or community where infections have been identified.
WIthin hours of the post on gilroydispatch.com and the Dispatch Facebook page, the initial news went viral, with nearly 1,000 shares on social media and more than 25,000 views of the story online.
Gilroy Mayor Velasco urged residents to practice safe hygiene by staying home if they feel ill, washing their hands and covering their coughs.
“Let’s be smart about this, let’s not panic,” Velasco told a small audience attending his annual State of the City presentation. “We have to be reasonable, we have to be respectful.”
For the purposes of the county mass-gathering ban, a “mass gathering” is defined as “any event or convening that brings together 1,000) or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, theater or any other confined indoor or confined outdoor space.”
The definition “does not include normal operations at airports, shopping malls and centers, or other spaces where 1,000 or more persons may be in transit. It also does not include typical office environments or retail or grocery stores where large numbers of people are present, but it is unusual for them to be within arm’s length of one another.”
The county Sheriff’s Office and individual police departments are charged with enforcing the order.
Earlier on March 9, the health department announced the first death from COVID-19 in the county. The fatality was an adult woman in her 60s, had been hospitalized for several weeks, and was the third case of COVID-19 reported by the County Public Health Department, on Feb. 28, according to a county statement.
“She was the first person in the county confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 without any known history of international travel or contact with a traveler or infected person, suggesting she contracted COVID-19 in our community,” the county statement read.
Six more cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Monday in the County of Santa Clara, bringing the countywide total to 43.
Additional information and the Public Health Department’s and CDC’s guidance and recommendations is available at http://sccphd.org/coronavirus.