Coronavirus Live Updates, March 19, 2020: Silicon Valley Enters Third Day of Regional Lockdown

Scroll from the bottom up to read in chronological order. And click here to catch up on the rest of our coronavirus coverage. 

9:15pm: Back to basics.

Someone’s getting serious about this mandatory quarantine-and-chill. (Photo by Erik Chalhoub)

At the Gilroy Costco, a couch-potato survivalist stocks up on the essentials.

—Jennifer Wadsworth

8:45pm: A test of patience.

In a New York Times piece about how it’s so much easier for the rich and famous to get a COVID-19 test, San Jose’s top law enforcement official opined on the unfairness of it all. Especially in light of one of his own officers coming down with the virus.

“What’s frustrating is to continue to hear that there aren’t testing kits available, and my rank and file have to continue to answer calls for service while professional athletes and movie stars are getting tested without even showing any symptoms,” Chief Eddie Garcia said on a conference call with law enforcement peers throughout the U.S.

Click here to read the whole story.

6:48pm: Now the whole state’s on lockdown.

 

Governor Newsom makes a major announcement on California’s response to COVID-19 outbreak.

Posted by California Governor on Thursday, March 19, 2020

The rest of California will join the Bay Area by sheltering in place to curb the relentless spread of this insidious virus. Gov. Gavin Newsom broke news of the order just minutes ago, telling reporters that it goes into effect at midnight with no end in sight.

That makes the April 7 sunset of the Bay Area mandate moot.

The governor says state officials will announce what’s legally classified as essential businesses—the ones exempt from the directive—in the coming hours at covid19.ca.gov.

A similar order enacted by Santa Clara County and six neighboring jurisdictions earlier this week defines essential businesses as grocery stores, restaurants, health care offices, news outlets, contractors working on building homes, and so on. (For a complete list, scroll down to the bottom of our March 17 live blog.)

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo applauded the statewide stay-at-home rule.

“As the chair of the Big City Mayors, my colleagues and I have actively advocated for the State of California to take aggressive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19,” he says in a prepared statement. “We appreciate that the governor must take decisive action to mitigate the harm that will be wrought by this pandemic.”

—Grace Hase

4:22pm: Will insurers heed his advice?

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has asked insurance companies to give policyholders a two-month grace period on premiums. That way, he said, people won’t lose coverage for being unable to pay in the midst of a public health emergency.

“Now is the time to come together to help consumers weather this unprecedented period of uncertainty, and that includes helping policyholders maintain their insurance coverage if they are unable to pay their premiums,” Lara said in announcing the non-binding directive. “We must do everything we can to ensure that consumers and their families maintain insurance coverage protection during this public health pandemic.”

3:40pm: Mind the dog.

When kids stay home from school, dogs are more likely to attack our friendly neighborhood mail carriers. At least that’s what the U.S. Postal Service claims in a PSA reminding everyone to extend the shelter-in-place order to their aggressive fur-babies.

“Children rush to the door when they see a mail carrier and the household dog usually follows right behind, leaving the carrier vulnerable to a dog attack,”the announcement reads. “As [USPS] continues to provide an essential service, we want to make sure our carriers are safe and out of harm’s way while making their appointed rounds.”

The advisory urges families to wait until the carrier leaves the area before opening the gate to pick up the mail. “Too many dogs have slipped between an owner’s legs while the door is open and attacking the carrier,”the notice cautions. “Dogs should be restrained and/or kept in another room as mail carriers make personal deliveries.”

WHO may have let the dogs out, according to a quarantine joke that went viral this past week, but responsible pet owners need to keep their house-beasts on lock.

—Jennifer Wadsworth

3:15pm: Senior special.

Remember we told you about Zanotto’s giving the medically fragile and/or 65-and-over crowd an hour all to themselves in the morning? Well, it looks like several other stores have followed suit, providing a safe shopping trip to people whose age or underlying health condition makes them particularly vulnerable to this outbreak.

2:50pm: Mask and you shall receive.

Santa Clara County nurse Melissa Murphy welcomes the donation from IBM.

Over the course of this past week, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has been reaching out to the local businesses community for help getting frontline responders the supplies they need to deal with COVID-19. And IBM was among the first to answer the call.

The city’s pleas reminded IBM senior location manager Laura Guio and colleague Chris Akey, a director who oversees crisis management, that the company bought thousands of face masks to keep staff safe from smoke during last year’s wildfires. They knew that thousands of those surplus masks had languished in storage ever since then.

Within 24 hours of the epiphany, Guio and Akey gave 15,000 masks to Santa Clara County’s healthcare system. They’re now being used at three local hospitals: O’Connor and Valley Med in San Jose and St. Louise in Gilroy.

Since the outbreak began, each of those sites has gone through an average of about 400 masks a day, so the gift came as a godsend in a time of critical need.

—Jennifer Wadsworth

2:25pm: The numbers keep climbing.

Santa Clara County announced confirmed another 14 COVID-19 cases today. That brings the total local tally to 189. Health officials also reported that six more people have been hospitalized for the upper respiratory illness since yesterday.

—Grace Hase

2:20pm: San Jose cop tests positive.

After a member of its rank-and-file tested positive for COVID-19, the San Jose Police Department will adopt new protocols to prevent any more officers from getting exposed to the virus. Chief Eddie Garcia and San Jose Police Officers’ Association President Sgt. Paul Kelly are briefing reporters on the new guidelines right now. We’ll let you know what they are as soon as we find out.

2:16pm: Gilroy loses two residents to coronavirus.

The latest COVID-19 death in Santa Clara County is a 60-year-old man from Gilroy, according to our sister publication, the Gilroy Dispatch. His passing, which we reported earlier as the sixth local coronavirus fatality, marks the second person from the South County town to succumb to the virus. No further details were released.

—Barry Holtzclaw

1:46pm: A sober reminder.

Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection. (Photo by Lorenzo Ochoa, via Shutterstock)

For folks in Alcoholics Anonymous, sobriety is hard enough already.

In a pandemic, all the more so as crowd-size restrictions suspend the 12-step meetings so many rely on to cope with emotions that make it tempting to use.

Recovering addict Omar Torres says people like him now find themselves caught between two diseases—both of them fatal. “If we don’t go, we’re going to relapse,” he says. “If we meet up in person, we spread the coronavirus. It’s a life-or-death situation either way.”

Thankfully, 12-steppers the world over have found other ways to connect.

“Like everybody else, we had no idea what to do at first,” says Torres, a 38-year-old San Jose native who’s three years clean. “During the first calls to limit gatherings, people kept going to some AA and NA meetings. There would be 15 people, then 10 and the number kept going down until they did the shelter-in-place and we could no longer meet.”

Since addicts need peer support to survive, he says, they began “meeting” on everyone’s favorite new doomsday app: Zoom. The digital 12-step sessions are unofficial, Torres explains. But they comprise many of the same regulars from local in-person meetings.

On Tuesday, Torres says he tuned in for a 7:30pm meeting in which the chair was from L.A. On Friday, he’s due to share his personal story in a virtual version of one of his favorite LGBTQ Narcotics Anonymous groups. “Zoom is making life easier for a lot of people,” he says. “People can choose to go audio-only and remain completely anonymous if they like. And we also got some people from out of state.”

The out-of-state drop-ins are one of the positive things to come out of the challenge of physical disconnect, Torres says. Some people logging on say they had no idea they were joining a group out here in California.

“One woman we had the other day told us, ‘You just saved my life,’” Torres recounts. “It’s amazing because we get to interact with people from all over. It expands our community.”

Between meetings, many of the usual 12-steppers Torres used to interact with in cramped rooms of church basements and local community centers have instead been texting on WhatsApp, posting to a private Facebook group and responding to cries for help with impromptu Zoom meetings.

“For me, like for a lot of us, I have to remain connected to my group of folks because this disease, when you isolate, makes you think crazy thoughts,” Torres says. “The anxiety makes you want to pick up again or use or drink. And if you’re not connected to those meetings, to your tribe, you put yourself in a life-or-death situation.”

Click here to find out how and when to log into remote recovery. Or check out this site for a schedule of online AA meetings and other resources for staying sober in trying times.

—Jennifer Wadsworth

12:30pm: On we go.

Normally, there’s not an on-street parking space to be fund in downtown Campbell, but at dinnertime on Wednesday, an entire block’s worth of roadside spots remained vacant. (Photo by Dan Pulcrano)

With Santa Clara County halfway into its third day of a regional shutdown, the number of positive coronavirus cases here reached 175. The number of deaths, six. Fifty-six of them are hospitalized and 70 contracted the illness from an unknown source.

California reached 917 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 431 in the nine-county Bay Area. The national confirmed-case total skyrocketed by 8,000 percent over the past two weeks and now hovers around 10,750, with 155 fatalities. More than 220,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the respiratory disease and 9,100 people have died from. The good news? Upward of 84,000 are reportedly on the mend.

As people adjust to life under a loosely enforced lockdown, lawmakers from D.C. to City Hall have been working on ways to keep the economy moving.

On the national level, a proposed $1 trillion relief package would put $1,000 in the pocket of every adult in the U.S. and provide affordable loans to small businesses. Here in San Jose, a plan to give at least some workers paid sick leave has been punted to a March 25 subcommittee meeting amid pushback from the local chamber of commerce.

“What we’re really focused on is providing liquidity to American businesses and American workers,”Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox Business Network this morning. “This is an unprecedented situation.

For many Americans, anxiety continues to mount in the face of uncertainty about the future and the very likely prospect of this public health-turned-financial collapse getting worse before it gets any better. As my colleague Grace Hase so eloquently reported in our cover story this week, the South Bay’s arts groups and small businesses wonder how they’ll survive in this age of pandemic. (Make sure to read her story right here.)

At the same time, we’re seeing signs of hope.

Despite the mandatory physical isolation, people are finding creative new ways to connect online. The Tech Interactive in San Jose is closed through the end of April, but—like so many museums, aquariums and cultural bastions around the world—it’s offering virtual tours. Now that everyone’s a homeschooler, parents are creating support networks with other families—and expressing newfound appreciation for teachers.

Earlier this week, just before seven Bay Area counties ordered all but non-essential workers to stay at home for at least a few weeks, my own family (which has never been all that great at communicating) struck up an email chain to keep us all in the loop.

From their 10-acre property in a forest up north, my prepper parents assured us they’re ready for anything—even the power outage that left everything dark for a day.

My aunt, who teaches English at a Jesuit university in Wisconsin, followed up with an update about going on her second day of teaching 55 students by teleconference from home. One of my brothers-in-law sent a snapshot from a construction site: “Life as usual over here,” he said. “Pouring foundations and framing two-story houses since building a half-million-dollar homes are ‘essential,’ I guess.”

My other brother-in-law shared a photo of the view from his compact East Bay apartment, where he’s continuing his work from home, trying to get foreign workers permission to stay despite a temporary closure of USCIS.

Today, it was my 82-year-old grandma who kicked off our group correspondence with an update from her hillside home of four decades, where she’s safely, comfortable sequestered with my uncle. “A beautiful sky this morning,” she told us. “I see rose and pink and a little apricot. A lovely sight to see since viewing the news is so bleak.”

I’m sure we’ll see lots more bleakness today, which is why I could use your help to balance things out. If you find a silver lining in this moment of crisis, I’d love to hear about it. So, as always, feel free to reach me on Twitter, Facebook, at [email protected] or in the comments below.

—Jennifer Wadsworth

One Comment

  1. > Coronavirus Live Updates, March 19, 2020: Silicon Valley Enters Third Day of Regional Lockdown

    Third day?

    Seems like it’s been three months already.

    I’m ready for this to be over.

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