Today, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department is announced six new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). There are now 20 total people who have tested positive for the virus in Santa Clara County. The Public Health Department also announced new guidance designed to reduce the spread of the virus in the community.
“We understand that people are very concerned about COVID-19,” said Dr. Sara Cody, County Public Health Officer. “I want to remind the public that the vast majority of people who become infected with COVID-19 do not become seriously ill, and fully recover. We are making these recommendations to protect the most vulnerable members of our community from the virus, and slow its spread. We are continuously monitoring this evolving situation, and will issue new guidance if and when that is warranted.”
Updated Recommendations Protect Residents
The County of Santa Clara’s Public Health Department is taking proactive steps to protect the health of the community by making recommendations that are meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the community and reduce the number of people infected, and especially protect those who are most vulnerable to severe illness. These recommendations are effective immediately and may be updated upon further evaluation and public health need.
The Public Health Department said that they understand these recommendations will have a tremendous impact on the lives of people in our community. Public Health is making these recommendations in consultation with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on the best information they have at this time, to protect the public’s health. This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of the coronavirus in Santa Clara County when such measures can potentially slow the spread of the disease.
Health officials weighed the potential benefits to our community’s health along with the significant disruptive effect that these recommendations could have. In consultation with the CDC, they developed these recommendations based on the rising number of cases in Santa Clara County and the importance of taking these actions now to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
New Guidance for Workplaces and Businesses
Employers should take steps to make it more feasible for their employees to work in ways that minimize close contact with large numbers of people.
- Suspend nonessential employee travel.
- Minimize the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another, including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences.
- Urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.
- Not require a doctor’s note for employees that are sick as healthcare offices may be very busy and unable to provide that documentation right away.
- Consider use of telecommuting options for appropriate employees.
- Consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.
New Guidance for Persons Hosting Mass Gatherings and Large Community Events
At this time, we recommend postponing or canceling mass gatherings and large community events where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.
If you can’t avoid bringing groups of people together:
- Urge anyone who is sick to not attend.
- Encourage those who are at higher risk for serious illness to not attend.
- Try to find ways to give people more physical space so that they aren’t in close contact as much as possible.
- Encourage attendees to follow increased hygiene, such as:
- Washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used in a pinch
- Avoid close contact with other people
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Covering their cough or sneeze with a tissue – if available – or into their elbow
- Washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Clean surfaces with standard cleaners.
Guidance for People at Higher Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness
The County Public Health Department is recommending that persons at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from crowded social gatherings of people as much as possible such as parades, conferences, sporting events, and concerts where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.
Those at higher risk include:
- People over 50 years of age. The risk increases significantly thereafter and escalates with age, with persons over age 80 in the highest risk category.
- People, regardless of age, with underlying health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or chronic lung diseases like COPD, as well as those with severely weakened immune systems.
Guidance for Schools
The County Public Health Department is not recommending closing schools at this time. If a staff member or student in a specific school confirmed to have coronavirus, the Public Health Department will consider, based on the specific facts and circumstances of that case, whether closure of that school is warranted.
“The reason we are not recommending school closures at this time is because children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus,” says the Public Health Department. “As much as possible, children should be allowed to carry on with their education and normal activities.
“We encourage all school officials to carefully review and follow the CDC’s guidance for K-12 schools and childcare centers, as well as our recommendations for mass gatherings and large events,” they continued. “We are aware that schools in our community may need to make decisions about postponement or cancelation of specific activities.”
Some children have underlying health conditions, such as weakened immune systems, that put them at higher risk. Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home.
Guidance for People Who are Sick
Stay home when you are sick. Do not go out in public when you are sick. Avoid medical settings in general unless necessary. If you are ill in any way call your doctor’s office first before going in and let them know your symptoms.
Guidance for the general public
- Even if you are not ill, avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities, or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you do need to visit one of these facilities, limit your time there and keep 6 feet away from patients and employees of the facility.
- Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first.
- Stay home when sick and away from others in your household.
- Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including washing your hands with soap and water frequently, coughing into a tissue or your elbow, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are at higher risk for serious illness.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you’ve just washed your hands.
- Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of coronavirus to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).
- Stay informed. Information is changing frequently.
For updates and a list of all the cases and their status, visit the County of Santa Clara’s Public Health Department’s website.