NEW COVID-19 CASES, DEATHS: Santa Clara County reported 17 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing its total to 2,701 and no change to its total number of deaths, which remains at 140. Fifty-two people are hospitalized. Three inmates at the county's jails have also tested positive since last weekend, the sheriff's office said Wednesday. San Mateo County on Thursday reported 36 more cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 2,061. Two more people have died of COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths to 84. Forty-one people are hospitalized as of Wednesday.
PROCESSING UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS: The state Employment Development Department plans to hire nearly 2,000 temporary full-time and hourly staff members in the coming weeks to hasten the delivery of unemployment benefits to workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
SAN MATEO COUNTY TO ALLOW PLACES OF WORSHIP, RETAIL TO REOPEN San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow on Friday issued a revised shelter-in-place order effective Monday, June 1, that will allow places of worship to hold services and retail stores to have customers inside with restrictions and safety measures implemented.
STATE SUPE ADDRESSES 'DIGITAL DIVIDE': California will need at least $500 million to ensure all students across the state have internet access and the technology required for at-home education during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Wednesday.
MOST BARBER SHOPS, HAIR SALONS CAN REOPEN: A majority of counties in California will be able to reopen barber shops and hair salons, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press conference on Tuesday. Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, which have stricter stay-at-home orders, have not announced whether they will be among those reopening these businesses.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY ADDS TEST SITES: Santa Clara County announced on Monday that it is launching or expanding six new test locations for free COVID-19 tests. The locations were chosen based on data showing a higher incidence of infection in these areas, the county said in a statement.
NEW EAST PALO ALTO TEST SITE OPENS: San Mateo County's COVID-19 test site at the Lewis and Joan Platt East Palo Alto Family YMCA will also be available on May 29-30. Appointments can be booked here.
PALO ALTO TO OPEN PARKING LOTS AT PRESERVES: The city of Palo Alto will reopen parking lots on the weekends at the Baylands and Foothills Park starting on May 30. In March, the lots were closed on weekends due to crowding.
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.
Santa Clara County's total of coronavirus cases has surpassed 2,700. Of the 2,701 cases reported Thursday, 52 are hospitalized. There was no change to the county's total of deaths, which remains at 140.
One more case in Palo Alto has raised the city's total of cases to 78, which makes up 0.1% of the city population. There was no change Thursday to Mountain View's total, which stands at 59 and represents 0.07% of the city population.
Of the 52 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus, 36 were in acute hospital beds, a nearly 50% reduction from a week earlier, when there were 75 patients in acute beds.
San Mateo County saw 36 more coronavirus cases on Thursday, raising its overall total to 2,061. Two more people have died of the disease, raising the county's total number of deaths to 84, 55 of which were people connected to long-term care facilities. Forty-one people with or suspected with COVID-19 are hospitalized as of Wednesday.
The county has updated its dashboard displaying case totals by city through May 28. East Palo Alto and Menlo Park each of their totals increase by double digits. Here's a list of those totals for communities on the Midpeninsula:
• Atherton: 13 (increase by two from May 21).
• East Palo Alto: 76 (increase by 14 from May 21).
• Menlo Park: 80 (increase by 21 from May 21).
• North Fair Oaks: Less than 10 (no change from May 21).
• Portola Valley: 10 (no change from May 21).
• West Menlo Park: Less than 10 (no change from May 21).
• Woodside: 12 (increase by two from May 21).
State launches hiring effort to process unemployment claims
The state Employment Development Department plans to hire nearly 2,000 temporary full-time and hourly staff members in the coming weeks to hasten the delivery of unemployment benefits to workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The EDD is collaborating with the California Department of Human Resources, the California Highway Patrol and California Correctional Health Care Services to screen, interview and hire about 1,800 state employees.
Those hired will be trained to work in the state's unemployment call centers, process unemployment insurance claims and analyze documents from applicants and their former employers to determine their applicable benefits.
"This urgent hiring effort will further enhance the department's ability to process an unprecedented surge of benefit claims, while offering an opportunity for employment to Californians during this difficult time," EDD Director Sharon Hilliard said.
The EDD currently has about 1,200 regular staff members processing unemployment insurance claims as well as 1,300 state employees who have been redirected to assist the agency in dispersing benefits to the millions across the state who are out of work due to the pandemic.
Since the pandemic began, the state has processed some 5.1 million unemployment claims and dispersed more than $16.1 billion in benefits as of the week of May 10-16.
New hires will have the option to work from home or in office locations throughout the state. Bilingual applicants, particularly those who speak Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Mandarin, are encouraged to apply.
Applications to work with the EDD can be found and submitted at calcareers.ca.gov.
San Mateo County OKs reopening of places of worship, retail
San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow on Friday issued a revised shelter-in-place order effective Monday, June 1, that will allow places of worship to hold services and retail stores to have customers inside with restrictions and safety measures implemented.
The new order also removes prior limitations on access and activities at county beaches. Beaches can operate normally as long as visitors adhere to social distancing and mask guidelines, according to a press release issued Friday.
The move comes after the California Department of Public Health announced Monday that places of worship and in-store retail shopping could reopen statewide with limitations.
Under new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25% of a building's capacity — or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower.
The new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages institutions to continue online services and activities to protect those who are most at risk for more severe cases of COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.
Organizations wanting to reopen for services and funerals must develop a COVID-19 prevention plan for each location; train staff and evaluate for compliance; implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols; set physical distancing guidelines; recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings; screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts; and set parameters or consider eliminating singing and group recitations. San Mateo County also notes that eating and drinking inside places or worship is prohibited, as are after-service gatherings.
New guidance for retailers, which allows in-store shopping and follows previously issued rules for certain counties that advanced their reopenings, now applies statewide. The guidelines require social distancing and health protocols to help reduce the risk for workers and customers. Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops.
“These modifications seek to increase the immunity of the population slowly and methodically, while minimizing death," Morrow said. "We are trying to keep equity in mind and minimizing economic damage, while not overloading the health care system. The virus continues to circulate in our community, and the increase in interactions among people that these modifications allow is likely to spread the virus at a higher rate."
Latest COVID-19 statistics
Santa Clara County reported 15 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing its total to 2,688. One more person has died of COVID-19, raising the number of deaths to 140. Fifty-two people are hospitalized.
Since the pandemic started, the county's test positivity rate has gone below 4%. The county's testing data shows out of a total of 67,694 tests that have been performed, 64,628 returned negative and 378 are pending results.
San Mateo County reported 28 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing its total to 2,022, and no change to its total of deaths, which remains at 82. Fifty-four people were hospitalized as of Tuesday.
The number of Latino/Hispanic residents with COVID-19 — 818 — is nearly double that of other races in the county and makes up 40% of its cumulative cases. Latino/Hispanic residents make up about 24% of the county's total population, according to 2019 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A total of 458 residents of unknown race had the second-highest total in the county, followed by 339 Asian residents.
Three Santa Clara County inmates test positive for COVID-19
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday announced three new cases of COVID-19 coronavirus among inmates at its jails since last weekend.
The first of the three was an inmate who tested positive Saturday after being arrested on suspicion of numerous felonies on May 9.
He was housed in one of the county Main Jail's nine "14-day separation units" established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inmates in the units receive daily temperature checks and COVID-19 tests before being able to integrate into the larger jail population, according to the sheriff's office.
There were 24 inmates in the separation unit with the one who tested positive. All were tested for COVID-19 and tested negative, but will remain housed together with a restarted 14-day separation period.
Then on Tuesday, an inmate at the Elmwood Correctional Facility's Minimum Camp tested positive for COVID-19. After showing flu-like symptoms, the inmate was moved to a medical unit with a negative airflow isolation cell and all 29 inmates in the same housing barracks were moved to isolation cells and tested for COVID-19.
The next day, a second inmate from Elmwood's rehoused barracks tested positive and was also moved to a negative airflow isolation cell.
As a precaution, the sheriff's office is in the process of testing all 344 inmates at Elmwood's Minimum Camp as well as employees who have had contact with the inmates, and also has investigators doing contact tracing to determine possible exposures from the inmates who tested positive.
Ensuring internet access for students during pandemic
California will need at least $500 million to ensure all students across the state have internet access and the technology required for at-home education during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Wednesday.
According to Thurmond, about 600,000 students in California are in need of a computer or tablet and as many as 400,000 students lack internet access at home. Thurmond said the state wouldn't discriminate in reaching that total, whether the funds came from a federal stimulus package or philanthropic internet service providers.
"You can just break it down into small parts," Thurmond said in a Wednesday morning briefing on the so-called "digital divide." "That means 100 companies that make a commitment of at least $5 million to help our students have the success that they need. We can get there in any different way."
Thurmond praised some companies for the steps they have already taken to help students in California secure internet access at home and a computer or a tablet.
In the Bay Area, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pledged last week to give $10 million to a fundraising campaign organized by the city of Oakland, Oakland Unified School District, Oakland Public Education Fund and the nonprofit organization Tech Exchange to provide internet access and computers to the district's roughly 50,000 students in need.
"We just need to have the commitment from the companies to say that these are all of our California kids and we're going to do everything we need to do to help them," Thurmond said.
Thurmond maintained that he expects the state's public schools to reopen for in-person classes in August and September with health and safety modifications like the use of face coverings, smaller class sizes and increased distance between desks to prevent the spread of the virus.
The state's Department of Education plans to announce its school reopening plans in early June, according to Thurmond.
"We've got 10,000 schools (in California)," Thurmond said of the state's re-opening guidance. "There is no one size fits all. ... (W)e've actually been talking with school districts about the guidance so that we can calibrate it with the work that they're doing, with the plans that they're making so that we also can address questions that they have."
Latest COVID-19 statistics
On Tuesday, 24 new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Santa Clara County, which has a cumulative total of 2,675 cases, 54 of which are hospitalized.
The number of deaths stands at 139, which remains unchanged since Saturday, 59 (or 42%) of which are from long-term care facilities.
San Mateo County on Tuesday reported 35 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 1,963. The total number of deaths remains at 82. Fifty-seven people are hospitalized as of Monday.
The gap is growing in cases between females and males. As of Tuesday, the county reported 1,038 females and 925 males have the coronavirus, which is a difference of 113. About a week earlier, the difference was 97.
Most counties can reopen barber shops and hair salons
A majority of counties in California will be able to reopen barber shops and hair salons, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Newsom said that 47 out of 50 counties in California can now add barber shops and hair salons to the list of businesses that can reopen in their stay-at-home modifications. Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, which have stricter stay-at-home orders, have not announced whether they will be among those reopening these businesses.
Some of the guidelines for reopening these businesses include asking customers if they are showing any flu-like symptoms before making an appointment, requiring employees and customers to wear masks and disinfecting all tools.
Despite the looser restrictions, Newsom was emphatic that the state is still in the thick of the pandemic.
"We're not even out of the first wave of this pandemic," Newsom said. "People are talking about the second wave — that's many, many months off."
New guidelines for summer camps and child care facilities will be announced on Wednesday.
Latest COVID-19 statistics
As of Monday, San Mateo County reported 1,904 cumulative cases of COVID-19, six of which are new. Fifty-two people are hospitalized as of Sunday.
Six more deaths since Friday have brought the total number of deaths to 82. White residents make up more than half of the total with 52. The county's data shows a combined total of 30 Asian, Black, and Latino/Hispanic residents who have died of the disease.
On Monday, Santa Clara County had 36 new cases, totaling 2,652. There was no change to the county's total number of deaths, which remains at 139.
Palo Alto has 77 cases of COVID-19, which translates to 0.1% of the city population. Mountain View has 57 cases, which make up 0.07% of the city population.
As of Monday, 54 people were hospitalized with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Nineteen of those patients are in intensive care unit beds, which is 26 fewer coronavirus patients a week earlier.
Santa Clara County adds test sites
Santa Clara County announced on Monday that it is launching or expanding six new test locations for free COVID-19 tests. The locations were chosen based on data showing a higher incidence of infection in these areas, the county said in a statement.
"The County is bringing testing capacity to where it's needed. Please take advantage of this opportunity to get tested in your neighborhood: it's fast, free and you don’t need insurance," Cindy Chavez, president of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a May 25 statement.
The county has also set parameters for how often people should be tested. Essential workers with regular interaction with the public should be tested now and once every month thereafter. People in this group include grocery store clerks, food delivery workers, retail associates, first responders and many other types of workers. The county recommends that these frontline workers get tested even if they have no symptoms at all. People can also be tested through their regular doctor.
The county and city of Mountain View launched mobile testing services this week at Rengstorff Park, one of the areas of highest need, according to Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga.
The public can walk up to the site and receive a test without an appointment. Insurance and a doctor’s note are not required.
Here's a schedule for the county's pop-up test sites:
• Monday, May 25, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Wednesday, May 27, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View.
• Friday, May 29, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at La Placita Tropicana Shopping Center parking lot, 1630 Story Road, San Jose.
Drive-thru test sites are available daily at four existing county health system locations in Milpitas, Morgan Hill and San Jose.
The public can visit the sites by making an appointment online through sccfreetest.org or over the phone at 888-334-1000.
Drive-thru sites are located at:
• 1325 E. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas (location subject to change).
• 18550 De Paul Drive, Morgan Hill.
• 777. E Santa Clara St., San Jose.
• 1993 McKee Road, San Jose.
With the addition of these six sites, there are now at least 46 sites throughout the county offering COVID-19 viral detection testing. All new and expanded test sites and additional sites operated by other organizations are mapped on the county's website. The site is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Tagalog. Information is also available by calling 211.
San Mateo County houses homeless through state funds
Ninety homeless people considered at high risk have been sheltered at a San Mateo County hotel as part of the county's efforts to stem the spread of novel coronavirus among vulnerable populations.
The county project known as Bayfront Station leases a block of rooms at an undisclosed hotel in the county for homeless people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but are categorized as high risk under federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The county has been granted $750,000 in funding from the California Department of Social Services as part of Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative by Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide non-congregate shelter to high-risk homeless people during the pandemic.
"The County of San Mateo is committed to offering and expanding shelter and housing to our homeless residents who want it," County Manager Mike Callagy said in a statement issued Thursday. "We are grateful of this funding from the state to support the mission of Project Roomkey and the county's commitment to protecting the entire community while we are required to shelter in place."
People placed in the rooms are expected to stay as long as the shelter order remains active and are expected to observe safety protocols such as physical distancing and wearing face coverings when needed.
Occupants are provided with three meals a day, the same as the county provides for those in its shelter program.
Bayfront Station is staffed through a contract with Samaritan House, a nonprofit organization that provides safety net services to low income residents of the county.
"This critical funding will allow our partnership with Samaritan House and the hotel operator to continue moving forward during this crisis," said county Human Services Agency Director Ken Cole.
The county said another portion of the Project Roomkey funds could be used to expand shelter capacity and implement additional protocols at facilities, as well as conduct outreach to those who remain unsheltered.
Newsom announces statewide COVID-19 contact tracing campaign
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the launch of a public awareness campaign for the state's COVID-19 case investigation program.
The state launched a partnership with the University of California at San Francisco and UCLA earlier this month to begin training thousands of coronavirus contact tracers that will attempt to limit the spread of the virus in real time.
The "California Connected" public awareness campaign — which will include radio and social media ads, billboards and videos in multiple languages — is intended to get state residents to "answer the call" when their local public health department reaches out to recruit them as a contact tracer, according to Newsom.
"That simple action of answering the call could save lives and help keep our families and communities healthy," Newsom said.
Newsom has said the state hopes to train roughly 20,000 contact tracers by the first week of July through the partnership program and disperse them throughout the state's 58 counties. The state has received some $5.1 million in private financial support to spur the California Connected campaign and reach the 20,000-tracer goal.
The state's 58 counties and three cities with separate health departments have roughly 3,000 contact tracers already in the field, according to Newsom. More than 500 have already been trained through the state's program as well, with another 300 scheduled to complete the 20-hour training course this week.
"We are bringing together the best minds in public health, academia and private industry to design a program that can help lower the risk for COVID-19 in all of our communities and keep us on the path to reopening," California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell said.
Information on the state's contact tracing program can be found at covid19.ca.gov/contact-tracing.
Latest COVID-19 statistics
Santa Clara County reported 26 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, bringing its total to 2,546, an increase by 33 from Thursday. The number of deaths remains at 138 deaths. Ninety-six people were hospitalized as of Friday, a decrease by four from Thursday.
Palo Alto has 78 cases, a rate of 116 cases per 100,000 residents. Its total makes up 0.2% of the city population. Mountain View has 56 cases, which reveals a rate of 69 cases per 100,000 residents. Its total makes up 0.07% of the city population.
State guidelines for reopening houses of worship will be released on Monday, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
At the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, Newsom said on Friday that a guideline for congregations of all sizes will be released. The governor's announcement comes as President Donald Trump deemed religious institutions "essential" hours before Newsom's press briefing, calling on governors to open them "right now."
Newsom said that he expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to also issue guidelines on congregations later in the day on Friday.
As counties move forward with the phased reopening of businesses, Newsom also briefly noted that he expects hair salons and barber shops to welcome customers again in the coming days. So far, 43 out of the 50 state's counties have filed attestation forms, which outline COVID-19 containment and protection plans, and have been approved to move further into Phase 2 of the stay-at-home order modifications, Newsom said.
No Bay Area counties except for Napa County have received the state's clearance to move deeper into Phase 2, according to the state Department of Public Health's website.
Testing continues to ramp up across California. The state now averages around 45,000 tests a day, while the positivity rate holds steady at 4.1% over the last seven days, Newsom said.
The number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients have remained stable. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations were down 7.5% and ICU numbers were down 6.1%, according to Newsom.
New COVID-19 test site opens
Hundreds of people have registered to receive a free coronavirus test at a new site at the Lewis and Joan Platt East Palo Alto Family YMCA. The Bell Street location began operating on May 22 and will continue to provide tests on Saturday, May 23.
All appointments have been booked for both days. More than 250 people signed up for a test on Friday and over 300 people have registered for Saturday, according to a city press release.
The site, operated by Verily, will be available to the public on May 29 and 30. Appointments can be made here.
More information on the test site can be found here.
Santa Clara County called on residents Thursday to volunteer for its COVID-19 coronavirus contact tracing team with a goal of getting at least 1,000 tracers.
About 50 county employees are already working to trace the contacts of coronavirus patients to stop the virus' spread as early as possible. A contact tracing force of more than 1,000 people would allow the county to reach its tracing goal of 21,000 contacts per week, according to county public health officials.
"It's not just enough to have your county employees doing this work," county Assistant Health Officer Dr. Sarah Rudman said. "We need members of the community, especially those of you who speak other languages like Spanish and Vietnamese, to come work with us and help with this case investigation and contact tracing."
Volunteers can complete contact tracing and case investigation work from home, according to the county, as long as they have a stable internet connection, access to a computer and private area to make phone calls to patients and their potential contacts.
The county is seeking volunteers who can investigate cases between 24 and 40 hours per week for at least three months. Volunteers should also have strong writing, communication and data entry skills.
"The county must build a strong and robust contact tracing team to prepare for an expected increase in COVID-19 cases as some of our shelter-in-place orders are loosened," county Supervisor Dave Cortese said in a statement. "Thank you in advance to those who will give the time and effort to help fill this critical role."
Residents can apply to be contact tracing volunteers at sccgov.org/icanhelp.
Latest COVID-19 statistics
Santa Clara County reported 100 people hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Thursday, an increase by 21 from Wednesday and the highest number of patients hospitalized so far this week.
Santa Clara County did not release an update on the total of coronavirus cases and deaths in the county on Thursday due to technical issues.
San Mateo County recorded a total of 1,783 COVID-19 cases and 76 total deaths on Thursday, up from 1,738 cases and 75 deaths on Wednesday. Seventy-four people are hospitalized as of Wednesday, an increase by three from Tuesday.
The county has updated its dashboard displaying case totals by city through May 21. Here's a list of those totals for communities on the Midpeninsula:
• Atherton: 11 (decrease by one from May 14).
• East Palo Alto: 62 (increase by six from May 14).
• Menlo Park: 59 (increase by four from May 14).
• North Fair Oaks: Less than 10 (no change from May 14).
• Portola Valley: 10 (no change from May 14).
• West Menlo Park: Less than 10 (no change from May 14).
• Woodside: 10 (no change from May 14).
Latest COVID-19 statistics
Santa Clara County's total of coronavirus cases is inching closer to the 2,500 mark. Out of its 2,492 cases reported on Wednesday, 79 people are hospitalized. One more person has died of the disease, raising its total number of deaths to 138.
Hispanic residents account for the most COVID-19 cases in the county, according to the data, which breaks down cases by race/ethnicity. This group, which represents 26% of the county's population, makes up about 970 (or 39%) of the county's 2,492 cases.
Forty-eight new cases were reported Wednesday in San Mateo County, where the total rose from 1,690 to 1,738. The jump is the highest recorded in the county since April 3, when 78 new cases were recorded, according to county data.
Of the total 1,738 cases, 71 are hospitalized, an increase by 11 from Tuesday. The county's number of deaths remains at 75.
Santa Clara County opens new COVID-19 test sites
COVID-19 tests are now available to all Santa Clara County residents at two new locations in San Jose, county and city officials said Wednesday.
Verily Life Sciences, the life science research arm of Alphabet Inc., will offer free testing to all county residents, even if they don't have symptoms or health insurance, at Police Athletic League Stadium at 680 S. 34th St. and the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds at 344 Tully Road.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez implored residents to get tested as soon as they can as the county seeks to reach an average of 4,000 tests per day. Chavez also said that local officials can and will help residents who struggle to sign up for testing due to obstacles like language barriers.
Patients can self-administer the test in their vehicle by using a smaller swab similar to a Q-tip to swipe the inside of each nostril for 10 seconds. The entire testing process can be completed in as little as three minutes, according to Verily.
Read more here.
Read our previous updates dating back to late February here.
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.