SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Santa Clara County’s top public health official said the strategy to battle the spread of coronavirus in the South Bay is shifting from “containment to mitigation.”

Dr. Sara Cody, the public health director, said the COVID-19 outbreak has been developing at such a rapid pace that her department has had to revise response plans day by day, sometimes as often as every six hours.

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“This is all hands on deck. We each have a role to play,” said Cody. “This is an unprecedented public health challenge for our country and certainly here in the county.”

Monday evening, the health department issued a legal order ban all public gatherings of more than 1,000 people. Cody explained to the County Board of Supervisors that the order was meant to slow the spread of the disease, and prevent healthcare providers from becoming overwhelmed.

“As you can imagine, it’s much easier for the healthcare delivery system to manage one infected patient a day for 14 days, than to manage 14 patients on the same day,” said Cody.

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As for increasing the capacity of testing, four commercial labs are set to dramatically increase the volume of patient testing, with a turnaround time of three to four days. But there is a caveat, Cody said.

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“When we’re doing small numbers of tests that come through our public laboratory system, we can gather a lot of information about everybody that tests positive. Once it’s scaled, and commercial labs are testing, we’re not going to have that level of details on the positive tests,” Cody said.

Cody added that there is no test for coronavirus antibodies, created within the human body in response to an infection.

“Say someone was exposed and infected but never have any symptoms. There’s not a way to know unless you look at their antibodies, to see if they’ve developed antibodies. Without that we can’t really understand the entire spectrum,” said Cody.

Dr. Cody said one of the toughest decisions has been whether or not to close large numbers of schools. There is no data to show children are amplifiers of the disease, and so “the harms outweigh the benefits,” according to Cody.

“The harms of school closure would mean that many parents of children cannot go to work. Many of those parents are in our healthcare workforce and other critical services,” said Cody.

Mayor Sam Liccardo also announced today the City of San Jose would suspend sweeps of homeless encampments and place a temporary moratorium on evictions of tenants who are facing financial difficulty because of the global pandemic.

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“I expect that in the days and weeks ahead, we will see schools close. Already, we’ve got a lot of workers who are staying home. They may not be able to make a paycheck as a result, and we need to ensure that we keep people housed while we’re addressing this crisis, or else it’s going to become much more challenging from a public health and public safety standpoint,” said Liccardo.