SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A White House COVID-19 task force, seeking ways to halt the spread of the coronavirus in Santa Clara County, has recommended that local officials enforce a 30-day mitigation strategy that would include daily health checks for staff and visitors upon their arrival to a workplace or office each day.
Vice President Mike Pence announced the set of recommendations Wednesday afternoon for West Coast hot spots in the current outbreak — Santa Clara County and King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in Washington.
King County includes the city of Seattle while Santa Clara County is home to San Jose and the Silicon Valley.
“These recommendations outline a whole-of-community approach to immediately minimize the impacts of coronavirus in these cities and towns,” Pence said. “I look forward to the continued partnership between the Task Force and State and local leaders.”
Pence spoke with Gov. Gavin Newsom and Washington Governor Jay Inslee about the community mitigation strategies in phone calls on Wednesday.
The strategy includes cancelling any large events with crowds of 250 people or more including church services and other community gatherings. The White House task force also wants to eliminate large work-place gatherings, cancel non-essential work travel and require health checks for staff and visitors upon their arrival to a workplace office each day.
Many of the recommendations were already in place in Santa Clara. County officials announced tough new mitigation requirements on Tuesday.
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.
“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 were 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.
“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.