Covid-19: County Manager’s 3/27/2020 Conference Call

I was able to sit in on Mike Callagy’s conference call for local elected officials today. The County, along with all the cities in San Mateo County, are working hard gearing up to address the many consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The entirety of my notes appear below but I wanted to highlight a few items:

  • As of today there are 239 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in San Mateo County.
  • The District Attorney’s office has stated that anyone determined to be engaging in price gouging during this crisis will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They’ve set up a website you can use to report suspected price-gouging: https://da.smcgov.org/price-gouging-covid-19.
  • A participant (I didn’t catch his or her name) shared that they have gotten a number of reports of Asians being spit on or otherwise physically assaulted due to the pandemic having first been reported in China (the person said they themselves had had this experience).
    Mike Callagy said he was very disappointed to hear that such a thing could happen in San Mateo County and would make sure law enforcement followed up on it. I’ve separately spoken to Mark Duri, our police chief, and let him know that I will do whatever is necessary to see he gets the resources he needs to address such behavior in San Carlos, should it occur. This isn’t the time to divide ourselves, particularly in such a monumentally ignorant, stupid and offensive way.

Here are my notes (SMC = San Mateo County).

Overall Stats

  • 239 confirmed cases in SMC
  • County is discussing extending the April 7th expiration of its emergency regulations

211 Call Center

  • Average wait time 32 seconds
  • Average call length 7 minutes
  • Responded to 3,000 text messages since March 6th

Homeless Shelter

  • 94 clients in hotels
  • Talking to RWC to add more beds to site adjacent to jail
  • Currently need 71 more spaces

SMC Strong

  • 209 donations to SMC Strong for $40,000 (?) plus another $50,000 single donation (?)
  • >800 responses to business surveys
  • Goal is to have SMC program complement and not duplicate Federal efforts

Price Gouging

Medical Support

  • Health Department is working the numbers but it’s still too early to tell what the trajectory of the disease is likely to be in SMC.
  • Rate-limiting factor is medical help to staff facilities for people needing help in county-run facilities.
  • May look for non-medical professional volunteers to handle certain aspects of support after basic training.

Anti-eviction moratorium regulation is being drafted, more details to follow.

Sheltering in Place

  • Increasing emphasis on sheltering in place
  • Health officials meeting to discuss whether or not stricter sheltering in place regulations are needed.
  • Parks are being overwhelmed
  • County parks will be closed end of business today

Use of Schools for Homeless?

  • Looking at it
  • Not all schools offer the right kind of space to support social distancing

How is SMC utilizing locally-available biotech resources?

  • Been talking to companies throughout the country to create more testing kits, also antibody-based testing kits
  • Congresswoman Jackie Speier is talking with local biotech company leaders this afternoon

Clarify rules around county parks?

  • Will close them, lock out parking areas, bathrooms
  • Will not be devoting enforcement resources to the ban except on an as-encountered basis
  • Goal is to discourage people from traveling from other areas to use the parks en masse

How do we maintain the health benefits we hope to achieve in SMC?

  • Bending the curve locally will help us conserve scarce medical resources (e.g., ventilators)
  • We can cut the peak to a half to a third by people adhering to shelter in place rules and drastically reducing contact with others outside their “biological circle” (e.g., family)
  • County will share its disease trajectory modeling once it’s been validated

What can we do to encourage improving Federal shelter-in-place policy?

  • Primary initial effort is on local response which is what we’re focusing on (not sure the answer addressed the question).

What can we do to support families under stress and educate them about risk profile for children?

  • County will try to provide information on age-related risk rates
  • County is considering what to do if all a child’s caregivers end up becoming incapacitated

How do self-employed people apply for financial support under the various local/state/federal programs?

  • County will look into this and get an answer for Monday.

What’s the forecast of when the disease surge is likely to come?

  • Next three to four weeks will be critical

What is the District Attorney doing about assaults (e.g., spitting) on Asians?

  • Very disappointed that this is happening in SMC
  • First response should be to call the police
  • Will look into it with law enforcement

What about BART pushing homeless people off their trains and into our communities at night?

  • County is looking into it
  • Trying to put in place an alternative shelter arrangement

Shouldn’t all public agencies stop holding in-place meetings?

  • Not for the County to dictate
  • But we believe it’s best for the County to meet virtually

County efforts on helping agencies deal with fiscal impacts?

  • Likely a focus of the long-range planning committee
  • County still assessing what its own impacts will be
  • Will be sharing information and ideas going forward

What is County doing to enforce congregation rules?

  • Primary focus for local law enforcement
  • Needs to be enforced, hopefully with the warning/citation/arrest escalation trajectory

Will national parks in SMC be closed?

  • County will follow up for Monday

Programs to prepare meals for first responders?

  • Not aware of any

Why are gardening businesses still operating?

  • Not allowed except to protect health & safety (e.g., cut back fuel to reduce fire danger)
  • General run of the mill gardening is not allowed

Temporarily change the way water is priced based on consumption?

  • Will look into it

Is law enforcement being savvy about realizing restaurant workers and healthcare workers need to get to and from their businesses for those businesses to continue to operate?

  • County has discussed this with law enforcement throughout SMC
  • Nowhere near stopping people at random on the street
  • Will re-enforce message with law enforcement later today

What are the plans for when first responders test positive?

  • Focus of county planning
  • Secured/separate beds for such
  • Some departments are looking at keeping as many people as they can in work from home or split shift arrangements
  • Can also rely on mutual aid pact in SMC

What are the fees associated with SMC Strong and is there a way for the public to provide input on how it should operate?

  • There are fee limits (?) in place
  • Will discuss public input with them

8 thoughts on “Covid-19: County Manager’s 3/27/2020 Conference Call”

  1. What about gardening for seniors?
    Is that allowed when seniors due to health reasons are not able to maintain their lawns etc.

  2. Mark Olbert

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I can’t speak for the County but I believe I understand the basis of the prohibitions they’ve enacted, so…

    Short answer : no, that’s not an authorized exception.

    Longer answer: the intent of the shelter-in-place and close-all-but-necessary-businesses orders is to reduce the number of contacts people have with each other. Because, absent a vaccine, that’s the only way to try and prevent infections with a virus as aggressive as this one.

    Gardeners must come in contact with a number of people — coworkers, sometimes employers, suppliers, etc. — to do their jobs. Those jobs, while important, rarely in and of themselves reduce health risks. Few people (see below) will get sick or die from an overgrown garden or lawn. That’s why gardening jobs are deemed non-essential.

    Hiring someone to clear brush around your property — occasionally, on an as-needed basis — so as to reduce wildfire risk is, probably, an allowed exception to the ban. Because in that case while heath & safety risk is being increased by the gardening work it’s also being curtailed by reducing wildfire risk.

    For the large majority of situations, however, I’d say hiring a gardener, for anyone, is banned.

    You’re welcome to call 2-1-1 and ask for the County’s official answer to your question, of course.

  3. Hello:
    I just left a comment about construction workers.
    Please do not publish any identifiers, i.e. living across the street, etc. I do not want to be linked to this report.
    Thank you.

  4. Mark Olbert

    Hi Geraldine, I don’t see any other comment from you. BTW, except in very limited circumstances (which don’t apply to this situation) there is no such thing as a private conversation with a public official on matters within the scope of their public responsibilities.

  5. Carmen Mahood

    Thank you for these notes. Very helpful. FYI: many makers groups in SMC are at their sewing machines making masks for medical and other staff on the front lines in the pandemic.
    The Chinese community is generously using all their resources to get medical masks to local hospitals.

  6. Hi Mark

    A comment on gardeners: My wife and I are both over 70 and don’t get around as well as we used to. Fortunately we have a large yard with lots of plants, shrubs, flowers and such. We enjoy the yard and so sheltering in place is not a big deal as we can sit in the backyard for lunch or enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. Our grandchildren are able to come over and ride bikes, throw balls around, in the back yard etc. We have a renter in a separate cottage area that also uses/enjoys the yard. Having a nice well maintained yard keeps us sheltered in place. We are very happy to pay our gardener to perform maintenance twice a month. This involves weeding, trimming, lawn mowing, lawn trimming, fertilizing, etc. These activities require tools and equipment we no longer have and limber back. Payments to the gardener are electronic, he shows up spends 3 hours, we don’t talk to him, we don’t have any interaction with him at all. I don’t want my lawn, plants, etc to not be maintained for 3 months or how ever long when I don’t see any risk to either him or us. Please pass this on to whoever makes decisions. I am very happy to support shelter in place and we are doing it. Not having a gardener to maintain your property so you can enjoy the sheltering in place does not make sense to me.

    Thanks

    Tom Holmes

  7. Mark Olbert

    Hi Tom,

    I understand your concern and I encourage you to share it with Don Horsley, our representative on the County Board of Supervisors, and perhaps with Mike Callagy, the County Manager and his public health officer.

    I suspect, though, that you won’t get much traction on it. The county (and state and federal governments) is trying to cut down on as many group activities as they can during a public health crisis where togetherness is in some sense the “enemy”.

    Granted, few homeowners hug their gardeners. But gardeners don’t work in isolation. They need to go places, and interact with people, to practice their craft, and it’s those interactions — which can’t be curtailed unless the work that’s causing them is curtailed — which the authorities want to reduce.

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