Covid-19: Notes from 3/18/2020 County Briefing

The County Manager’s office is holding conference calls with representatives of all the San Mateo County city councils every weekday. It’s does a great job of keeping local elected officials in the loop on what the County — who has the primary role in responding to local public health crises — is doing.

Today I had the opportunity to participate as one of San Carlos’ two representatives. Here are my notes from the meeting. Please note that these haven’t been checked against anyone else’s recollections and so I may have gotten some things wrong or misheard them.

Number of individuals infected or potentially infected with Covid-19

  • 80 confirmed
  • 40-45 under investigation

Status of the County hot line for inquiries about the shelter-in-place regulation

  • Hundreds of calls received
  • Mostly about residential construction. Still allowed. “All housing is good housing”.
  • Other priority seems to be about gardeners
  • 650-363-4588
  • Hundreds of calls coming in. Wait time yesterday was about 16 minutes. Looking to improve that, and hope that info request surge will moderate as residents and businesses adapt to the situation.

Need for additional healthcare staff is becoming significant

  • Hospitals are filling up
  • Need for more resources discussed with State Office of Emergency Services.
  • Particular need for medical staff at hotels being organized as Covid-19 quarantine and support facilities.
  • Looking for anyone with medical training (e.g., ophthalmologists)

Hotels as first-stage care and quarantine sites

  • Need more hotel capacity for people testing positive but not needing hospitalization.
  • Also need hotel capacity for the homeless (to create social separation not available in existing shelters – not necessarily testing positive).
  • Requested deployment of a Federal emergency medical ship (USS Mercy)
  • Need for more hotels likely to increase significantly. But many are available because business is down dramatically.

Homeless Population

  • Primary support channels are non-governmental (e.g., Samaritan House, Second Harvest), and are being stretched.
  • Volunteers being recruited to provide food and outreach to homeless population. No medical experience necessary.
  • 189 volunteers signed up. Looking for more.

Drive Thru Testing

  • Going well
  • Well supplied and staffed

Brown Act

  • Loosened but not as much as the County had asked for (still not allowing all members of a body to participate)
  • Telephonic participation rules loosened.
  • Don’t need to make telephonic access location public (i.e., don’t need to let people into your living room)
  • Kevin Mullin offered to help run additional requests for waivers up the flagpole.

Food Deliveries

  • Needs-based programs doing okay, but latent demand is high
  • Current health rules on food delivery complicate immediate straightforward expansion
  • Looking into ways to simplify processes that delivery agencies (including ones like Uber or Lyft) must use.
  • Developing FAQs, should be issued this afternoon

Addressing Risk of Evictions

  • Call at 3 PM with mayors of each city
  • Looking for input/discussion on how to proceed
  • Trying to understand what Trump’s statement regarding nationwide suspension of evictions means (may only be for HUD-backed / -based housing)

Emergency Operations Center

  • Focusing on spinning up Burlingame hotel site
  • Working to secure PPDs (personal protective devices)
  • Beginning to run out of PPDs in certain situations

Transmissibility (question asked by elected)

  • Some conflicting evidence as to whether the virus is able to “lurk” in environments (e.g., like measles).
  • Best/latest data from expert studies is that it’s >>not<< a lurking virus.
  • Social distancing (6 feet) still the way to go.

Stability of Electrical/Telecomm Grid (question asked by elected)

  • No identified risk factors at present.
  • Staff will look into it.
  • Staff is working on how to handle emergencies on emergencies (e.g., what do we do if we get a major earthquake?).

Rumors about Possibility of Martial Law (question asked by elected)

  • Not currently on the horizon
  • Governor Newsom did state that authority to do something like that exists but would only be used if it were necessary (note: this is not uncommon in major emergencies such as the aftermath of major earthquakes — I lived through it in Los Angeles after the 1991 Northridge quake).

Tests per day at County facility (question asked by elected)

  • Aiming for 200-250 per day
  • Started out at a couple of dozen, ramping up.

How Can People Volunteer? (question asked by elected)

  • NGO organizations (e.g., Second Harvest) currently increasingly hard-pressed for volunteers
  • Best bet is to approach those organizations directly.

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