Open Letter to SCC Public Health on excessive restrictions, esp Nurseries | A Pragmatist's Take | Douglas Moran | Palo Alto Online |

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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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Open Letter to SCC Public Health on excessive restrictions, esp Nurseries

Uploaded: Apr 18, 2020
I was shocked to see (garden) nurseries become delivery-only businesses in recent update of the Shelter-In-Place (SIP) Order (^2020-04-15^). I believe it not just to be unwarranted, but counter-productive: It is contrary to local policy on healthy lifestyles and green house gas reduction (details below). The decision seems to represent tunnel-vision that is so narrowly focused on isolation that it doesn't consider the cost that could substantially out-weigh those benefits, both immediately but especially in the long-term.

Confidence in government rules declining:
This is but one instance of a larger trend of people losing confidence in government pronouncements, and consequently their willingness to cooperate, both now and if there are future needs for SIP.

Until a few days ago, I was getting emails from around the country pointing out various individual absurdities of state and local government rules about COVID-19: inconsistencies, contradictions, disregard of commonsense, ... Now I am receiving lists. Also rules written with little apparent knowledge of the situation -- the goal being to get them out quickly and make them easy to enforce, with little seeming regard for making them useful and effective.

Add to this the massive drop of over 96% in projected deaths in the US: from over 2 million to now 60-70K. I realize that the projections were based on bad or absent data, but it was presented to us with unwarranted confidence, even certainty.

The stated concern of governments at all levels -- federal, state and local -- is to try to preserve small businesses, but their actions heavily favor large corporations. For example, nursery annexes attached to big-box stores -- Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, ... -- are treated as part of an essential business, but an independent nursery is not.

The nurseries driven out of business by these restrictions will not be replaced by similar businesses -- that just the reality of costs of land here. Similarly for many other types of small businesses. Have you factored into your decisions the likely blow-back against government for what will be perceived as unnecessarily closures??

----Nurseries: Risks and Benefits----

--Risks--

From what I have read, the typical nursery presents very low risk for someone becoming infected.
- Open air environments -- most nurseries -- have reportedly been found to present little risk of transmission. The risks of lingering in indoor spaces, even with careful social distancing, was illustrated by the "^Choir practice turns fatal. Coronavirus is to blame - LA Times^". 60 asymptomatic participants attended, 45 were sickened, 2 died. In between is standing in line in a sheltered location outside for 15-60 minutes, for example, at a grocery store, a Costco, ...
- There is typically little in a nursery that people touch that they don't take with them (except the cart).
- Normal etiquette in nurseries is already social distancing and more. When SIP doesn't naturally smooth-out the arrival of customers, the simple measures already used by other stores should suffice.

--Benefit - Healthier Lifestyle--

A healthy lifestyle promotes a strong immune system, and that may be more important to containing the disease than the minor transmission risks of nurseries being open. Gardening promotes stress reduction, exercise, being outdoors, and for vegetable gardeners, more and better fresh food in the diet.

Many of the gardeners I know, myself included, regard gardening as extended low-stress exercise for muscles, stretching, and promoting flexibility. Almost as good as a dog pleading to be walked, a garden can be constantly beckoning with tasks. This is especially important for seniors.

There may also be shortages of fresh food in the coming months: Farmers whose produce normally flows to restaurants and other commercial food operations have reported severe difficulties redirecting it to grocery stores, food banks, ... To highlight (hype?) this, media stories have pictures of farmers plowing ripe produce under.

--Alternatives?--

On-line?? Many of the ones I have used for items I couldn't get locally are shutdown, out-of-stock on many items, or have expected shipping delays of weeks. Not unexpected if you think about it. National closing of nurseries shifted unprecedented demand to them. Sick employees and preventive measures lowered productivity.

The appendages to the big-box stores? My experience has been that they don't carry the items I want. For vegetables, they carry few heirloom varieties, few of the tastiest varieties (often heirlooms), and few of the "fun" varieties. There are even large categories that they don't carry.

--Benefit: not increasing Green House Gas emissions--

Eight years ago, there were three nurseries/garden supply stores within 3 miles. A year ago there were still two. In a few months, there may be none. And most of the nurseries in the miles beyond that are gone. If that remaining nursery (SummerWinds, Palo Alto) closes, I am either going to have to abandon gardening, or take long excursions to for what are often small purchases. Similarly for others all over the county.

Before you suggest that I could use public transit, please check with VTA about how they would respond if someone showed up at a bus stop with six 1-cubic-foot bags of chicken manure (on a dolly). By the way, normally I would be purchasing other items at the same time, so a single 3-mile trip becomes 2-3 round trips by VTA, assuming that VTA goes anywhere near the nursery.
Yeah, like that is ever going to happen.

----Readers----

In addition to adding your perspectives in the comments, feel free to adapt the portions relevant to you for an email to County officials:
- Sara Cody, M.D., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer, [email protected]
- Joe Simitian, Santa Clara County Supervisor for District 5 (northern county), [email protected]

There is also a Change.org petition: ^Please keep Santa Clara county nurseries in business^.

^Statement from owner of Yamagami's Garden Center in Cupertino^

----
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.


----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The ^Guidelines^ for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.
A slur is not an argument. Neither are other forms of vilification of other participants.

If you behave like a ^Troll^, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   10 people like this
Posted by Trumpian Echos, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 8:29 am

[[Deleted. Series of ad hominem attacks.]]




 +   19 people like this
Posted by Numbers, a resident of College Terrace,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 8:41 am


>Add to this the massive drop of over 96% in projected deaths in the US: from over 2 million to now 60-70K. I realize that the projections were based on bad or absent data, but it was presented to us with unwarranted confidence, even certainty.


Your argument regarding the numbers doesn't take into account human behavior. A thinking person would realize that the projected numbers were based on not as many people quarantining. The reason why numbers were smaller is because people took quarantining seriously. NY was slower to quarantine and so they have had higher numbers.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 9:20 am

We are gradually being turned into an Orwellian society.

Not only do we have a type of martial law, we are also being encouraged to report others who are breaking if not the law, the advices our governments are putting out there.

Masks, gardeners, nurseries (a bit silly when Ace and Home Depot are allowed to sell the same items rather than a small business doing its best to keep itself afloat) and I ask myself what next?

Palo Alto CC talking about closing roads to vehicles so that bikes and pedestrians can walk in the middle of the streets safely.

PACC advising no gardeners, but I continually see city workers mowing the grass and doing maintenance in our local parks.

Officials recommending masks, but all the panels of medical experts on tv updates do not wear masks and stand within 6' of each other.

It is one rule for the authorities and another for the small man in the street.

I can perfectly understand why in other States people are protesting and saying "no more".

It seems that we have too many Karens and not enough common sense, liberty, freedom fighters, and whatever else you would like to call us poor pawns of society.

[[Blogger: "Karen" is Internet slang for an entitled, obnoxious ... middle-aged woman.]]


 +   19 people like this
Posted by Patience, a resident of another community,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 2:01 pm


Our president is encouraging us to liberate ourselves from our leadership --the same leadership that saved many lives. I agree with Numbers - if people had not quarantined there would be many more deaths. California reported the most cases of death last Thursday even after a month of sitting inside.

The reason for strictly categorizing essential versus essential businesses is to save lives. If we rush to open up businesses we will move backwards -- and that is pure science. In Florida they had considered WWE essential. They also are opening up beaches in Jacksonville where pictures are telling the story of what happens. Nobody is 6 ft apart.

Yes, this is painful and unprecedented -- but quarantining and closing businesses isn't some sort of power grab. The question of when and what to open does not have an easy answer. Asking for exceptions for some things will soon give way to those who ask for more exceptions. There needs to be patience. We need to ride this out. I am not willing to risk lives for a garden hose because they are open air spaces. Science has shown that sweat and air flow can help this virus travel even outside 10 ft plus. People staying apart 6ft may not even be enough.

To choose MONEY over LIVES is not socially responsible.

I urge readers to be careful and be well.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Resident , a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 2:45 pm

I agree that we need more thoughtful and granular restrictions rather than broad under or over reactions.
However, Doug also needs to not misrepresent. The projection of 2 million U.S. fatalities was made by Imperial College a month ago. That projection was based on a worst case scenario if none of the restrictions or other measures were taken and it was not presented with anything approaching certainty.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 2:54 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Numbers

The Imperial College projection of 2.2M dead in the US was issued the same day -- Monday March 17 -- as the Shelter-In-Place (SIP) for the Bay Area counties. The SIP was already in process as a result of a survey done March 5-14 by Santa Clara Cty Public Health Dept -- kudos -- of local cases, followed by SCC PHD convincing the other Bay Area counties to join in (CDC Report: Rapid Sentinel Surveillance for COVID-19 — Santa Clara County, California, March 2020).
In my email, I find official messages advising social distancing on March 5.

> "A thinking person would realize that the projected numbers were based on not as many people quarantining."

"A thinking person" indicates that you don't know what was taken into account in the modeling. Officially recommended/required self-isolation was already under serious consideration -- if the projection ignored that, it would be a questionable projection. BTW, the Imperial College modeling came under substantial scientific criticism for its lack of transparency, and its past record.

The March 17 Imperial College report stated that deaths could be cut in half -- to 1.1 million -- by a variety of ambitious/aggressive measures. To reach the current 60-70K level, the Imperial College report said would require measures such as closing schools and colleges for 12-18 months and enforced social distancing. None of those have been taken. And yet ...

Your argument that the "motivation" provided by the projections produced self-isolation ("quarantine" is a governmentally imposed status) is countered by your citing the NYC situation -- NYC had the same motivation but different results.

==

On NYC situation being the result of the delay of an SIP order, that is controversial. The dominant view is that it is the result of the high population density -- more interconnections for disease transmission. Public transit is mentioned as a major factor because it randomly packed together people from all over the city. However, I am skeptical of assessments that NYC government's encouraging people to not use social distancing played only a minor role -- political biases may be at play.

I suspect that it would be difficult/impossible to separate out the factors in NYC having almost half the COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 3:10 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Resident, Community Center

Extending my above response to "Numbers":

My mention of the Imperial College report was related to what the public was told of it, both from the media and from officials, not about what was in the actual report. That distinction is critical for the context -- public faith in what the government is telling them.

This has become enough of an issue that former-President Obama said during a virtual meeting organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies "The biggest mistake any [of us can make in these situations is to misinform, particularly when we’re requiring people to make sacrifices and take actions that might not be their natural inclination." ("'Speak the truth': Obama says 'biggest mistake' mayors can make in coronavirus pandemic is misinform the public").


 +   7 people like this
Posted by S.J., a resident of another community,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 4:15 pm

To choose MONEY over LIVES is not socially responsible.

So as a socially responsible person, please tell me how you decide which lives matter?

1) check out this website for scenarios that show anywhere from 17 to 1447 of us are being impacted to TRY to save a single life: Web Link. Additionally, there is a list of what those 17-1447 are being asked to give up and many of the items on the list are things that are considered stabilizing for our society at large or simply important for quality of life.

2) keep in mind that many other diseases are still around in the world and that throwing all our focus and resources on one, COVID-19, could limit resources for dealing with them. Random examples pertaining to the world not the USA, numbers per the World Health Organization: since at least 2000 tuberculosis has killed >1M per year and cholera currently makes 1.3-4M people sick each year.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2020 at 4:25 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Patience

You are treating self-isolation/shelter-in-place (SIP) as close to an either-or situation. Is a parent playing with his/her child on the grass in an otherwise empty neighborhood park a violation of self-isolation? In some places (not SCC), the police have regarded it as a violation.

> "I am not willing to risk lives for a garden hose because they are open air spaces."

Bad example. Garden hoses are also sold at "essential businesses" such as hardware stores and many big-box stores. They can also be purchased online.
What I was addressing were items that could not easily be bought at "essential businesses".

> "Science has shown that sweat and air flow can help this virus travel even outside 10 ft plus."

You appear to be talking about studies of joggers, bicyclists and the like. Breathing hard propels air from the lungs -- and any viruses -- much further than normal distances. Similarly, an air-flow simulation found potential concentrations in the (air-flow) wake created by a fast moving runner, bicyclist, ...
This is not the situation at a nursery.

> "People staying apart 6ft may not even be enough."

I agree. The 6ft distance is based upon studies with the flu -- the virus are being expelled on droplets that drop faster. In contrast, the dry cough of COVID-19 produces smaller, lighter carriers for the virus and can travel further. I am surprised/disappointed that the guidelines for social distancing haven't be updated to have 6ft as the minimum and 12-20ft preferred (with exceptions).

The postulated reason that open-air locations are less risky is that you are unlikely to become infected by a single copy of the virus -- your body has too many defenses. Much larger numbers are needed. In open air locations, the virus is quickly dispersed into low concentrations.

> "To choose MONEY over LIVES is not socially responsible."

Just where did I make this an issue of "money over lives"???
Plus, there is a vigorous debate over the various tradeoffs.
For example, for someone who has become unemployed due to the shutdown, does his death from suicide or an overdose count for nothing??
Similarly, does the suicide of a person whose mental illness been exacerbated by isolation not count??
Is a senior who dies from a fall because of lack of exercise not count??

To reinforce the comment by S.J., your position focuses on only a very narrow portion of the health of individuals and the community.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Carol, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 19, 2020 at 8:08 am

Question: Can plant nurseries sell produce too, converting to essential for a spell? If some farmers are experiencing difficulties finding a buyer for their crops, can't nurseries set out some tables here & there with these farmer's crops?


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Insane, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 19, 2020 at 9:55 am

This is absolutely insane and I cannot believe people are not pushing back more, makes me wonder how programmed you all have become.

Cannabis stores are essential and open but a nursery isn't? How can you people (and I want to use another word here but I'm using restraint) not see how ridiculous this is?

For this being such a highly educated area there surely is a lack of common sense. But I am starting to see very clearly the unbelievable bubble most of you live in. And your inability to look beyond it. Wow. Just wow.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Insane, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 19, 2020 at 11:56 am

I just heard that Diddams is open. Diddams. Are you kidding me? A store selling party supplies is “essential" but a nursery where we can get seeds and plants to grow our own fruits and vegetables isn't?

PEOPLE WAKE UP.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 19, 2020 at 1:06 pm

Perhaps the police should go to Ace and Home Depot and prevent them selling anything related to plants.

Or does shopping and working at a chain give those plants and workers some type of immunity that small businesses don't have?


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 19, 2020 at 2:10 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "Perhaps the police should go to Ace and Home Depot and prevent them selling anything related to plants."

Please don't suggest this even sarcastically because Michigan has implemented this -- "essential" stores are required to block off aisles selling "non-essential" products.


 +   19 people like this
Posted by Reality, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 19, 2020 at 6:03 pm

Thank you for writing this-- it needed to be said.

People are being driven by fear, faulty data, and playing on our humanity. Yes, all lives lost are sad. Yes, as humans I worry about money over heads.

But I also worry what happens with 30%+ unemployment. When people can't eat. When people have no health insurance.

This entire debacle is not about stopping a virus. The virus will spread, it is inevitable. It was meant to be about controlling hospital capacity. What we continue to see is that the "models" (which best case, have been off by factors of 2x and worst case 5x) have been less than enlightening.

Meanwhile, our useless County Supervisor, and our so-called Health officer (both of whom I note have quite secure employment) seem to believe that borrowing 10+ trillion dollars (and counting) and sending thousands into an unemployment line is a great idea.

As the author pointed out, the payday has been for chain stores and politicians, using this as a means to establish a "1984" dystopia. Small merchants and the rest of us are being sent into oblivion.

Wake up America. Before there isn't an America to wake up to.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jan, a resident of another community,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Jan is a registered user.

I totally concur that garden supply / nurseries should be open. While we fight the battle, Home Depot Garden area in EPA is overstocked and the store is requiring social distancing; Ace - not as well supplied but sufficient and has curbside pickup although you can't pick your plants that way. Hopefully, our gardeners can stop sneaking around soon. My mental health is greatly improved by having my gardener take care of my Eichler estate.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Support local garden supply places / nurseries. I wouldn't be surprised if the complaint(s) against poor SummerWinds and other nurseries is because investors want their large lots.

Our CC should be protecting SummerWinds, not destroying it.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by dontliveinCA, a resident of another community,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 12:49 pm

dontliveinCA is a registered user.

Should I assume Jan (above post) is being sarcastic, with her reference to her
"Eichler estate"?


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Junior gmen, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 12:58 pm

Online name - on the contrary , I think the complaints about summerwinds came from the new Palo Alto junior g-men. If you look on next door you will see endless postings Telling people to call the police on gardners, people in groups who they assume are not families and anyone else that they think is breaking the SIP.
Palo Alto residents have always been big on complaining about others. Now they are empowered to call the police.

The city council currently has no say in whether summerwinds should be open or not. And since it is privately held, when this is over, they will have no say if it is sold.
BTW, online name you are part of the problem In Palo Alto.

Also why does Doug remove criticism of trump, that he labels as ad hominem attacks, but allows a post that calls the county supervisor as useless and labels the public health officer as so called?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by SP, a resident of another community,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 1:07 pm

Love the blog. Thank you.

Many have pointed out we were getting faulty data. Really, we have almost no data on how transmission happens. The WHO and other orgs originally said that masks were not helpful because "we do not believe that is the primary means of transmission". Based on what? They gave no data, other than conjecture about what happened in previous SARS epidemics. Now they say 6ft. social distancing will work. But then we have videos purporting to show the virus spread farther than that in the air. But then no evidence to show at what concentration the virus needs to be to get the virus in this manner, or through contact with eyes, or through ingestion.

Your blog post about whether the open spaces in a nursery is safe is based on the presumption that 6ft. social distancing works. We have absolutely no real scientific data on that. All we know is that a combination of SIP, social distancing, closing down parts of the economy, closing schools, closing parks, and wearing face masks has flattened the curve, but not completely prevented transmission. We do not really know which of those things worked, or didn't work. I was hoping that during this process someone would be studying transmission mechanisms in a meaningful way. Is anyone doing that?

Comments criticizing the opening of beaches as being guaranteed to cause transmission are unfounded. It is equally irresponsible to open them, because we just don't know. Will heat, ultra-violet radiation or other parts of sunlight, the increased salt content of the air, or the increased airflow, deactivate the virus? Right now, we have no idea.

Unless the scientific community gets on the ball and studies these things quickly and exhaustively (though 5 months into this, its likely too late), what is going to happen is that we the people are going to lose our patience and study it ourselves. We are going to open the beaches and see what happens. We are going to let people go back to work, and see what happens. We still won't really know what is going on, but we will kind-of know, and without data, that will have to be good enough.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 1:27 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Junior gmen (second comment above)

"Also why does Doug remove criticism of trump, that he labels as ad hominem attacks,"

I can understand how you might think this, given the commenter's alias "Tumpian Echos", but the insults were all directed at me, starting with equating me with Trump.

"but allows a post that calls the county supervisor as useless and labels the public health officer as so called?"

The rule here against ad hominem attacks applies primarily to attacks against participants in the discussion, or those that might become involved in the discussion. The pragmatic goal is to avoid having the comments become back-and-forth insults between a small number of people, driving away the people I want to have in the discussion.

As with slander/libel laws, public officials receive less protection. Also, I don't know how I could moderate it without seriously damaging the comment section.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: SP (second comment above)

You are correct that too little is known about this virus, so the recommendations are based on what is known about very similar virus.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Junior gmen, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 1:41 pm

“ As with slander/libel laws, public officials receive less protection. Also, I don't know how I could moderate it without seriously damaging the comment section."

Just delete “useless" and “so called"


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "Just delete..."

Any deletions would need to be annotated and experience is that such annotations cause many readers to presume what was written was much worse.
History: The transcripts of the Nixon Watergate tapes: Mild, and even questionable, profanities were replaced by "expletive deleted" led much of the public to believe what was said was worse.

I'm calling an end to this discussion of moderation policy -- it is off-topic.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Insane, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Interesting observation wondering if it's developers making the complaints and wow, isn't that another sad and extremely scary possibility that they have this power?

Please email the following with requests to open SummerWinds/nurseries back up. We People need to be heard.
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Georgia on my mind, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 3:07 pm

Georgia is planning to lift their shutdown order this week. They want to be the COVID-19 guinea pig for the rest of the country. If deaths there spike next month, the rest of the country will know what to do. We should thank them for their sacrifice. The neighboring states may want to build COVID-19 testing checkpoints along their borders.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "Georgia is planning to lift their shutdown order this week."

This is false. According to the media, Georgia is lifting restrictions on some categories of businesses. The articles didn't provide the rationale for that selection.

Note: The sort of all-or-nothing approach of that comment inhibits proper decision-making.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 4:34 pm

The thing that is being forgotten is that the shelter in place orders were put in place to prevent a surge of cases that the medical/hospital/health services could not cope with. They wanted to "flatten the curve" to stagger the number of cases that the health services have to deal with. The shelter in place was never designed to protect us against getting the virus, just to slow down the initial surge and make the number of cases more manageable. I believe that the SIP has done this.

It doesn't mean that we stay at home until deemed that we will not get it, but it does mean that when the country slowly gets back to normal, when the second wave occurs, the health services will be in a better place to cope with them.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Insane, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 4:59 pm

Excellent point Resident. I've had friends throughout CA commenting that their local hospitals parking lots are empty, the COVID intake areas empty.

Been thinking about the nurseries and why they're not allowed to stay open....an example of “control the food, control the people"? Never been a conspiracy theorist but never had an experience like this crazy COVID either!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Judy Buttrill, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Judy Buttrill is a registered user.

I am very much for sheltering in place but believe the County went too far when nurseries were forced to close down and gardeners had to stop gardening. I believe the current order should be changed immediately. Waiting until the first of May is too late. We could lose some local nurseries as a result.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Georgia (out of their) mind, a resident of Stanford,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 7:20 pm

Georgia is allowing the following businesses to open (also the Kia automotive factory):

- gyms
- hair salons
- bowling alleys
- tattoo parlors
- movie theaters (Monday)
- restaurants return to limited dine-in service (Monday)

> "Georgia is planning to lift their shutdown order this week."
> This is false.

Pretty hard to call it a "shutdown" with all those businesses open.

Two things to look at on May 30:

1. how much business is actually happening and workers rehired (my prediction: not much)
2. how many new cases admitted to hospitals in the first week of June.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Junior gmen, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 7:37 pm

Georgia- regarding movie theaters in Georgia

Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 7:49 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Georgia (out of their) mind:
When you criticize someone for believing that you meant what you wrote, why should anyone pay any attention to any subsequent statements from you??
Consequently, no more messages from you will be accepted on this thread.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by S.J., a resident of another community,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 9:07 pm

I can only speak for my very small section of the world, but none of us have forgotten what the Shelter-In-Place (SIP) is for. It is just that for myself, and many people I know, the SIP fatalities outweigh the COVID-19 fatalities.

Web Link, shows a list of some of what is at risk by SIP, but for a quick visual of the last 4 weeks of unemployment claims vs several scenarios of COVID-19 fatalities, scroll to the top of the same page. (Hint: more people have been impacted by job instability than the worst fatality scenarios.)

In the end, it boils down to what, in your opinion, is less bad:
" COVID-19 fatalities
" Forced sacrifice from nearly everyone.
And those forced sacrifices come with a price, see link above, but also include not only a misdemeanor/fine/imprisonment for being out of your house for a "wrong" reason, but the psychological impact of being trapped like that, and if we redirect funding from other diseases, a probably rise in deaths by them.

If it is less bad to you to throw 17, 58, 1000+ plus people to the dogs in order to try to save 1 life (and yes those are quite possible numbers) then you and I view the world quite differently, and we will have trouble finding common ground on this issue


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 20, 2020 at 9:53 pm

SJ Thank you for bringing us back to what the Shelter in Place is for.

From my recollection it is to flatten the curve so that hospitals don't get overwhelmed by a peak of infections all at the same time.

It is not to protect us from ever getting the virus. The virus is here, we can't shelter at home for the next year until a vaccine is found.

The virus is here. The majority of us will get it. Some of us will get it badly. Hopefully the hospitals will not be too overwhelmed that they can't help those of us who are seriously ill in a month, or in 6 months. Some of us will get very mild symptoms. We are most likely going to be able to stay home, have a few days of not being well, then get over it. Some of us may be lucky enough to get very mild symptoms. And the lucky ones of us will not get it at all. None of us know which of these options we will get. We are sheltering in place so that the hospitals will be able to deal with the most serious cases when the second wave comes in. The second wave, and perhaps a third wave will come. Then will come a vaccine. And after that... unknown.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Green, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 21, 2020 at 6:51 am

Great article and great comments! Yes, there is a very good chance a developer called and complained to put the small guy out of business. Why is there not a year long moratorium put on property development in the county? That would give the little guys and small businesses owners time to pay back lease rent and get their businesses up and running to a profitable state again. And your right, there is no science behind closing any open air space.....the science actually shows Shelter in Home is more likely to spread Covid, especially to families, then they spread it at an enclosed big box store. There is really no science behind any of these “Orders" and my opinion is they should start to end May 1 in a tiered process....enforcing masks and line distancing for safety.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Born in Palo Alto, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 21, 2020 at 7:47 pm

Look, talk about being pragmatic or not. It would take months to come up with differing rules for all locations during ongoing phases at each type of location that people would remember to follow at any given place and time. Actually not months but just impossible. And to change based on the latest study for each situation at each location at a specific point in time that every person would follow.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2020 at 9:30 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Born in Palo Alto

Notice that you appear to be making the assumption that the rule-making must be done by some central authority and that detailed rules would be required.
In contrast, the "essential businesses" were required to post their plan/measures for meeting the general directions of the SIP Order.
Why couldn't a similar approach be used with various other businesses?
Isn't the public educated enough about proper measures that their "voting with their feet" would push business to have and enforce proper procedures?

And as the above comment by "Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood" reminded us: SIP is not a goal, but a means to the goal of "flattening the curve" -- keeping demand on hospitals and other medical facilities to manageable levels. Means to a goal should be adjusted as in response to their effectiveness and the need for them.

Let's look at SCC Public Health Dashboard for hospital utilization for 2020-04-21. I'm going to compare available -- not currently in use -- to what is being used for COVID-19 patients because that is where any significant increase would be expected if the SIP Order were to be loosened.

There are currently 175 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Acute Hospital Beds: 771 in use (total). Available (771) is 7.73 times the current COVID-19 usage (86).

ICU Beds: 134 in use. Available (105) is 1.46 times current COVID-19 usage (72).

Ventilators: Available (671) is 3.6 times those in current use (186). No data for COVID-19 usage.

Surge Capacity: Available (1617) is 95 times that in current use (17).


The models predict that the peak is still a few weeks off, but the models have not been accurate. The most commonly cited model -- IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington) -- is widely criticized for significant fluctuations in response to incremental updates.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Insane, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:02 am

This is the response I received from the County. It's their fascinating (scary) interpretation of what the SIP is and how it can be effective. S.C.A.R.Y. Honestly, people need to start WAKING UP. This.Is.Ridiculous. And what, btw, is the County Executives Office? I'd emailed Joe Simitian, isn't he the County Supervisor? And isn't the County Executives Offices under his auspices? How do we fight back on this?????
************

Thank you for your input on plant nurseries being categorized as non-essential under the most recent Public Health Order. We have heard from many members of the public on this topic so we reached out to the County Executive's office for more information. Here is what they had to say:

"The goal of the shelter-in-place Order is to maximize the number of people who are staying home and limit activity as much as possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The Order's exemptions for allowable activities are intended to be narrow. If in doubt, the Order asks us to err on the side of avoiding activity and staying home. It is with this principle in mind that plant nurseries have been deemed non-essential businesses. Larger stores (such as Home Depot and Lowes) are allowed to stay open because they provide essential materials that help maintain the habitability of one's home (such as home plumbing emergencies). However, in our FAQ <Web Link; 's, we state that plant nurseries can operate to provide for the delivery of existing inventory to residences or businesses. The decision whether or not to not operate in this capacity is up to the individual plant nursery's owner."

Additionally, our office has been alerted to the closure of Yamagami's Nursery in Cupertino. We have reached out to both County Counsel and the District Attorney in regards to this closure, so please know it is being taken seriously. If you would like further information about Yamagami's, I suggest you reach out to the DA's office at [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> .

In closing please know that as conditions change, it's likely the directions provided in the shelter-in-place order will change as well. For that reason, it's great that you got in touch with our office and we were able to forward your concerns on to the Emergency Operations Center team. They will benefit from being informed by your concerns going forward.

Most importantly, I hope you are safe and well during this unprecedented time.


Julie Del Fava
Office Manager
Supervisor Joe Simitian's Office
District 5
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors


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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:37 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I received the exact same reply from Supervisor Simitian's office. Notice that it was created in response to comments from supporters of Yamagami's Garden Supply Center in Cupertino and wasn't modified for those of us outside that area.

> "what, btw, is the County Executive's Office?

My understanding is that it is roughly equivalent to Palo Alto's City Manager system. Because of the danger of confusion, disruption, favoritism, and outright corruption if the political leaders (Board of Supervisors/City Council) were to interact directly with lower level staff, requests from the political leaders are passed through the County Executive/City Manager who dispatches it to the appropriate department head who ...

> "how do we fight back on this?

My experience is that to get taken seriously, normally you would fill the meeting chambers with supporters. In normal times, email messages are relatively ineffective, but in these times, I don't know what else we have. I don't have any idea about how to make this interesting enough that a nearby TV station would travel down here to cover it in preference to the stories near their offices.

> "It's their fascinating (scary) interpretation of what the SIP is and how it can be effective."

I had a similar reaction to the quoted section when I first saw it -- in Public Health's FAQ -- and when it was regarded as an adequate response to our concerns.

I am considering a follow up blog. Is it "The triumph of hope over experience" or "Don Quixote-ism - a compunction to attack windmills".


 +  Like this comment
Posted by NCSuz, a resident of another community,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 7:48 am

In North Carolina most of our greenhouses and nurseries remain open. Also, some providers offer online ordering with curbside pickup like this one in Greensboro: Web Link

More info in my blog at Web Link


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 8:04 am

Doug and Insane

Yes there is very little we can do to protest this insanity by government authorities. They are not paying attention to emails, just sending one standard reply. I have received a similar standard reply from the Parks Commission about closing Foothills Park.

We are treated at present as pawns.

We are living in Orwellian times with nothing to do but suffer under these severe restrictions.

Any protests about big government and relieving of strict restrictions by anyone is being mocked by the media and by those who blame the protests on a political or religious group they don't agree with.

I doubt very much if local tv stations would take this on as they are not sending reporters anywhere as far as I can see as they are all at home. The media is part of the problem here because they have their own agenda and they certainly do not appear to be digging below the headlines. They are reporting anything pandemic related that is bad news or health related, but not about any other aspects of what this means. They are searching for "heroes" as the good news. They are not looking for the insanity.

Insanity reigns. Society has reduced us to invisible plebs. Intelligence is non-existent.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Insane, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:43 am

Well, we do have social media and the ability to post things to our local networks. Can we plan a protest, get as many as we can there, appropriately masked and distanced, and get it video'dand out On FB, IG, thru this blog etc? Honestly, I am just so frustrated by this, it's NOT RIGHT. theres a lot of chatter in my MV neighborhood who agree.

We haVe to do something!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:40 am

Insane. I think the time has come to do something more only not sure quite what.

Facebook has said that it will remove any group that is used to organize protests to shelter in place. Even ones which advocate masks, social distancing, will probably be removed.

Perhaps we can get some of the same type of protest done in a small way, with social distancing, etc. in the form of videos and make them go Viral. If a video of an elderly man in the UK walking around his yard to raise money while wearing his medals (see Capt. Tom) or a family singing Les Mis with re-written words, both go viral, perhaps some common sense videos done with creative thought could also go viral without any criticism.

Let's continue to brainstorm.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Mike Alexander, a resident of St. Claire Gardens,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 6:35 pm

Doug ... While I appreciate your passion for gardening, I disagree that, in the context of the local Public Health order, Summerwinds should be open for normal business.

The order couldn't be more clear: "2. The intent of this Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people shelter in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible to slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on delivery of critical healthcare services to those in need."

From Summerwinds' web site: "We are serving our community through home delivery only " daily from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m."

So, Summerwinds doesn't rate "essential" status. But if you want something they have, you can get it -- easily. I did, and my Cherokee Purples are happy to be in the ground. What you can't get is the dreamy browsing experience that many people enjoy. But frankly, you seem like a practical guy who knows what he wants, already knows Summerwinds, and would actually appreciate home delivery.

This argument you've picked with Public Health is, imho, unwarranted and a waste of precious County resources.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Insane, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 9:05 pm

@Mike, [[Deleted: inappropriately personal -- what is apologized for in final paragraph]].
One cannot EASILY get anything needed, there is a cost prohibitive delivery charge.

And regarding YOUR interpretation of what exactly qualifies as “mitigating impact" and “maximizing number who are SIP", can you explain how a party supply store is necessary (Diddams)? Or how about Daisy....pretty sure nothing in that store is more important than the ability of someone to purchase plants for their garden.

I'm sorry, I typically refrain from divisive comments but your comments are, to me, everything that is wrong with what is happening with the overreach of government and the bubble this area is.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:41 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Mike Alexander,

My concern was not about what I myself could buy over the coming weeks -- I had enough of what I wanted before the shutdown. My concern was for what permanently closing nurseries would mean to many people for many years into the future. Once driven out of business, I think it is highly unlikely their will be a replacement.

My concern was also that the nurseries were but one instance of the critical situation for many small retail businesses in this area.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 23, 2020 at 9:08 am

An entire blog over what, in retrospect, is likely an oversight not addressed because we have more important things to consider.

AB5, in an attempt to rectify abuses by Uber and Lyft unintentionally affected small theater companies negatively.

Government isn't perfect. There is back and forth. I'm amused by the conservatives stepping up to offer their lives in order to re-open the economy before the virus is brough under control.

Good luck with that.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Apr 23, 2020 at 9:24 am

[[Deleted. Opens with a falsehood, closes with a misrepresentation and contempt for those who question policy.]]


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Invested in Density, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 23, 2020 at 10:23 pm

We need the to ask the County Commissioners why privately owned small businesses that cater to small numbers of people must be closed when government owned businesses like Caltrain, VTA, and San Jose Airport that cater to the masses, and where "accelerated transmission" is likely, are still open?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Apr 25, 2020 at 11:52 pm

Public transit and airports are only open to the 4% of it customers that need to use them for essential travel. Look at the sign on your nearest VTA stop. It tells you to go home unless you are making an essential trip.

What is essential about the small businesses you are talking about? Do you own one?
If you do, I'm sure your customers would prefer waiting a couple months until its safer to visit. In the meantime, small business owners have access to billions of government financial aid and hypercharged unemployment.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 26, 2020 at 1:11 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@chris,

You already had multiple comments on the subsequent blog, I am assuming that you are aware of the refinement there of the argument here, that is, question why the Shelter-in-Place Order does not seem to be being adapted to the changing situation.

> Do you own one?

No, I am retired.

> If you do, I'm sure your customers would prefer waiting a couple months until its safer to visit.

There are a range of individual businesses and categories that I hear people saying they would feel safe returning to with simple "social distancing" and wearing a mask.

For example, where my street meets El Camino, there is a re-weave shop that does such excellent work that friends who used to live here have given me clothing to take in for repairs. Its a lone proprietess. Customers drop off items and pick it up days later. The business appears to involve a high amount in individual work with very short intervals of customer interaction over the counter. She is closed by the SIP and I expect that she will be out of business unless the landlord provides rental-relief.

> small business owners have access to billions of government financial aid and hypercharged unemployment.

You appear to not have been following the news. Actual small business owners are complaining about the unavailability of this funding, although there may be minor improvements with the recent addition to PPP, although Congress took 12 days to approve funding projected to last only two days. The updated regulations are resulting in some clawbacks and minor narrowing of who can apply.
If you were following the local news, you probably would have seen a parade of stories of noteworthy businesses deciding to close permanently.
BTW "hypercharged unemployment" doesn't cover the proprietors last I heard, although there has been discussion about something equivalent.

===
Your callousness toward the impact of a failed small business on the owners suggests that you live in a world of venture-backed start-ups where people move on to the next start-up with the failure often being treated as a positive of gaining experience.
For most small-business owners, the opposite is the case.


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