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Over Thanksgiving weekend, Santa Clara County issues fines to more than 75 businesses for COVID-19 regulation violations

Santa Clara County issued more than 75 fines to businesses countywide for violating COVID-19 regulations over Thanksgiving weekend. Embarcadero Media file photo.

Santa Clara County tallied a record 512 COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period the day before Thanksgiving and wasted no time cracking down on businesses violating health orders.

As of noon on Friday, Nov. 27, the county had issued 76 fines to local businesses. The primary violations were failing to submit and post revised rules about social distancing.

Earlier in the week, the county stripped away its grace period for businesses to fix issues before being fined and promised to crack down. A county spokesperson said businesses will have 30 days to pay a fine or 72 hours to resolve it. (Business compliance officers will never ask a business for money upfront. Officers will have on yellow vests and produce identification.)

Fines can begin at the $250 level and can go into the thousands for offending businesses, and there can be fines for multiple violations, according to the county. Anyone wishing to report suspected violations can do so at sccCOVIDconcerns.org.

As of Nov. 29, Santa Clara County had 34,292 COVID-19 cases, 476 deaths and a seven-day rolling average of 417 new cases per day. In addition, 272 people were hospitalized with the virus -- a jump of 50 people in just two days. Of these, 74 were in intensive care units and 186 out of 631 ventilators were in use.

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The soaring case rate raised alarm among health officials as hospitals braced to admit more patients.

"We are really, really concerned," said COVID-19 Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib. "All of the metrics that we have been following that have done well in previous months have gone up very steeply."

In July, amid a previous surge, the highest case rate the county recorded was 385 cases in a single day.

"We do not want to be in a place where we see the kinds of challenges in our hospitals that unfortunately some communities elsewhere in the United States and around the world have had to deal with," said County Counsel James Williams.

Meanwhile, the county plans to offer appointment-only COVID-19 testing next week in Los Gatos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell and Palo Alto and will offer flu tests at the same time. Palo Alto's next testing day is Friday, Dec. 4; residents can sign up here. (Note that fewer than 50 slots remain for that day, as of Monday morning.)

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Walk-up testing is available in San Jose and Gilroy this week but flu tests will only be included at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose.

Fenstersheib emphasized that people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 need to get tested, especially if they are in close contact with family members and co-workers.

"New studies have shown that a majority of transmissions are caused by people who are asymptomatic and likely don't know that they are potentially spreading the disease to family, co-workers and anyone they come in contact with," Fenstersheib said. "They need to know they have the virus so they can isolate and break the transmission chain, even if they don't feel sick."

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight. Find the original link with additional content and testing site details here.

Palo Alto Online staff contributed to this report.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Santa Clara County issues fines to more than 75 businesses for COVID-19 regulation violations

by /

Uploaded: Sun, Nov 29, 2020, 9:23 am
Updated: Sun, Nov 29, 2020, 6:18 pm

Santa Clara County tallied a record 512 COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period the day before Thanksgiving and wasted no time cracking down on businesses violating health orders.

As of noon on Friday, Nov. 27, the county had issued 76 fines to local businesses. The primary violations were failing to submit and post revised rules about social distancing.

Earlier in the week, the county stripped away its grace period for businesses to fix issues before being fined and promised to crack down. A county spokesperson said businesses will have 30 days to pay a fine or 72 hours to resolve it. (Business compliance officers will never ask a business for money upfront. Officers will have on yellow vests and produce identification.)

Fines can begin at the $250 level and can go into the thousands for offending businesses, and there can be fines for multiple violations, according to the county. Anyone wishing to report suspected violations can do so at sccCOVIDconcerns.org.

As of Nov. 29, Santa Clara County had 34,292 COVID-19 cases, 476 deaths and a seven-day rolling average of 417 new cases per day. In addition, 272 people were hospitalized with the virus -- a jump of 50 people in just two days. Of these, 74 were in intensive care units and 186 out of 631 ventilators were in use.

The soaring case rate raised alarm among health officials as hospitals braced to admit more patients.

"We are really, really concerned," said COVID-19 Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib. "All of the metrics that we have been following that have done well in previous months have gone up very steeply."

In July, amid a previous surge, the highest case rate the county recorded was 385 cases in a single day.

"We do not want to be in a place where we see the kinds of challenges in our hospitals that unfortunately some communities elsewhere in the United States and around the world have had to deal with," said County Counsel James Williams.

Meanwhile, the county plans to offer appointment-only COVID-19 testing next week in Los Gatos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell and Palo Alto and will offer flu tests at the same time. Palo Alto's next testing day is Friday, Dec. 4; residents can sign up here. (Note that fewer than 50 slots remain for that day, as of Monday morning.)

Walk-up testing is available in San Jose and Gilroy this week but flu tests will only be included at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose.

Fenstersheib emphasized that people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 need to get tested, especially if they are in close contact with family members and co-workers.

"New studies have shown that a majority of transmissions are caused by people who are asymptomatic and likely don't know that they are potentially spreading the disease to family, co-workers and anyone they come in contact with," Fenstersheib said. "They need to know they have the virus so they can isolate and break the transmission chain, even if they don't feel sick."

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight. Find the original link with additional content and testing site details here.

Palo Alto Online staff contributed to this report.

Comments

Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 29, 2020 at 11:17 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 11:17 am
88 people like this

So, it seems that the County sent inspectors to all different kinds of businesses in order to check if new guidelines were posted. In that one day (the day before Thanksgiving), 76 local businesses were in violation and fined up to $1000.

Personally, I find this egregiously harmful to small businesses! Many of those businesses are suffering immeasurable harm from this perpetual shutdown or the uncertainty attributed to it. Why couldn't the County simply WARN those businesses -- most of which are struggling to stay afloat?

I understand that this is a pandemic in which people have died. However, let's consider the statistics: In our county of over 2 Million residents, a total of 476 people have died. About 69.5% of the deaths were over the age of 70. Just 6.3% of the deaths (about 30 people) are individuals under the age of 50.

Of those 476 total deaths in our county from the pandemic, at least 81.7% (and possibly as high as 88.6%) were due to comorbidities. That means between 388 and 422 of those deaths from COVID-19 were from people with some other preexisting health issues.

Of the remaining 54-88 people who have died from COVID-19 and did not have a comorbidity, the vast majority were over the age of 70. A considerable number were over 80 or 90-years of age. This is due to the immune system not working as well as it once did.

Web Link

So, essentially, COVID-19 is a pandemic that primarily kills older individuals and individuals with preexisting conditions. Consequently, I believe that our approach to COVID-19 should be in safeguarding those who are most at risk.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't have coded levels of reaction by the County or state. However, if you're not elderly or already ailing from preexisting conditions, you are far more likely to die from a traffic collision or even the seasonal flu.

At what point does shutting down nearly the entire economy of Santa Clara County make sense? Moreover, do you hit small businesses with fines for failing to post ever-changing guidelines from the county (which most people never stop and read anyway)?

We are all in this together. We should do what it takes to help those who are in need or most at-risk. We should volunteer to pick up and drop off items for families with members who are at-risk.

At the same time, we need to realize that shutting down the economy is killing business in the County. This means that families that own small businesses will suffer. It also means that the County's coffers will be in short supply due to the diminished tax revenue -- forcing officials to make decisions about which services to cut.

We need to be clever about this. If the people dying from this pandemic are overwhelmingly those with preexisting conditions and the elderly, then we might reconsider our approach to how to best safeguard those at greatest risk without destroying the economy.

This is not a "faceless" and "nameless" economy. There are small business owners (and their employees) that are suffering considerably. Yet, the County thinks that this is a great time to assess a fine of $1000 for failing to post the latest of the ever-changing (but not changing by very much) guidelines on social distancing.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 29, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 1:00 pm
26 people like this

>"Of those 476 total deaths in our county from the pandemic, at least 81.7% (and possibly as high as 88.6%) were due to comorbidities. That means between 388 and 422 of those deaths from COVID-19 were from people with some other preexisting health issues."

^ A neighbor brought this issue up & her belief was that the U.S. death count from Covid-19 was exaggerated due to this factor.

For example...if someone had been given weeks to live & contract the coronavirus,
what was the actual cause of death especially the individual was also suffering from a cardio-pulmonary ailment or terminal cancer?

In other words, are the Covid-19 death statistics being padded at the discretion of an MD's death certificate?

She seemed to think so & attributed this variable to the United States looking bad in comparison to other countries & a reason for POTUS45 being unfairly blamed for not containing the outbreak.

While I tend to question her perspective, we are now in the 2nd wave & the virus is mutating.

A recent news article mentioned that Covid-19 has now made the 'jump' over to minks who in turn are capable of infecting humans working in the fur industry.

Curious...who wears fur coats anymore?


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 29, 2020 at 2:43 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 2:43 pm
11 people like this

A $1,000 fine is incredibly harmful to small businesses that are suffering, but the revised Santa Clara County order went out Oct. 5, which means these businesses had almost two months to comply. If you haven't complied with health orders within two months, do you have any intention of complying? If not, you should be fined, not warned. How hard is it to submit and post revised social distancing rules? Be responsible, or pay the price. It's the way of the world.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 29, 2020 at 3:34 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 3:34 pm
54 people like this

@Jennifer - The article states, "The primary violations were failing to submit and post revised rules about social distancing."

In other words, the only "violation" was not posting the county's paper on their door/window. It wasn't anything that the businesses were doing wrong. Rather, it was something that they didn't do -- posting newly revised rules.

Why would they fail to do this?

Obviously, failing to post the new rules on the window wasn't a protest. If anything, it was likely that they (the business owners and managers) were as much in the dark about the rules as the rest of us.

There is no community liaison who contacts each and every business about rule changes. Rather, the County changed their rules on their website. I suppose that they could have emailed the rules to the business -- but even this isn't clear.

I'm fairly confident that the businesses that were fined were just as surprised as the rest of us would be. These are strange times and the rules change. Apparently, the great $1000 "sin" was that the new rules weren't posted by the business owners in place of the old.

My argument is that the county should have EXPLAINED the issue with a warning before levying a $1,000 fine to businesses that are already struggling to survive under the county's own rules. Why not send the "authorities" into the establishment and let them know what they should be doing first?

Of course, the politicians earning big paychecks from the county will undoubtedly be complaining soon about how much "revenue" has decreased. They will likely argue for creative new taxes and fees to help the county bureaucracy continue unfettered by economic turmoil caused by their own rules.

Meanwhile, small businesses already suffering from shutdowns and uncertainty might struggle to pay the $1,000 fines levied against them.

Of course, if we drive just a little north, we can actually eat inside of restaurants because San Mateo County hasn't changed their policies. Something tells me that San Mateo County tax revenues aren't going to drop as significantly as Santa Clara County's.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm
47 people like this

@Lee Forrest - I'm not given to those types of conspiracy theories. In fact, I wouldn't say that fatality rates from COVID-19 are being exaggerated at all. I'm just saying that the rate of death is significantly lower for anyone outside of just two groups: 1.) The elderly; and, 2.) Those with specific pre-existing health issues (primarily those with pulmonary and/or clotting issues).

The state and local governments should certainly do their best to deal with this crisis. However, they should do this by looking at the BIG PICTURE (all of the facts and consequential issues). The facts are that this diseases is deadly -- but the groups at greatest risks are readily identified. The guidelines for dealing with this pandemic should focus on the greatest risk rather than the sentiment of hysterics.

The county politicians -- who work for us (and not the other way around) -- should bear this in mind as they come up with solutions. I read recently about Stanford physicians who were "shamed" due to sharing their expert thoughts on risk assessment due to the pandemic. Even here on the Palo Alto Online, there were armchair critics (non-physicians and non-scientists) who were questioning the viability of their views.

The response by the County should be to save the lives of those at risk. With this in mind, I think that the County should have been pliable when it comes to levying fines against businesses already suffering under the burdens that the pandemic -- and the County's response to it -- has already caused.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 29, 2020 at 3:53 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 3:53 pm
8 people like this

Nayeli - I read the article. I'm well aware of what the violation was. My comment says the same as the article -- "submit and post revised social distancing rules" I added "How hard is it?"

The businesses DID do something wrong. They didn't post the new rules. PERIOD.

If you choose not to post the new rules (easy) you deserve to be fined. Perhaps some of these businesses were restaurants where people would be dining on THANKSGIVING.

They were given almost TWO MONTHS to post the rules, and they chose not to. The County chose to CRACK DOWN on a health order. Good for them!

I don't believe they were "in the dark." I read the same thing in a news article, as well as the Oct. 5 date. Quit making excuses for irresponsibility.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 29, 2020 at 4:06 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 4:06 pm
39 people like this

@Jennifer - Again, I am raising an issue about the LACK OF CLARITY and LACK OF COMMUNICATION regarding those rules. There are strange times. Where do small business owners find out about the rules?

If you look at the County website, there are EXHAUSTIVE to say the least. This is why it can be very confusing to small business owners. The rules on social distancing haven't changed THAT much either. Some business owners might have assumed that the posted rules were still up-to-date in that aspect.

Obviously, it was an oversight by the business owners. Yet, again, these are strange times. Instead of fining a struggling business owner $1,000 because she/he failed to post updated rules on social distancing (probably because she/he wasn't aware), why not be CONSTRUCTIVE and explain the change with a warning?

Remember: Not every person is up-to-date with local news like many of us are. While they may have been aware of a return to Code Purple, they might not have been aware that this necessitated the posting of new rules. Apparently, more than 76 business owners were in the dark about it.

After all, no one in the county contacted them -- except after-the-fact in order to fine them $1,000 for an oversight.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 29, 2020 at 4:19 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 4:19 pm
6 people like this

I can't answer for Santa Clara County, but they were strict the day before Thanksgiving -- probably because of Thanksgiving dining and Black Friday shopping. A fine sends a stronger message than a warning, and no -- I don't believe the business owners were "unaware." And if they were, ignorance of the health order is no excuse anymore than ignorance of the law. Health orders are taken seriously, including something as simple as posting new rules.

I'm well aware that cracking down on small businesses isn't a popular opinion, but it's better than a serious illness or a death.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 29, 2020 at 5:42 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 5:42 pm
6 people like this

According to Santa Clara County, when they go out and do compliance, they normally provide warnings. They suspended the grace period for fines, and issued fines (starting at $250) because of the rising number of cases and rising number of hospitalizations. According to County counsel James Williams "people know the rules by now." This isn't hard to understand. A fine is a wake up call. A warning is an ineffective slap on the wrist.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2020 at 8:14 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 8:14 am
37 people like this

Though hindsight is 20/20 at best, perhaps this situation could have been averted if SC County had produced official flyers & mailed them to all pertinent businesses for posting.

The notices would have been standardized in appearance/format & easily recognized by the public at large.

And then...if these 'official' public health notices weren't posted within clear sight & restricted businesses remained open (whether in defiance or oversight) fine them accordingly.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 30, 2020 at 8:33 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 8:33 am
4 people like this

There were a few local news outlets that ran this story on Nov 24 that Santa Clara County would be out in full force on Nov 26. They had two days warning that the County was coming, and still didn't comply.

Perhaps this situation wouldn't have resulted in fines if businesses took the health order seriously. It's a business owners responsibility to play by the rules. Making excuses is enabling.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2020 at 8:47 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 8:47 am
33 people like this

Curious...so where are these collected fines (give or take $1000 x 75) being allocated towards?

Chances are the public will never be clearly informed & with the county now in 'purple tier' additional fines are probably forthcoming.


Just Sayin'
Registered user
another community
on Nov 30, 2020 at 11:04 am
Just Sayin', another community
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 11:04 am
25 people like this

The inspectors who levied fines could just as easily, actually more easily, gone around with a stack of printed new regulations to give to these business owners to post. (I'd have carried a role of tape in my pocket, too, if that's all it took to help out.) Good grief! Let's try to be helpful; not punitive. Instead of taking time to write up and process fines, move on to as many more businesses as possible. The more informed we ALL are, the better.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 30, 2020 at 11:46 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 11:46 am
6 people like this

All of the comments on Mountain View Voice are in favor of cracking down on the businesses. I'm glad it's not just me. And the best comment -- he wants to know who these businesses are so he knows who not to do business with. I totally agree.

If they're failing to comply with posting new rules, what other health orders are they ignoring?


Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Dec 2, 2020 at 1:47 am
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 1:47 am
2 people like this

"New studies have shown that a majority of transmissions are caused by people who are asymptomatic and likely don't know that they are potentially spreading the disease to family, co-workers and anyone they come in contact with," Fenstersheib said.

I call bullsh-t. Show me even one credible, peer-reviewed study finding asymptomatic people cause the majority of transmissions. Just because a majority of "positive" people don't know how they contracted the virus, doesn't mean, ipso facto, it was from asymptomatic spread. I'd be surprised if even 1% of transmissions were due to asymptomatic carriers.

From the CDC website: "No recommendation can be made at this time for mask use in the community by asymptomatic persons, including those at high risk for complications, to prevent exposure to influenza viruses." Web Link

Anthony Fauci back in January 2020: Asymptomatic transmission never drives outbreaks. "In all the history of respiratory viruses of any type, asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks. The driver of outbreaks is always a symptomatic person..." Web Link

On June 7, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, told a press conference that from the known research, asymptomatic spread was “very rare.” “From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.” Yes, I know WHO tried to walk back the claim but did not repudiate it.

Most recently is the big study out of China published in Nature, which has received almost no coverage. Almost 10,000,000 people in Wuhan participated in the study and what was the key finding: "There were no positive tests amongst 1,174 close contacts of asymptomatic cases." Not one case of asymptomatic transmission! Web Link

Healthy people, take off your masks! Sick people, keep your distance until you recover - though personally I don't mind being around you.




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