Town Square

'On again, off again': State's watchlist creates uncertainty for businesses

Original post made on Jul 24, 2020

With 37 of California's 58 counties under state monitoring, questions have surfaced about what will happen when a county gets off the watchlist -- questions that Santa Clara County health leaders so far are unable to answer.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 24, 2020, 6:55 AM


10 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:02 am

The big problem is the lack of enforcement. There is no penalty for not following the rules. The police are invisible.

25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:18 am

The original intention of the 3 week shelter in place was to flatten the curve. The curve was flattened, 4 months later, it is still flattened. The shelter in place is not lifted. Something very wrong here.

Herd immunity is now rarely discussed. Other countries have seemingly flattened the curve and now appear to have herd immunity as their monthly death rates are at normal levels.

We are no longer discussing things like flattening the curve or herd immunity. Why is this? Why are we not returning to a more open lifestyle? If the numbers are being falsely reported with positive retests of asymptomatic retests and the hospitalizations in our area increase because of importing patients from other areas, can this be the fault of SCC residents who have been obeying the rules?

Why are we not discussing these things? Why are we being forced to isolate outside our own households? Why are the authorities not taking more notice of mental health issues of isolation?

Please tell us what the aim of the shelter in place is at this stage, 4 1/2 months later? Even the common flu has many deaths each year. We do not isolate for the common flu. A vaccine, if found by the end of the year, will not be available to everyone for quite some time, remember how long it took tests to be available! A vaccine, if found by the end of the year, will not be 100% effective. The flu shot is not 100% effective for everyone.

This virus will be with us until it is defeated, if at all, and it may be defeated by herd immunity. We can't stay isolated for ever.

Give us back our ability to lead reasonably normal lives. We cannot protect against death on the roads by telling us not to drive, instead we are told to wear seatbelts, obey traffic laws, don't drink and drive, and allowed to drive. In the same way, we need to be given the ability to lead our normal lives albeit with similar types of sensible precautions.

26 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 9:06 am

Herd immunity is no longer discussed because it is fake news. We are not going to have herd immunity until most residents are vaccinated. Until then, careful social distancing and mask wearing and sheltering-in-place is the new normal.

11 people like this
Posted by Public Health
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:46 am

Judy Kleinberg has not lived in Palo Alto for some time; she lives in San Mateo County.

Santa Clara County is on the watch list because parts of San Jose have high degrees of infection. The rate of infection as a percentage of those tested is rising, so no the curve is not getting flattened yet.

20 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:52 am

Resident of another neighborhood,

Cases have surged since people started disregarding wearing of masks and social distancing.

You are trying to spread false information. Please minimize your contact with other people. It is the contact between people that has caused the upswing in California, including Santa Clara County.

Unless people become more careful, there will be a more severe lockdown. The people in Italy crushed the virus (with some help from police), Americans have failed so far because they cannot follow basic precautions that every other deveiped country has.

12 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:14 pm

People wondering why the police aren’t out forcing people to comply with an order? #1- Police enforce laws passed by a legislature, not the dictated order of the day.
#2- You depict and celebrate a communist cop killer outside their station. They’re not too eager to have this kind of community judge them when a contact decides to fight them and they defend themselves.
Just ridiculous, Palo Alto.

6 people like this
Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:46 pm

Does whether we're on the watchlist depend on how many people we're testing each day? The main metric we keep failing then meeting on is the number of people who test positive per 100,000 in population, but it seems like how high that number is depends on how many people you test everyday -- if the positivity rate stays the same, if you test more people you will get a higher number of positives.

It looks like San Mateo has a higher test positivity rate than we do (5, 6, or 7% positive in recent days, compared with 3 or 4% positive in Santa Clara County), but they test a lower percentage of their population (max around 2000 per day but more frequently around 1500/day, while we've tested 7000 or 8000 per day pretty regularly -- we aren't 4 times their population), so they aren't on the watchlist.

Maybe I'm missing something? It seems like it should be more based on the test positivity rate. Though maybe that's complicated because probably the fewer you test the more likely you are testing people with symptoms, making the positivity rate higher.

Still, it doesn't seem fair to put us on the watchlist (and impose additional restrictions) as a result of us testing so many people.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:56 pm


Please tell me what misinformation I am spreading? I only repeat the information we were given at the start of the Shelter In Place and then ask some relevant questions.

Are you saying that the original information we were given is incorrect? Or are you saying that I should not ask relevant questions?

You ask me to minimize the contact I have with other people as if perhaps I am contacting others? I can assure you that I have been sheltering in place for 4 1/2 months patiently waiting for the All Clear to go and visit a friend or have a friend visit me. You say that other countries have done better than us, but perhaps it is because they have developed herd immunity.

You say that we have to be more careful or there will be a more severe lockdown. I can only think that you mean become prisoners in our own homes and throw away the key. Otherwise, I am not sure how much more severe the lockdown can become than it has been for the past 4 1/2 months.

5 people like this
Posted by Covid-19 ready
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 9:47 pm

The County data by City tells us that San Jose (dark blue) has a much higher rate than the rest of Santa Clara County and Cupertino (white) is much lower.

See Web Link

For Palo Alto to get off the watch list, San Jose needs to improve. San Jose makes up about 50% of the population of Santa Clara County, and it's rate is 2x that of Palo Alto's rate.

Details can be found here Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2020 at 9:55 pm

@Resident of Another PA neighborhood stated "The curve was flattened, 4 months later, it is still flattened." Take a look at this graph: Web Link. Does it look like the curve is still flattened?

"Other countries have seemingly flattened the curve and now appear to have herd immunity as their monthly death rates are at normal levels." can't both flatten the curve and, without a vaccine, achieve herd immunity.

"Why are we not returning to a more open lifestyle?" Cases are increasing despite limited closure and SIP.

That's the misinformation you're spreading.

2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:06 pm

Yes, San Jose is darker color on the Santa Clara County map....but Palo Alto up north here gets penalized...

8 people like this
Posted by Live in PA
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2020 at 1:10 am

Herd immunity is a real phenomenon. It's why vaccination campaigns work even when 100% vaccination isn't achieved. It's why infections burn themselves out in a population.

Case numbers are not relevant. They are going to continue to go up. Infection rates will increase when people come out and live their lives, whether or not they are wearing masks or aura quartz necklaces or whatever the fear fashion of the moment is.

We have to manage with the virus while protecting people who are at risk of serious consequences (a minority of the population). We have no choice.

We also have to mount some legal challenges and pass some legislation that limits the scope and timeline for "emergency powers" for governors and especially non-elected county officials who are inclined to make arbitrary rules that are contrary to the Constitution.

I hope the Palo Alto online will cover some of those legal and legislative actions.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:47 am

@Paly Teacher

We were told that flattening the curve was to prevent the health services from being overwhelmed. We were told that flattening the curve was to spread the same number of cases over a much longer period of time, not that it would mean less cases.

We flattened the curve. The number of cases are now very well spread over 4 1/2 months. Without flattening the curve the total number of cases would have appeared over 4 1/2 weeks, not 4 1/2 months. Flattening the curve did not mean reducing the number of cases to a fraction. Flattening the curve has spread out the cases and the health services have been able to cope.

Spikes were inevitable, that was not disputed. We are in a spike, but at least this second wave did not occur at the same time as the first wave.

So spreading false information is not what I am doing, I am just repeating all the information that we were told at the beginning of the SIP which was supposed to last for 3 weeks to prevent the health services being overwhelmed. All the excess beds in Santa Clara convention center were dismantled because they were not necessary. The hospital ships in places like San Diego were never used. The health systems coped. That was the aim of the Shelter in Place. That was the idea to flatten the curve.

4 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:51 pm


Flattening the curve was not a license to act irresponsibly, which is what you are advocating. The virus is surging because people are not wearing masks, are not staying more than 6 feet apart, and are gathering in groups. Those are all against the law, which you appear to advocating that people break. Schools can open for kids when adults start behaving irresponsibly.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 1:11 pm


Please tell me where I am advocating not wearing masks or not social distancing? Please tell me where I mention action irresponsibly as a means of opening up the economy? Where am I advocating meeting in groups for gatherings?

What I think may be on the cards is the ability to do what is being done elsewhere, namely making a few social bubbles with like minded households, the ability to get a hair cut perhaps outside or perhaps in a well maintained socially distanced facility where everything is sanitized between customers and both customers and staff are masked and acting responsibly, the ability for some of our office space to reopen to allow those who cannot work from home due to space, lack of quiet from other family members, too many distractions and not able to focus, etc.

I am not advocating anything other than a chance to get some more lenient allowances.

As for children and schools, look at Nextdoor, all the parents are looking for pods for their children to share the expense of hiring a private teacher. I am not advocating that either, but the reality is that it is happening. If daycares can happen legally parents are going to expand that for elementary age children.

Chris, you are expecting us to spend another 4 1/2 months locked in our homes. Realistically if it hasn't happened in the last 4 1/2 months, can you really expect it to happen for the next 4 1/2 months. And when will you put an end to it? When there is a vaccine? Or when the number of cases falls below 1 per week, per month?

I don't want to appear argumentative, I just don't think another 4 1/2 months of social isolation is going to do anything the last 4 1/2 months hasn't done. Another 4 1/2 months and we could still be in the same position. Then what?

8 people like this
Posted by TS Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 2:29 pm

It's very simple. The writing was on the wall. This turn of events was sealed when Newsom caved in to the right wing and oligarchic (e.g. Elon Musk) outcry and allowed local authorities to make the call on reopening prematurely.

It was not supposed to play out this way. If California had stuck it out and had fully prepared for reopening while sticking it out, we would not be in such a predicament. We were not supposed to reopen before meeting some metrics, including having an army of contact tracers ready to jump in. Countries that followed through with the proper process did ,and are still doing, much better than the US. So, now we are in a lose lose situation. Close back down, or see many more cases of COVID. In any case, the economy will suffer longer than it should have. We brought it on ourselves. Scientists had even warned about this. But the were scientists, and who listens to scientists these days?

Ah, but American exceptionalism is such that we think we can do it differently. It also allows for entitlement, selfishness and softness. We now seen the ugly result. We are exceptional indeed, in being the country with the worst COVID record, alone at the top with other third world countries.

9 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Open everything with caution, and let those who are fearful stay home. It's time to get back to normal. There is inherent risk in everyday living, and enough is enough.

5 people like this
Posted by Shutdown Insanity
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:05 pm

If someone wants to stay sequestered at home, go for it. The rest of us (which is most of us) can put on our masks, get out, and live life. The shutdowns in SCC and fear are NOT WARRANTED by the data and facts! It's atrocious what this is doing to small businesses!!! And our schools!!! And by the way, does anyone realize that SM County breaks out their hospitalizations by in-county/out of county, but SCC does not? Right now over 30% SM County hospitalizations are from out of their county! But SCC doesn't break out out of county hospitalizations, so we actually get punished with shutdowns for bringing in the overflow from LA or other counties and helping them. SCC either needs to break out the hospitalizations from out of county (so we don't get shut down for helping), or send people packing. I agree, it's time to pass legislation that limits Emergency Powers when there is NO EMERGENCY anymore with the SCC curve flattened for MONTHS and only 2% infection rate in SCC. People are no longer trusting or listening to these shutdowns. I personally am supporting any business that after being open for two days was told they needed to shut down again because we inadvertently ended up on the watch list. I believe these businesses should defy the crazy shutdown after being open for only 2 days and stay open. We don't all have the luxury of catering to people's irrational fears, media hysteria, and state red tape that has illogically ensnared our county/city for helping other counties.

5 people like this
Posted by Madison
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 11:47 pm

Everyone: If you want to go out, so be it. But don't cry when the consequences catch up to you. I continue to advocate for wearing masks and staying home in order to protect the general public — especially the elderly and those with health concerns — but as long as you stay away from those at risk, totally go out and get infected if you want. I don't really care at this point if you decide to make unwise decisions and end up hooked on a ventilator.

That being said, you're not "a prisoner inside your own home." Grow up. Though we do need to find ways for businesses to operate and for people to work, you're not going to die because you haven't gone to the beach in three months. Honestly, entitled Americans like many of you who don't believe in facts/science and would rather fight for their ridiculous individualism are what's caused America to become the world's epicenter for Covid-19. Tell me again our fears are "irrational" when one of your family members have died of the coronavirus. I sure as hell don't think you'll be saying the same thing then.

6 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:14 pm

The pandemic is affecting 1% of Americans, and 80% of the cases are mild. The mass hysteria, overreacting and fear mongering needs to stop. The people who end up on a ventilator have underlying health issues. For those of us in excellent health, life goes on. The coronaphobes can stay home in fear.

5 people like this
Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 27, 2020 at 10:41 am

From what I can tell we are on the watchlist while San Mateo is not because we test more people. The watchlist criteria asks how many positive results per 100,000, and we have more positive results because we test a greater proportion of our population. San Mateo's test positivity rate is higher than ours, meaning a higher percentage of the people they test are positive.

Also, they are tracking the number of out of county patients in their hospitals when we aren't (or at least our out of county numbers aren't available on our dashboard while theirs are).

3 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:27 pm


The virus is surging in the country, state, and region. You are splitting hairs between 2 adjacent counties. Palo Alto, whose residents have a below average infection rate in SCC, sits next to EPA, which has the worst rate in SMC. The virus does not respect artificial borders.

Rather than arguing about reopening more businesses and schools, we should be enforcing the actions which are required to bring the virus under control.

There are too many people not wearing masks, not staying more than 6 feet apart, and socializing with friends.

5 people like this
Posted by TS Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2020 at 12:42 pm

@ Jennifer

In 2018, the latest year for which final data is available, the top 10 leading causes of death among all ages in the United States were:

Heart disease (655,381)
Cancer (599,274)
Unintentional injury (167,127)
Chronic lower respiratory disease (159,486)
Stroke (147,810)
Alzheimer's disease (122,019)
Diabetes (84,946)
Flu and pneumonia (59,120)
Nephritis (51,386)
Suicide (48,344)

Where will COVID be on the list at the end of 2020? And you still think it is no big deal? If you are young and healthy, you may not be at the greatest risk. However, this is a very CONTAGIOUS disease and everyone should do their utmost to protect others, short of being selfish. Anyone not taking this seriously is extremely selfish

2 people like this
Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 27, 2020 at 3:36 pm


That's fine, but shouldn't San Mateo be shut down as well? Should their schools be in person?

I'd like us to beat this virus, but it does feel wrong for our county's businesses and schools to be shut down while a neighboring county that likely has the same infection rate spreads it more quickly by keeping more businesses and schools open. If we're making sacrifices it would be great if they would work, and I they won't work well if one county shuts down but a neighboring one stays open.