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Santa Clara County To Ban Gatherings Over 1,000; Confirm First Bay Area Coronavirus Death

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (CBS SF) -- Public Health Department officials in Santa Clara County on Monday evening announced a pending ban on public mass gatherings over 1,000 people that will be enforced by authorities.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody made the announcement early Monday evening, noting that 32 new cases have been identified since last week, bringing the county total to 43 cases of coronavirus. 21 of those cases were likely spread through community transmission.

The median age for the cases is 58 years old. 21 people are currently hospitalized, 10 of which are in ICU.

Due to the emerging data, the health department issued the new recommendations and restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. Dr. Cody said she was issuing a legal order to ban events with more than 1,000 people in attendance that goes into effect Wednesday, March 11, at noon and will remain in place for the next three weeks.

Cody noted that the ban did not apply to airports or shopping malls and centers with people in transit. The ban also does not include office spaces or retail stores where it is unusual for people to be within an arm's length of each other.

Cody said there are also "no plans at this time for any mass school closure."

"Our plan at this time is that if there is illness in a school we will work with the school and make recommendations based on the facts and circumstances at the time," said Dr. Cody.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and the individual police departments of cities in the county will be helping to enforce the legal ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo also spoke at the press conference, offering his city's backing of the health department's latest move.

"We fully support today's order to protect the health and safety of our entire community," said Licccardo.

Additionally, Liccardo said he will propose a temporary moratorium on evictions in the city at Tuesday's city council meeting to offer a break to workers who may be suffering from the outbreak.

There were concerns Monday about how the ban would affect San Jose Sharks and Earthquakes pro sporting events.

Jim Sparaco, Director of Public Relations for the SAP Center, where the Sharks play, released this statement Monday night: "SAP Center at San Jose is aware of the County of Santa Clara's Public Health Department order to prohibit public and private mass gatherings through the end of March. We will adhere to the mandated guidelines. No events are scheduled at SAP Center until Tues., March 17. We will be reviewing each scheduled event due to take place for the rest of the month and provide an update in the coming days. We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans, guests and partners during this unprecedented time."

Team San Jose, an organization that operates many venues in downtown San Jose, said, "We are working with our clients in the city of San Jose to ensure public safety as best we can.  We are navigating this and will keep you posted."

Before the ban, motivational speaker Tony Robbins had canceled his three-day event planned for this week at SAP Center, also due to the global coronavirus concerns.

The Santa Clara County Health Department later created a frequently asked questions page on the Santa Clara County website to provide additional information.

Earlier Monday, officials issued a release about the first death from coronavirus in the greater Bay Area.

Santa Clara County officials confirmed the patient who died was an adult female in her 60 who had been hospitalized for several weeks. The woman was the third case of COVID-19 reported by the County Public Health Department on February 28, according to officials.



The woman also was the first person in Santa Clara County confirmed to be infected with coronavirus without any known history of international travel or contact with a traveler or infected person, suggesting she contracted the virus through community contact.

The patient died at El Camino Hospital Monday morning. The Public Health Department offered its condolences to the patient's family and friends.

"This is a tragic development. The Public Health Department is taking necessary, carefully considered steps to slow down the spread of the disease and to protect those at greatest risk," said Dr. Cody. "We are facing a historic public health challenge and know this is a very difficult time. Our top priority continues to be protecting the health of our community."

Health officials repeated that it is critical for individuals and organizations in the county take action to slow the spread of the virus by following all applicable guidance and recommendations from the Public Health Department. The department is currently reviewing possible new recommendations and direction as it is issued.

"A lot of people are paranoid about it, but I'm trying to just make the best of it and not stress myself out too much, but take necessary precautions," said Tyler Harlow of Castro Valley. "And what not, but still trying to keep life going."

Josh Messinger works as a food runner at a downtown San Jose pub.

"I feel like it brings us a lot of money when all those events are here. Without those, I feel like we don't really make that money and it's slow here," he said.

The Santa Clara County Department of Public Health is working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State of California Department of Public Health and other partners as the new coronavirus situation continues to develop.

Additional information and the Public Health Department's and CDC's guidance and recommendations is available will be updated as soon as possible on the department's website.

Also on Monday, further down the coast, Santa Cruz County confirmed a second case of the virus.

According to Santa Cruz County public health officials, the patient had recently traveled back from Seattle and likely contracted the virus during their travels. The case was confirmed on March 8, and the county released a statement on Monday.

"Unfortunately, this new case confirms that COVID-19 is present in our community and is not an isolated case," Dr. Gail Newel, Santa Cruz County health officer, said in a statement. "I urge all community members to take steps to protect themselves and their families."

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