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COVID-19: Santa Clara County Leaders Urge Lunar New Year Celebrants To Comply With Health Orders

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (KPIX 5/BCN) -- Santa Clara County took its message of holiday safety ahead of the Vietnamese Lunar Year, directly in the heart of Little Saigon, by delivering remarks at Grand Century Mall in East San Jose.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody delivered the traditional new year's greeting in Vietnamese.

"We are here to say 'Chúc Mừng Năm Mới', and to please celebrate this Lunar New Year safely," said Cody.

Lunar New Year, also known as Tet, is one of the most important celebrations in Vietnamese culture. Tet celebrations typically involve large family gatherings, a practice that county officials are urging the community to avoid this holiday weekend.

In Santa Clara County, home to the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam, Asians make up 16.4% of COVID-19 cases, but make up 35.7% of the population. Vietnamese Americans made up 28 percent of COVID-19 cases among Asian Americans between June 1 and Dec. 3, yet they make up 19 percent of the population of Asian Americans in the county, according to the county's public health department.

"And this sacrifice, even though I know is extremely difficult for us, will afford us the opportunity for many more years in the future to celebrate together," said Dr. Phuong Nguyen, Chief Medical Officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

In advance of the holiday, the county's Health and Business Engagement team has been going to door to door, visiting stores, restaurants, temples, and homes to remind the Vietnamese community of the health order, and help them fill out forms to stay in compliance.

Sam Nguyen, one of the team members, said his visits have yielded mostly positive feedback.

"The majority are willing to follow the rules. Also because they are afraid of catching COVID, or passing it on to their older family members. So I have very high faith that they will follow them," said Nguyen.

County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said most Buddhist temples have agreed to scale back events and adhere to the 20% limitation on indoor services.

"This weekend, please, please celebrate only with the people you live with," said Chavez.

Since at least the early 2010s, Grand Century Mall has drawn thousands annually over the three-day holiday who come to the main entrance to set off illegal fireworks, including mortars, rockets, and other high explosives. Mall management said their will be increased security this year, with the addition of two police patrol cars positioned in the front near the main fountain, and possibly two more patrol cars stationed at the rear entrance.

"That's the bottom line, we not allow fireworks to be on-site. However, there's no way that we can control them. Can you give me idea on how to control them?" said Adelina Garcia, the mall's on-site manager.

San Jose resident Hannibal Tran planned to scale back family celebrations, and resort to Zoom calls with relatives.

"It's really difficult, but we have to try our best," said Tran.

Phap Tang fears catching the virus, and would resist seeing his grandchildren this year.

"Of course I'm sad, but I don't know where to else to go," said Tang

The county has seen a steady decrease in case counts, hospitalizations and deaths, but major holidays have subsequently resulted in COVID-19 spikes.

"We saw a spike after Thanksgiving, we saw a spike after Christmas, and we do not want to see a spike after Lunar New Year," Betty Duong, County Public Information Officer said.

Officials said progress in vaccination and the decrease in coronavirus cases do not mean the county is immune from another spike.

Santa Clara County will be holding a virtual celebration on Friday. Those interested can call Supervisor Cindy Chavez's office at (408) 930-9543 to get the access link.


© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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