This last week has been the longest month of my life. With the relentless firehose of updated COVID-19 information, shifting community expectations and rapidly-changing governmental instructions, we’ve gone from a population of residents who work at work, school at school and shop for just what’s needed to a community who works from home, schools at home and hordes toilet paper and sanitizing spray like those doomsday preppers you mock on A&E.
Lines outside of Safeway at 5:30am. People fighting over Lysol and Clorox bleach. Non-essential stores closed, Starbucks stacking their tables and chairs to avoid in-store consumption and local residents carrying a digital thermometer in their purse. (Someone else is doing that besides me, right? Anyone?) The collective weight of the evolving coronavirus pandemic has displaced our societal norms with a freakishly dystopian scene, and left us wondering what might come next in the fight against this rapidly spreading illness.
I don’t know what’s coming next, but I can tell you where we are as of Tuesday, March 17th at 8pm. Things will keep changing—the majority of this article may even be old news by the time you get your hands on this edition—but the Press Banner is going to publish updates, both in the print edition and online. Cuddle up to your pet, your significant other or your freshly disinfected iPhone, and let’s get the latest.
Internationally: Americans who are returning to the U.S. from traveling within high-risk areas are required to fly into one of just 13 international airports. The list—and additional information on restrictions being instituted by other countries—can be found at: https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-travel-restrictions.html.
Nationally: There are plenty of actions being considered and implemented, including:
• The chief of the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, has agreed to provide free testing for COVID-19, regardless of insurance coverage or the ability to pay (with thanks to tough-as-nails Southern California Representative Katie Porter for backing Redfield into a corner during a Congressional hearing that left the chief sinking into his seat).
• Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is planning to institute a payroll tax holiday, which could feed $1,000 into the pockets of every American adult within the next two weeks. Mnuchin has estimated that unemployment could reach 20% nationwide, with residents unable to afford basics like rent, food and utilities. Ideas for an additional stimulus bill are expected to be submitted to the Senate this week.
• The Senate is being told by Leader Mitch McConnell to gird their loins and pass the Coronavirus relief deal this week, after it passed the House with unanimous consent.
• Schools across the country are closing, as parents scramble to find care for their children and teachers prepare to merge into an online teaching platform.
• Social distancing is being requested, with a minimum of six feet between individuals in public spaces.
• Ohio’s governor closed voting sites due to fears of viral spread, and the most recent Democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders was held sans audience.
• All nonessential airline travel is being discouraged, and U.S. airlines are seeking over $50 billion in bailouts. Boeing is requesting over $60 billion from the U.S. government.
• Residents of Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties are being told to shelter-in-place. Essential businesses must remain open, including:
• Healthcare operations and infrastructure (hospitals, utility PG&E)
• Grocers, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, food banks, convenience stores, and other retailers selling food — including those that also sell products aside from food
• Food cultivation businesses (farming, fishing)
• Businesses or organizations providing social services, food or shelter to the needy
• Newspapers, television, radio and other media
• Gas stations and auto-related businesses, including repair shops
• Banks and financial institutions
• Hardware stores
• Plumbers, electricians, and other service providers that keep businesses running
• Shipping and mailing businesses
• Educational institutions — like schools — to provide distance learning and other essential functions
• Laundry services (laundromats, dry cleaning companies)
• Restaurants for delivery and take-out only
• Businesses that supply people with items required to work from home, or businesses that supply essential businesses with necessary supplies
• Businesses that ship groceries and supplies directly to homes
• Airlines, taxis, and private transportation services
• Home-based and residential care for seniors, adults and kids
• Legal and accounting services that keep businesses in compliance
• Childcare facilities, with certain stipulations, like only having groups of 12 kids together at a time
• Both Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties are recommending self-isolation for people over 65, and those with serious chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems.
• Gatherings of fewer than ten people are permitted, and those who are planning large events (weddings, graduations, reunions) are asked to postpone or cancel them.
• Restaurants that have remained open are permitted to offer take-out and delivery only; no dine-in option is available.
• Santa Cruz County schools (in addition to other county schools) are currently closed through March 20th, but the word on the street is that Governor Gavin Newsom is considering extending that closure thru summer. (https://abc30.com/california-governor-gavin-newsom-warns-parents-to-be-prepared-for-schools-to-not-open-until-after-summer-break/6022808/)
What can you do to help?
• Follow the recommendations of the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO) and the scientific community by practicing social distancing, staying at home as much as possible and following updated guidelines as they become available.
• Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, wipe down surfaces with virus-killing antiseptics and keep your hands away from your face.
• Stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and try to get outside each day for some sunshine and fresh air.
• If you have symptoms of coronavirus (fever of 101 degrees or higher, dry cough, shortness of breath), follow the CDC’s recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html
• For answers to frequently asked questions, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
• Finally—don’t publish alternative facts. If you see something online that you just have to post on Facebook, double-check the accuracy of the information to avoid spreading rumors and upping the panic quotient in our community.
Look—we’ve been through a lot together. Earthquakes and mudslides, power outages and closed highways. This is difficult, but strong communities are a force of nature, and by staying informed and providing support to those who need it, we’ll make it through this, too.
There is SO much more to know—we could do an entire edition on just COVID-19—but as things change, we’ll keep you updated. Be well, stay hydrated, stay at home (except for that daily dose of sunshine, exercise and Vitamin D) and wash. your. hands.