Coronavirus Crisis: Santa Clara County's Dr. Cody explains what needs to happen to lift shelter-in-place

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody, one of the first to sound the alarm about the outbreak of novel coronavirus in the Bay Area, gave an update on the region's fight against the virus Tuesday.

Dr. Cody started her address with a message of cautious optimism, saying the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County is "somewhat stable" at 50 to 100 per day.

"We are not out of the woods but we're making the progress and slowing things down," she said. Dr. Cody credited the county's one-month-long shelter-in-place orders for curbing the rapid spread of the virus.

That being said, Dr. Cody warned it would be a long road to fully reopening.

"We're still probably at the beginning of what is going to be a very long marathon here in the county, across the region and indeed across the country."

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Dr. Cody outlined three criteria that need to be met before moving toward reopening society and the economy: ensuring hospitals have enough capacity (including beds, staff, and personal protective equipment) to treat the virus, more widespread testing, and extensive contact tracing.

"We're a month in and we need to keep at it a bit longer," said Dr. Cody. "If we just lifted the shelter-in-place and went back to business, we'd be back where we were very quickly."

As the state of laid out its plan for gradually lifting the state lockdown, Gov. Gavin Newsom made it clear that county health officers would continue to make their own decisions based on the conditions they're seeing at the local level.

So, in California, county health officers have quite a bit of authority to do what's necessary to protect the health of the public.

"We really need to understand our lab testing capacity, our PPE supply, as well as our staffing and resources for case and contact investigation," said Cody.

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The county recently issued an order for businesses and individuals with large inventories of PPE to report their numbers by April 15th so that officials can have a better understanding of what can be sourced locally. As for testing, public and private labs are now required to report all results back to the county, not just positive cases.

Cody added, "By sifting through our data is to understand: are there populations at greater risk and are there are places or communities in our county where the virus is circulating and amplifying more quickly than other places? That's really the key question."
This comes as the economy takes a beating because of the novel coronavirus crisis. San Jose State University strategic management professor Robert Chapman Wood says the area's economic inequality is now on greater display.

"The challenge of getting more of Silicon Valley, more of Santa Clara County back to work is very urgent," said Wood. "There's a real danger that we'll get into overregulating during the reopening as well and that can be a new driver of more poverty and more homelessness."

But as challenging as this has been for local families, many say sheltering-in-place remains the right thing to do.

"It should definitely continue for as long as they feel this is needed," said San Jose resident Lauren Voydat. "I'm definitely willing to do my part and stay home."

WATCH: Santa Clara County's Dr. Cody lays out next steps in COVID-19 fight
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Santa Clara County's leading novel coronavirus expert is offering her thoughts on the battle against COVID-19.



When asked if Santa Clara County would order residents to wear masks outside their homes, as Sonoma County will do starting Friday, Dr. Cody said for now the county is strongly recommending people wear some sort of face covering. She said the county was being careful not to encourage the widespread use of medical-grade masks in order to ensure there would be enough for hospital workers. As she ended her address, Dr. Cody put on a cloth face mask and left the podium.
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