Santa Clara County sees sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases, urges public to follow safety guidelines

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- With the holidays fast approaching, Santa Clara County health officials are on high alert after seeing a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases and are urging the public to do its part to help reduce the spread of the disease by following safety guidelines such as wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings with members outside of your household.

"The rate of change has been very steep and that is a concern," said Dr. Sara Cody, the county's public health officer. "We've seen this before and it got us into trouble."

County leaders say 358 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Sunday, just shy of the daily peak of 385 in mid-July. This comes as more cases are being reported across California, which could have devastating health and economic ramifications.

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"We'll see some counties moving backward," said Gov. Gavin Newsom, ahead of the state health department's Tuesday briefing in which county statuses are announced as part of the reopening framework. "This is exactly why we designed the tier status, the way we did was about being more and less restrictive not based upon political whim, but based upon the data, based upon the epidemiology, based upon the facts on the ground."

Although the majority of businesses countywide have followed COVID-19 prevention mandates, a small number have willfully ignored educational outreach. The county has responded to more than 1,800 complaints of non-compliance, resulting in nearly $600,000 in fines being assessed since late August.

"The last thing anybody wants to do when businesses are struggling is to continue to have to pay, but the reality is we have to have a mechanism in place that encourages good behavior," said Michael Balliet, county environmental health director.

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California's cases aren't peaking at the moment, but there are signs that coronavirus is starting to spread more quickly in the state.

Ten Bay Area counties are now asking the public to avoid traveling during the holidays.

If you intend to leave, officials are strongly recommending that you self-quarantine for 14-days after your return, if your activities put you at higher risk of getting the virus.

"Science is important, right?" said Dr. Aruna Subramanian, an infectious disease expert and clinical professor at Stanford School of Medicine. "We know how to limit the spread of coronavirus, and we all have to do our part together. We can't just think of ourselves. We have to think of the whole community and those who are vulnerable."

But with pandemic fatigue setting in for many, health officials say they'll continue to hammer home their point as much as possible.

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Cody added, "This virus is not going to stay in one community. This virus is going to spread. That's what this virus does."

Businesses that are not following safety protocols should be reported here.

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