Once hardest hit Bay Area County sees 'worrisome' rise in new COVID-19 cases

SANTA CLARA COUNTY., Calif. (KGO) -- Reopening is causing a "worrisome" rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Santa Clara County. The update was provided by the county's top public health official on Tuesday.

Dr. Sara Cody spoke at the County Board of Supervisors meeting, adding, "None of us want to be forced to return to a full shelter-in-place."

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She compared the spread of the virus to a wildfire, telling Supervisors, "Once COVID transmission begins to accelerate, it is very, very difficult to contain and to slow down. And I think that's what we're seeing in many parts of the country."

As many states continue to lift restrictions, Dr. Cody reviewed how the County's caseload has been impacted.

She explained the county reopened construction and some outdoor recreation on May 4.

Cody detailed that on May 12, the county started to see cases associated with workplaces.

She said on May 22, the county opened curbside retail, logistics, manufacturing and additional outdoor activities. On June 5, outdoor dining, indoor retail, and additional activities were green lighted throughout the county.

On Tuesday, the once hardest hit Bay Area County reported 122 cases.

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Cody told county leaders, the day brought the second largest number of cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began.

As businesses continue to open their doors, she confirms there seems to be an increase in positive cases at work places.

Recent work site investigations by the county found that since May 25, 89 sites had reported at least one case of COVID-19.

A graphic presented by Dr. Cody showed 38-percent of those cases were tied to construction sites. This was the first sector to reopen after the county-wide shelter-in-place.

"I don't want my industry to be the bearer of an issue or a spike," Bryan Atwater told ABC7 News. "I want us to be doing the right thing."

Atwater is the general counsel for Davis Reed Construction Inc.

The company shut down its Mountain View site near Google headquarters after ten subcontractors tested positive for the virus.

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"From our records, it was six people," Atwater said. "And obviously, four more reported directly to the county."

He confirmed 30 more had potentially been exposed.

"There was no additional positive results from anybody else," he told ABC7 News. "We encouraged everybody to go seek medical attention and get tested. We sanitized the areas the workers were in, and we shut down the site while we did all that."

The next step for Davis Reed would be to reopen after the site is properly cleaned, and after they've received results from anyone else who may have come into contact with those individuals.

"We want to be working. We want the building to be completed for the community and for the owners," Atwater added. "We want all the subcontractors to be able to go to work. We don't want any positive cases, obviously."

According to Atwater, the company was making sure workers remained six-feet apart, they had proper Personal Protective Equipment, their temperatures were checked, and they had extra cleaning stations all over the site.

"I wouldn't say we took extra precautions, but we were at the forefront of putting in the proper precautions and helping draft extensive policies on how to put together the checklist of what people should be wearing," Atwater continued. "The protocols they should go through to keep everybody as safe as possible."

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He said the company worked with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), CAL/OSHA, and the Association of General Contractors during that process.

"There's a lot of people on site," he added. "Even the best precautions, I think this is going to happen sometimes."

Atwater said, depending on the day, there could be anywhere between 30 to 80 subcontractors at the Mountain View site, plus another 5 Davis Reed employees.

On Tuesday, Dr. Cody also revealed that of the county's documented outbreaks, 54-percent have been in the construction sector.

"We don't yet know, to be honest, whether these outbreaks involve a failure to follow the protocols, or occurred in spite of following the protocols," Cody said. "But I think it's just important that there seems to be an increase in worksites with workers testing positive."

Information presented to County Supervisors by Dr. Cody also showed the food service sector, retail stores and food processing plants also reported an increase in cases since May 25.

According to Cody, the development and the hospitalization surge moved the county back onto California's monitoring list.

To review Santa Clara County's COVID-19 Case Dashboard, click here.

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