Coronavirus Impact: Santa Clara Co. proposal would allow more employees to work from home after pandemic

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A proposal going before the Santa Clara County board of supervisors would ask businesses to increase the number of employees who work remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's estimated that more than 100,000 people in this county drive more than three hours to get to and from work on a normal day. This proposal aims to change that.

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Board president Cindy Chavez is laying the groundwork for what some are calling a visionary plan.

"Let's be as creative and innovative as we can. Let's not let all the suffering that we've had for the last eight weeks go to waste," she said.

After the COVID-19 pandemic is over, Chavez is looking for a commute-free commitment from large Silicon Valley companies, when and where it's possible.

The proposal would start with the 22,000 employees county-wide, and if approved by the board, departments would be asked to look at ways to support as much telecommuting as possible.

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"I didn't realize how quickly and how dramatically it would reduce the pollutant levels that we're all exposed to," said Prof. Eugene Cordero, Ph.D., who works in San Jose State's Dept. of Meteorology and Climate Science.

SJSU officials have seen a drop in black carbon aerosol, which are superfine particles that are suspended in the atmosphere that contribute to air pollution and health issues.
Some days have seen a drop by as much as 75-percent compared to normal.

"Supervisor Chavez has provided us with a clue here as to 'oh, maybe we can rethink the workplace environment' and that could dramatically impact how clean the air is for us."

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The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a diverse public policy organization representing more than 350 companies, supports the idea and says the more participation the business sector can have in formulating the plan, the more it'll be embraced by others.

"We have a lot of businesses that understand that this could dramatically increase the quality of life for the people who work for them and make sure that all of us have much more time to spend with our families," Chavez said.

The proposal goes before the county board of supervisors Tuesday morning.

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