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Coronavirus Guidance March 13, 2020

Legal Prohibition on Gatherings of More than 100 People

The County Health Officer issued an order, effective at 12:00 a.m. on March 14, 2020, prohibiting public or private gatherings of more than 100 people.

The County Health Officer has also banned gatherings of 35 to 100 people unless certain conditions are met.

A “gathering” is any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, theater, restaurant, bar, or any other confined indoor or confined outdoor space.

A “gathering” does not include normal operations at airports or spaces where persons may be in transit. It also does not include office environments; classrooms; medical offices, hospitals, or clinics; or retail, pharmacy, or grocery stores where large numbers of people may be present, but it is unusual for them to be within arm’s length of one another.

Immediately Halt Gatherings of 35 to 100 People

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is making its strongest call to all county residents to immediately cancel or postpone all gatherings and community events with 35 to 100 people.

If a gathering is necessary for essential societal functions, it is your responsibility to:

  • Stop anyone who is sick with fever or respiratory symptoms from attending.
  • Ensure that those who are at higher risk for serious illness do not attend.
  • Provide people enough physical space so that they can stay more than arm’s length apart from others.
  • Ensure that there are adequate supplies for hand washing including soap, paper towels, and waste receptacles and urge attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used.
  • Direct attendees to:
    • Avoid close contact with other people.
    • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue - if available - or into their elbow.
  • Clean surfaces with disinfecting wipes or other standard cleaners before, during, and after the event.

Statement on Public School Closure in the County 

The County Superintendent of Schools and all district superintendents in the County have decided to close public schools to students for three weeks beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. This public school closure is designed to provide schools with the time needed to create long-term plans to operate in ways that facilitate social distancing, provide all necessary hygiene and cleaning supplies, ensure adequate staff time and resources to follow public health guidance, and create plans to address the possibility that a significant portion of their staff will need to stay home sick if they contract COVID-19. We support the decision to close in order to facilitate these planning efforts.

Because we hope to slow the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” of transmission in our community to not overwhelm healthcare facilities, COVID-19 may be present in our community for months to come. We urge schools to get plans in place quickly to operate in a manner that complies with all applicable public health guidance, so that they can reopen as soon as they are able to do so. 

The negative effects of school closure on children, families, and communities are significant, and children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus. As much as possible, children should be allowed to carry on with their education and normal activities. School closure also removes parents from the work force, including those who provide essential services. 

We will continue to work in close partnership with the County Office of Education and local school districts to support the children, parents, and essential workforce of Santa Clara County.

Guidance for All Schools in Light of Closure:

The County Office of Education and local school districts are working to provide support to students and families during the period they are closed. Even when closed, we expect schools to do all they can to:

  • Continue to provide free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch to all eligible students;
  • Continue to provide academic instruction to students who are at home, including those who have no access to the internet, computers, or school supplies;
  • Provide parents with resources to appropriately support the education, development, and wellbeing of students; and
  • Provide families with resources regarding access to emergency childcare, particularly in families where parents are healthcare providers or are otherwise providing essential services to the community.

Information for non-public schools, preschools, childcare or other learning programs

The County Superintendent of Schools and the superintendents of each public school district in the County has closed its schools to students for three weeks for the purpose of creating long-term plans to operate in ways that will facilitate social distancing, provide all necessary hygiene and cleaning supplies, ensure adequate staff time and resources to follow public health guidance, and create plans in the event of significant staff shortage due to illness.

Other schools, preschools, and childcare providers in the County may choose to remain open. If a staff member or student at one of those schools or childcare centers is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Public Health Department will consider, based on the specific facts and circumstances of that case, whether closure of that school, preschool or child-care facility is warranted.

The negative effects of the closure of such facilities for children, families, and communities are significant, and children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus.

Actions to Take

We encourage all school and child-care facility officials to carefully review and follow the CDC’s guidance for schools and childcare centers, as well as our recommendations for canceling certain gatherings and events that apply to these facilities, as well as our general guidance and orders.

Some children have underlying health conditions, such as severely weakened immune systems, that put them at higher risk. Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home from school or child care.

Schools and child-care facilities are responsible for taking the following steps:

  • Teachers and staff with any fever and/or respiratory symptoms should not come to work. Teachers and staff should self-screen (i.e., check themselves for subjective fever and/or respiratory symptoms such as cough) for symptoms each morning before interacting with children.
  • Ensure sick leave policies that allow teachers and staff to stay home if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
  • Implement staggered recess times to limit the number of children who are together; and, if possible, group recess by classrooms to reduce opportunities for mixing.
  • Consider alternatives to group programming within the facility including any large or communal activities such as assemblies and sporting events. Alternate approaches which limit close contact may include conducting assemblies via webcasts or intercom announcement and limiting the number of spectators who can attend sporting events.
  • Limit visitors to the facility by not allowing those with symptoms of fever and/or respiratory infection.

Stay home if sick

All children and staff should stay home if they feel sick. Make sure that your facility’s sick leave/attendance policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that children/staff are aware of these policies. Don’t require sick employees to have doctors’ notes as healthcare offices may be very busy and unable to provide that documentation right away.

Regular cleaning

Exposure is thought to mostly occur through respiratory droplets but surfaces can still transfer the virus from person to person. Frequently touched surfaces should be regularly cleaned. Doorknobs, tabletops, counters, phones, keyboards and fixtures should be disinfected several times throughout the day. Cleaning is especially important for classroom and childcare environments where desks and tables are shared. 

Updated Guidance for Workplaces and Businesses

Employers are responsible for taking steps to make it more feasible for their employees to work in ways that minimize close contact with large numbers of people. This guidance is designed to both protect employees and all members of the public with whom they come into contact at work.

Employers should immediately:

  • Ensure employees who are sick do not come to work.
  • Suspend nonessential employee travel.
  • Minimize the number of employees working within arm's length of one another.
  • Cancel all large in-person meetings and conferences, or hold them via telephone or video conference.
  • Maximize flexibility in granting sick leave so that sick employees are able to stay home.
  • For service/retail industries, ensure updated procedures and protocols for frequent hand washing/sanitizing; enhance cleaning of high-touch surfaces and items with disinfecting wipes and other standard cleaners; ensure adequate supply of soap and paper towels; ensure frequent emptying of waste bins; and post signage regarding these procedures for staff and patrons.
  • Stop requiring a doctor's note for sick employees, as healthcare offices may be very busy and unable to provide that documentation right away.
  • Implement telecommuting options wherever feasible.
  • Stagger days of the week and start and end times if it will reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.

County of Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health
Notice to Food Facilities COVID-19 [PDF]  - March 13, 2020
Letter to Food Facilities Permit Holders [PDF] - March 13, 2020

Updated Guidance for People at Higher Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness

The County Public Health Department strongly urges persons at higher risk of severe illness to:

  • Stay at home as much as possible. Walking outside is acceptable as long as social distancing is maintained.
  • Do not attend any gathering of more than 10 people.
  • Do not travel on airplanes or cruises. Also avoid airports, train stations, bus stations, and other forms of public transportation, as much as possible.
  • Those at higher risk include:
    • People, regardless of age, with underlying health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, lung diseases like COPD, blood disorders, kidney or liver disease, as well as those with severely weakened immune systems.
    • Older adults. The risk begins to increase over 50 and increases significantly with age, with persons over age 70 and 80 in the highest risk categories.
  • Alternate approaches which limit close contact may include conducting assemblies via webcasts or intercom announcement and limiting the number of spectators who can attend sporting events.
  • Limit visitors to the school by not allowing those with symptoms of fever and/or respiratory infection.

Guidance for People Who are Sick

Stay home when you are sick. Do not go out in public when you are sick and, especially, do not visit long-term care facilities, nursing homes, or hospitals (unless you are seeking care yourself). Avoid medical settings in general unless necessary. And avoid those who are at higher risk of severe illness.  If you are ill with fever, cough, or trouble breathing, call your doctor's office first before going and let them know your symptoms.

Guidance for the General Public

  • Even if you are not ill, do not visit hospitals, long term care facilities, or nursing homes, or other settings with higher-risk populations. If you do need to visit one of these facilities, limit your time there and keep 6 feet away from all patients and employees of the facility at all times.
  • Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms such as cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first for instructions.
  • If you are sick, stay home and away from others in your household to the degree you are able.
  • Practice excellent personal hygiene habits including washing your hands with soap and water frequently, and coughing into a tissue or your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you've just washed your hands.
  • Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are at higher risk for serious illness.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
  • Follow CDC's recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).

Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health's website and social media pages:

Public Health Website: http://www.sccphd.org/coronavirus
Public Health Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sccpublichealth
Public Health Instagram: @scc_publichealth
Public Health Twitter: @HealthySCC

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Last updated: 4/2/2020 12:51 PM