Shelter in place working as County launches hotline to aid local workers

“We have reason for cautious optimism”

That was the message Tuesday from Santa Clara County’s top health official, Dr. Sara Cody.

“We are making the progress and slowing things down in the way that we anticipated we would with this shelter in place order,” Cody said at a press conference in San Jose.

It came as the county’s number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise at a stable rate, but not at the exponential-level seen in other parts of the country. As of Monday, 1,666 county residents had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Cody cautioned that progress did not necessarily mean a quick end to sheltering in place.

“I want to emphasize that we by no means out of the woods,” she said.

“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.”

Cody did outline items her team has been working on to prepare for the eventual easing of shelter-in-place orders. It included a robust supply of personal protective equipment for hospital and medical staff. Testing, case investigation, and contact tracing are also critical facets, which are both labor and resource intensive. Investigation and tracing were hallmarks of the county’s early approach to the virus, but there are too many new cases each day at this point for it to be successful.

While County Health Officers, including Dr. Cody, will have the final say in lifting any restrictions – contrary to President Trump’s claim at the White House Monday night that he could reopen the country – they are doing so in a coordinated manner with other regional and state leaders. Governor Newsom announced a coordinated approach Tuesday with the Governors of Oregon and Washington.

Hotlines to help impacted workers

Workers and families across the West Valley are facing increasingly difficult economic challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, Santa Clara County announced a new set of resources for workers. Both are in partnership with the Fair Workplace Collaborative.

“We know that a lot of people are experiencing this level of unemployment or underemployment for the first time in their lives and we want to be responsive,” said Betty Duong of the County’s Office of Labor Enforcement.

One hotline – available at 408-809-2124 – will connect workers to resources. It is newly launched and will facilitate social safety net resources, unemployment claims, and legal assistance. English, Spanish, and Vietnamese service is available. Those needing support should call the hotline and leave a message. Caseworkers will return their calls within 24 hours, according to the county’s announcement.

Unemployment benefits have been extended to 39 weeks, including an extra $600 per week. Gig and contract workers are also now eligible.

The second is the Fair Workplace Collaborative’s legal advice line. Employment law attorneys are staffing the line speaking English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. They can assist with workplace issues including discrimination, wage theft, and family leave. To access it, call 866-870-7725.

Both hotlines are free to the public. Impacted workers can also visit the Department’s website here for assistance.