Silicon Valley Bans Gatherings of 1,000 or More Over Coronavirus

March 10, 2020 Updated: March 10, 2020

A large county in California that includes Silicon Valley banned mass gatherings of 1,000 or more people over the new coronavirus.

Santa Clara County has 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease the new virus causes, including one death. It’s the highest number of cases in California and includes one of the largest clusters in the country.

“We are clearly facing a historic public health challenge,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, said at a press conference Monday night. “The number and type of cases to date indicate that the risk of exposure to this virus in our community is increasing.”

“Of note, we’ve seen a rapid increase in cases not linked to travel or known confirmed cases of COVID-19,” she added, with 32 new cases announced in the last week alone.

The San Jose Sharks, a professional hockey team that is based in the county, said in a statement that it would adhere to the mandated guidelines. The San Jose Earthquakes, a professional soccer team in the area, said that it supports the announcement and would comply immediately. Stanford University announced before the order was issued that it was moving classes online in part because a faculty member tested positive for the virus. School officials had also said scheduled NCAA Tournament basketball games would be limited to about one-third the venue’s capacity but not be canceled for now.

Santa Clara County’s legal order says that a violation or failure to comply is a crime “punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.” The order goes into effect on March 11 and continues through March 31.

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Evander Kane #9 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins at SAP Center in San Jose, California, on Feb. 29, 2020. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The order “is based on evidence of increasing transmission of COVID-19 within the County” and on science that shows mass gatherings can facilitate the spread of the new virus. Canceling mass gatherings will reduce the likelihood of the spread of the virus and help preserve healthcare capacity, it says.

Mass gatherings don’t include operations at airports, shopping malls and centers, or other spaces where 1,000 or more persons may be in transit.

Officials are also strongly urging the cancellation or postponement of gatherings or community events “where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.”

Updated guidance from the county also advises workplaces to make sure employees who are sick don’t come to work, suspend nonessential travel by employees, and minimize the number of workers working within arm’s length of one another.

All large in-person meetings and conferences should be canceled or be held via telephone or video conference.

People who are older or those who have underlying health conditions should stay home as much as possible, avoid traveling on cruises and airplanes, and stay away from gatherings, the county said.

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A person walks past archways during a quiet morning at Stanford University in Stanford, California, on March 9, 2020. (Philip Pacheco/Getty Images)

Schools at this time aren’t being closed but teachers and staff who are sick were told to stay home and administrators were asked to stagger recess times to limit the number of students who are together and consider not holding assemblies and large-scale sporting events.

Experts recommend people take steps to prevent the spread of the new virus, including frequently washing hands, regularly cleaning objects and surfaces, and avoiding sick people.

Of the 43 people sick in Santa Clara County, the county’s health department said, 21 are currently hospitalized and 10 are in the intensive care unit at hospitals. The median age of those who are ill and hospitalized is 66, with the youngest person being 20, while the median age of those who aren’t hospitalized is 47, with the youngest person being 26.

Twenty-one of the patients are believed to have been infected by others in the community. Another 14 were close contacts of a known case. The other eight traveled internationally to places the virus was spreading.

The first death in the county was announced earlier Monday. The woman in her 60s had underlying medical conditions.

Other large clusters of cases have been detected in Kirkland, Washington, and Westchester County, New York. Nineteen people linked to the Life Care Center of Kirkland have died from the virus, accounting for most of the deaths from COVID-19 in the United States.

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