Santa Clara County expects increase in COVID-19 cases, urges continued social distancing

Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County's public health officer, announces a legal order barring all mass gatherings for the remainder of March.

Santa Clara County legislative officials on Friday urged continued social distancing as its confirmed novel coronavirus cases continue to climb.

"It's going to be challenging," Dr. Jeff Smith said at a news conference Friday. "It's not going to be pretty. Things are going to get considerably worse for a while, but we'll make it through. It's just that we have to do what we can to prevent the spread."

By Friday evening, the county had 20 deaths from the COVID-19 coronavirus disease and 574 total confirmed infected.

"Yes, you will see increased numbers because more testing is going on," Smith said.

Smith also clarified that there is currently no uniformity of testing in Santa Clara County, as private labs produce and manufacture their own tests.

This also means the county cannot conduct surveillance testing as widely as it wants to, he said, nor does the county have the authority to mandate that private and academic labs open their services for mass surveillance testing.

"Right now, it's really not important, if you want to stay healthy, to be counting numbers and trying to look at curves and looking at projections," Smith added. "What's really, really important is to stay at home, stay away from other people as much as you can. Do the social distancing because if you do it, we'll have a result like China in the sense that (the rate of confirmed cases) goes down dramatically."

Smith said the county's health officer, Dr. Sara Cody, could not attend Friday's news conference because she was speaking with other health officials throughout the region regarding next steps. 

He said Cody was discussing whether or not the county should extend its shelter in place order, but he did not offer comment on whether it would be extended.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith briefed reporters, noting five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in her deputies' ranks.

Supervisor Dave Cortese reminded citizens that they should not be gathered in groups, or be planning Easter parties as the county and the rest of the state remain under shelter orders.

And Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez urged the public to endure through the coming weeks.

"We believe the only tool that we have that is really working is social distancing," Chavez said.