Santa Clara County issued over 75 business fines for COVID-19 regulation violations

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 28, 2020: Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer and Director County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, spoke to journalists about the third case of COVID-19 virus in Santa Clara County which isnt related to any other cas

Santa Clara County tallied a record 512 COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period the day before Thanksgiving, and wasted no time cracking down on businesses violating health orders.

As of Nov. 27, Santa Clara County had 32,985 COVID-19 cases and 476 deaths. In addition, 222 people were hospitalized with the virus. Of these, 68 were in intensive care units and 193 out of 624 ventilators were in use.

The soaring case rate raised alarm among health officials as hospitals braced to admit more patients.

"We are really, really concerned," said COVID-19 Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib. "All of the metrics that we have been following that have done well in previous months have gone up very steeply."

In July, amid a previous surge, the highest case rate the county recorded was 385 cases in a single day.

"We do not want to be in a place where we see the kinds of challenges in our hospitals that unfortunately some communities elsewhere in the United States and around the world have had to deal with," said County Counsel James Williams.

Officials imposed immediate fines to businesses over Thanksgiving weekend for violating the health order. The county stripped away its grace period for businesses to fix issues before being fined and promised to crack down. And it did.

As of noon Nov. 27, the county had issued 76 fines to local businesses. The primary violations were failing to submit and post revised rules about social distancing.

A county spokesperson said businesses will have 30 days to pay a fine and business compliance officers will never ask for money upfront. Officers will have on yellow vests and produce identification.

Meanwhile, the county plans to offer appointment-only COVID-19 testing next week in Los Gatos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell and Palo Alto and will offer flu shots at the same time.

Walk-up testing is available in San Jose and Gilroy next week but flu shots will only be at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose.

The fairgrounds will also be the only testing site open on Nov. 29 during Thanksgiving weekend.

Fenstersheib emphasized people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 need to get tested, especially if they are in close contact with family members and co-workers.

"New studies have shown that a majority of transmissions are caused by people who are asymptomatic and likely don't know that they are potentially spreading the disease to family, co-workers and anyone they come in contact with," Fenstersheib said. "They need to know they have the virus so they can isolate and break the transmission chain, even if they don't feel sick."

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight.