How Silicon Valley became California’s epicenter of the coronavirus



a city street: California Street, usually filled with iconic cable cars, is usually seen mostly empty in San Francisco, California on March 17, 2020. - Millions of San Francisco area residents last Monday were ordered to stay home to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus as part of a lockdown effort covering a section of California including Silicon Valley.


© JOSH EDELSON/Getty Images North America/TNS
California Street, usually filled with iconic cable cars, is usually seen mostly empty in San Francisco, California on March 17, 2020. – Millions of San Francisco area residents last Monday were ordered to stay home to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus as part of a lockdown effort covering a section of California including Silicon Valley.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Silicon Valley has long driven California’s economic engine. When the coronavirus hit U.S. shores, the region also become California’s epicenter of contagion.

Authorities in Santa Clara County, where more than 2 million people live, were well aware the virus might arrive. They tried to prepare. yet without much federal help, they were unable to stop the item.

In rapid fire, Santa Clara became home to the second COVID-19 case in California along with the seventh inside United States, on Jan. 31. Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control along with Prevention confirmed of which a Santa Clara woman had become the nation’s ninth case, along with like the first, she had recently traveled through Wuhan, the epicenter of China.

yet Asian travel alone can’t be blamed for the regional outbreak. The Silicon Valley is usually packed with travelers, a byproduct of becoming the entire world’s high-tech capital, home to Apple, Google, Facebook along with various other companies. Authorities here say the infections probably had multiple origins, along with by late February, the virus was spreading through the community.

“currently is usually the time to prepare for the possibility of widespread community transmission,” the county department of public health announced after a third county resident was infected on Feb. 28

The tipping point came on March 6, when county public health authorities recommended all large gatherings be postponed.

The San Jose Sharks professional hockey team went ahead that has a home game of which evening anyway, playing before an announced attendance of more than 14,500 fans.

Infectious disease experts along with county officers were livid.

COVID-19 “clearly is usually a virus of which likes high-density populations,” said Dr. Jeffrey V. Smith, Santa Clara’s executive officer, who is usually a physician along that has a lawyer. ““of which is usually why social distancing is usually so very, very, very important.”

A few days later, the county turned its recommendation into an order. Large gatherings were banned, doing the county a trailblazer for the social distancing requirements later adopted statewide.

As of Tuesday, the virus had killed 16 people in Santa Clara, more than any various other California county. While Los Angeles currently has more cases than Santa Clara, the Silicon Valley, that has a smaller population, includes a higher infection rate.

Why did Silicon Valley become the California COVID-19 breeding ground? the item may take years for analysts to provide full answers. yet Smith, Santa Clara’s executive officer, said the virus exploded in part because the county, in real time, was unable to track along with trace its early spread.



Messages are written on boarded-up shops inside Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco California on March 17, 2020. Millions of San Francisco area residents last Monday were ordered to stay home to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus as part of a lockdown effort covering a section of California including Silicon Valley.


© JOSH EDELSON/Getty Images North America/TNS
Messages are written on boarded-up shops inside Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco California on March 17, 2020. Millions of San Francisco area residents last Monday were ordered to stay home to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus as part of a lockdown effort covering a section of California including Silicon Valley.

“Because we don’t have surveillance testing on a local level, we are in some sense flying blind,” Smith said.

along with why was the county unable to conduct such surveillance? According to Smith, the Trump administration had effectively put pandemic planning on hold, along with his county along with others were not getting the testing along with training they wanted.

“In a very real way, the item shows how our federal government has turned us into a Third World country,” said Smith, 66. Despite being at high risk of infection, he has continued reporting to the county’s emergency operations center, seven days a week.



a store filled with lots of food: SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Members of the California National Guard 115th Regional Support Group help pack boxes of onions, potatoes along with various other food at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley on March 24, 2020 in San Jose, California.


© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/TNS
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 24: Members of the California National Guard 115th Regional Support Group help pack boxes of onions, potatoes along with various other food at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley on March 24, 2020 in San Jose, California.

The novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China, in December, along with the item likely jumped across the Pacific Ocean to the Silicon Valley of which same month, Smith said.

At the time, the region was booming. According to the 2020 Silicon Valley Index, published in February, the various tech hubs in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda along with Santa Cruz counties accounted for 12% of the state’s GDP, supporting 1.7 million jobs.

“Silicon Valley continues its upward spiral, with high employment growth, record numbers of patents, eye-popping land transactions, along with venture capital flowing into record numbers of megadeals,” gushed the index report, produced by the Silicon Valley Joint Venture group.

yet as the report noted, the boom seemed “tenuous.” The region was vulnerable to skyrocketing housing prices along with income inequality. At the time, few observers might forecast of which the trickle of COVID 19 cases could turn into a torrent.

Moody’s Analytics has since ranked 403 U.S. metropolitan sites most likely to expect economic woes because of the pandemic. Santa Clara County was number 15.

of which week inside nation’s tech capital, the campuses of Apple, Google along with various other companies looked nearly empty. At Apple’s main headquarters in Cupertino on Monday, a few cars could be seen driving into the high-security entrance, with unmasked security guards checking driver’s IDs.

Silicon Valley’s tech workers may be weeping over their stock portfolios, yet they can easily work through home, unlike some inside region.

In San Jose, the “Shops of Vietnam Town” shopping complex was nearly shut down, save for a few pho shops along with various other businesses. The city is usually home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam, families who, along with others through around the entire world, help sustain Silicon Valley’s service economy.



a couple of lawn chairs sitting on top of a table: The normally packed Googleplex inside Silicon Valley city of Mountain View is usually quiet as employees were asked to work through home to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.


© GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS
The normally packed Googleplex inside Silicon Valley city of Mountain View is usually quiet as employees were asked to work through home to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Local officials suspect of which both tech workers along with service workers traveling abroad helped fuel the spread of COVID-19. In late February, authorities confirmed the nation’s first confirmed case of an infected agent with the Transportation Security Administration — at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Joe Simitian, a Santa Clara County Ssupervisor along with former state lawmaker, estimated of which nearly 70% of county households have at least one foreign-born member.

“the item is usually not all of which surprising of which if there was to be a first epicenter in California, we might be the item,” he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the county had reported 375 cases, 30 linked to international travel, 82 to close contacts with the infected along with 82 through community transmission. The number of brand new cases rises each day by double-digit figures. One day saw a jump of 67.

While those numbers appear alarming, outside specialists say the toll might be far worse if Santa Clara along with various other nearby counties hadn’t quickly worked to keep people at safe distances.

Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley expert in infectious disease, said he was “genuinely angry” the Sharks game wasn’t canceled yet said county officials quickly moved to take more aggressive measures.

“Given our lack of science along with all the emotion, I think all the Bay Area counties have handled the item well,” he said. “The county health officers, in spite of the fact of which they are horrifically underfunded, have done a very not bad job.”

The continued lack of testing capacity is usually the immediate hurdle. of which shortfall has “significantly hampered the county’s ability to monitor the epidemic, to focus mitigation measures along with to inform people of their infection status,” officials said of which week.

James Williams, the Santa Clara County counsel who is usually helping to run the emergency operations center, said the virus is usually currently “widely circulating inside community.”

“Our best thinking is usually everyone inside county is usually at risk,” Williams said Tuesday.

Because of the limited number of test kits along with lab capacity, Santa Clara County has set guidelines for prioritizing who gets tested.

The critically ill or various other high-risk individuals have highest priority, followed by healthcare workers who have symptoms along with known exposure, hospital patients who are likely to contain the disease along with residents or employees of long-term care or assisted-living facilities who have symptoms.

Trying to get a better understanding of the disease’s spread, Santa Clara along with all 5 various other Bay Area counties issued orders Tuesday to require private along with academic testing laboratories to report not only positive results yet also negative along with inconclusive findings.

Santa Clara led the region in issuing a stay-at-home order. the item is usually only a week old, along with county officials do not know yet know how effective the item will be. An infected person can take up to 14 days to suffer symptoms.

“Did we put in place enough community mitigation measures?” Williams asked. “Maybe. yet the honest truth is usually we don’t know yet.”

Williams expects he is usually likely to personally know someone who dies of the disease before the epidemic ends.

“I worry about my family,” he said, “my mother, my grandmother … Everything we are trying to do is usually to keep people we collectively love, safe.”

Beyond the economy, the stay-at-home order has unraveled the social fabric of the region, he said. Weddings have had to be postponed, funeral services delayed.

With more data, the county could adjust its measures to minimize the disruption, he said.

“We are just desperately trying to avoid being Italy,” he said.

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