By Tim Hunt
Alameda County and state to deny mayors' request for earlier re-openingUploaded: Jun 14, 2020
The logical request of the Livermore Valley’s three mayors and Supervisor Scott Haggerty to move ahead with re-opening the economy here earlier than the rest of the county is not going to advance.
During Supervisor Nate Miley’s virtual community meeting Thursday evening, Tona Henninger, Miley’s chief of staff, reported that the state of California will not allow counties to be split up. That is also the position of the county health department and a view that Miley holds.
Perhaps a decision at the state level as well as the county that demonstrates how out-of-touch decision-makers there are with situations on the ground. Think of the foothill counties that span from Folsom all the way to Lake Tahoe. The issues in the bedroom community of El Dorado Hills are far different than those in tourist-oriented South Lake Tahoe (it re-opened for tourists on Friday).
The mayors pointed out that the area has low levels of positive cases (1.5%), has a strong testing program at the fairgrounds through a partnership with Stanford ValleyCare and residents traveled freely to Contra Costa County. The county line is literally across the street in Dublin and San Ramon. Contra Costa is farther along in Phase 2 with outdoor dining permitted as well as outdoor gatherings of up to 100 for religious services, dog parks and swimming pools.
Barring some reversal by the state, Alameda County, as a whole, will move into phase 2 with outdoor dining permitted, all retail, limited religious services on June 19. During the Thursday meeting, Miley alluded to the re-opening and said a revised health order would be coming the next day. Alameda County health officials plan to re-open in two to four increments “based upon the data.” That’s a problem that the local mayors cited because the data in the Livermore Valley and the adjoining San Ramon Valley clearly allows a more rapid progress is in order.
Contra Costa is due to open hair salons and barber shops this Friday, while that’s not in Alameda County’s plan for another two to four weeks. That will invite Livermore Valley residents, particularly those without a favorite barber or hairdresser to venture up I-680 for a major trim. So much for the county’s desired social bubbles (a group of up to 12 people that you can routinely hang around with—socially distanced for three weeks at a time).
The opening in Alameda County prompted questions from two Pleasanton City Council members who were on the call: Vice-Mayor Kathy Narum and Councilwoman Julie Testa. Narum pointed out that you only need to look at Facebook to see how many locals were headed across the county line for dining. Incidentally, Miley made a point of saying he is avoided publicly commenting on the health order, but was working in private on the issues.
Narum said the city was actively considering closing Main Street to create more space for outdoor dining. Miley said he thought closing off Main Street for a return to First Wednesday was a great idea. For instance, take Strizzi’s, the pioneer downtown on outdoor dining. It has four tables within its narrow, fenced sidewalk area—that will be two when there’s appropriate distance between tables.
Expanding that space into the street would allow additional seating and the opportunity to have accommodate enough diners to perhaps operate profitably. And, given that it will probably be a summer/fall activity, presumably restauranteurs would want to rent tables and chairs instead of purchasing them.
Testa pushed hard for county data on the number or percentage of asymptomatic cases as well as how much lower the number of cases were in the Tri-Valley compared to elsewhere in the county.
It’s a familiar problem for the Livermore Valley. East county readily gets ignored because Oakland and Berkeley dominate the conversation at the county level. It’s been better with two supervisors representing the valley, but that doesn’t readily carry over to the bureaucrats.
One place the Livermore Valley is in great shape is hospital capacity at Stanford ValleyCare to handle a surge. CEO Rich Shumway said that the hospital has planned so it can increase by 70% should there be a need and the facility is fine for protective equipment. Because of its affiliation with Stanford, ValleyCare also is participating in what Shumway described as “a cutting-edge clinical trial,” one of 54 sites worldwide. ValleyCare also has access to two Stanford COVID-19 tests, one with a 24-hour turn-around and another one with a 45-minute turnaround.
Given the civil unrest and protests, Miley also had representatives from the Pleasanton Police Dept. and the Highway Patrol on the call. I asked what intelligence Pleasanton Police that had led them to shutdown the roads around Stoneridge Mall Sunday and Monday evenings. Capt. Craig Eichler said that they saw on social media that vandals and looters were potentially headed here (Danville saw similar information and established a curfew), while downtown Walnut Creek and shopping centers in Pleasant Hill were openly looted (while police stood by in Walnut Creek).