In the Public Interest
Stay Safe at and Near Your Home
From Ed Shikada, Palo Alto City Manager
A message about the current public health emergency
In my report to the City Council on Monday, March 23, I shared an update on what the City is doing to ensure essential services continue during this public health emergency, and reinforced ways the community can help slow the spread of the virus by sheltering in place. I also urged community members to be kind, demonstrate self-discipline and stay connected and informed. If you missed the first ever remotely-attended/YouTube livestreamed City Council meeting, this blog provides a summary and update of my comments to keep you informed.
This is an unprecedented time for all of us. We know that sheltering in place is difficult, but we also know it will save lives. While a difficult time, I’ve seen tremendous support for our vulnerable community members, non-profit community partners, local businesses and hospitals. We are stronger together and I am proud to see a high level of community spirit during such a difficult and anxious time.
Our public safety response includes transitioning our workforce to remote work with nearly 90% of our employees (excluding essential on-site) now remote. We have closed virtually all facilities to the public, most recently playgrounds and tennis and pickleball courts, and early on last week closed community centers and libraries. Cubberley Community Center is closed, and we are working with tenants on any limited access needs. The Baylands Preserve, Arasteradero, and Foothills Park are seeing increased crowds. To ensure the community’s safety, we are implementing limitations to parking, posting signage and evaluating additional access limitations if we continue to see crowds that are contrary to State and County orders to stay home and stay close to home if you must go out. Our primary responsibility is to ensure the public’s safety, and we will do our part to slow the spread of this virus and prevent crowds from gathering and posing a risk to others.
Regarding public safety, our police officers and firefighters are on the front lines responding to medical and other calls for service. To ensure their safety, we’ve implemented protocols to reduce their potential for exposure as well as procedures for suspected exposures. We’ve activated our Emergency Operations Center, and we are using best practices to manage this emergency by responding to current issues, planning ahead for contingencies, and developing recovery plans as well.
Now that personal protective equipment or PPE has become a household word, we are very conscious of healthcare worker needs. Perhaps less visible are the needs of first responders. Our Fire Department personnel received a donation of 100 N95 masks from the Palo Alto Chinese American Community. Their donation is just one example of donations the group is making, demonstrating their spirit of community service. We thank them for their support.
At its meeting on Monday, the Council approved our recommendation that the City’s proposed budget be streamlined, while recognizing the major economic effects ahead. As data becomes available and the financial implications come into focus, the City Council and Finance Committee will be provided updates using information available at that time. The Council also delayed the potential Business Tax efforts underway and adopted a moratorium on tenant evictions. Since then, the County also approved a countywide evictions moratorium. Our City Attorney is evaluating the County’s actions as it relates to Palo Alto’s recent action. We will have more on this soon.
I am extremely proud of the City’s efforts last week to launch a Community Support Call Center. Over 29 wonderful call takers and five research librarians are supporting this initiative. Last week, they handled over 1,700 calls, connecting the community to information and answering questions about the Coronavirus emergency. The call center is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at (650) 272–3181. We are also continuing unprecedented public communications. Find the latest updates by going to our dedicated webpage at www.cityofpaloalto.org/coronavirus
With regards to connecting residents with community resources and other relief, we have developed utility rate relief programs and established a webpage to offer ways the community can help and get help. Go here for more. We also activated our emergency services volunteers to assist with outreach, provide additional eyes and ears for the Police Department, and check on neighbors to support those living alone. We are also encouraging the community to support local businesses that support the community, such as restaurants, grocery stores and pharmacies. We are also linking our local non-profit needs with volunteers in the community. For example, Downtown Streets Team needed volunteers for their food closet. We posted their needs online at www.cityofpaloalto.org/coronavirus and they have since received 10 calls from people wanting to volunteer.
I encourage the community to stay connected and be informed. We are anticipating more Coronavirus cases and I know we are not out of the woods yet. We have established and maintained multiple ways to communicate, both outbound and inbound through our community support call center, our website and daily digital newsletter, to share up-to-date information. I hope you take advantage of these resources and share them with your friends and neighbors.
As a City we are maintaining ongoing communication with Santa Clara County and our neighboring cities during this emergency. The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department is the lead agency responding to the coronavirus emergency, but we’ve established our own connections to critical partners such as Stanford University, Stanford Health, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Palo Alto Unified School District, Palo Alto Chamber, Emergency Service Volunteers network, and our local non-profit groups.
I will close with four areas I would encourage the community to focus:
-Be kind- we are in this together.
-Stay calm, stay up to date and share updates with your networks as a way to keep connected.
-Be patient as we work through these challenging times together. I know City service changes like closing playgrounds, tennis and pickleball courts and other limitations are frustrating, but they are made with your safety in mind. Thank you for your ideas, suggestions and support.
-Finally, you have choices- our safety together is based on our own personal behavior and making decisions for yourself. If it’s crowded where you are out exercising, go somewhere else. Don’t call 9–1–1 to report someone for not practicing social distancing. Talk with one another and work it out together.
We are proud to serve this community. We are stronger together. Be well and stay safe Palo Alto.