Message from the City Manager
(Updated 3/25/20 @ 9 am)
The County of San Mateo COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place (SIP) Order is in effect until April 7. The Governor’s Order does not have an end date. The County Order may be extended to match the Governor’s Order if it extends beyond April 7. Adapting to the conditions of the SIP Order will take some getting used to. Adapting to these changes with understanding, cooperation, and collaboration will help move us all through these times safely. We have a very brief, Atherton-specific set of FAQs on our COVID-19 webpage to help residents address basic questions that might arise. There are links below to broader sets of information and FAQs. This News Flash will remain up to date and accessible on the Town’s main webpage.
The City Council will be meeting on Wednesdays at 4 pm (teleconference zoom meetings) to certify the continuing existence of a local emergency and ratify any rules, regulations and changes in operations enacted by the Director of Emergency Services (the City Manager). The Town will likely be releasing information on a daily basis from various sources. I apologize for the inundated inbox, but we want to ensure that information is disseminated as quickly and as often as possible.
History of Actions
On March 13, I issued a Proclamation of Local Emergency. The Proclamation allowed the Town to take the steps necessary to protect the safety of our community and Town staff in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. These steps included streamlined purchasing to secure the resources necessary to respond in a timely manner; the implementation of rules or regulations, as needed for the protection of life or property; implementation of programs or services to protect life or property; ramping up or down of Town service delivery in response to COVID-19 social distancing protocols; and the recovery of costs related to any of these responses.
On March 18, the City Council reviewed and approved the Declaration of Local Emergency. The City Council also provided specific feedback regarding a prohibition of all construction activity. For more detail, see further below in this News Flash. All active sites have been contacted and while there has been some push back, most understood the concerns and voluntarily complied. There are a few special circumstances, health and safety related, where sites are allowed to finish up the work, but those situations are rare. Emergency construction is allowed to continue on a case-by-case basis as determined by the Building Official.
Review of Local Construction Acitivty
The City Council will periodically review the requirements under the SIP Order, local requirements under that Order and the State’s Order. Allowance of residential construction has also been prohibited in the CIty of Menlo Park and is either under review or prohibited in Portola Valley and Woodside as well. Many communities are evaluating construction projects and imposing limitations based on available resources for inspection services, the ability to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and the ability to manage activity on construction sites.
The CIty Council initiated a Builder’s Roundtable Subcommittee to assist in identifying ways that residential construction could continue should requirements under the local and County SIP Order be relaxed. These could include a limitation on the number of workers on the job site, social distancing requirements, requirements for PPE, health and safety on the job site, and the requirement that the contractor sign an authorization agreeing to abide by the requirements or face being shut down through the duration of the shelter-in-place order. The Town anticipates that any relaxation of the prohibition on construction would be self-regulating as the Town does not have the available resources to realistically conduct enforcement in this area. The City Council will meet weekly, via teleconference, to discuss the current status of the Order, the Town’s emergency response efforts, and the health of the community. These meetings will be noticed via the Town’s website and posted on the Town’s bulletin board at the Park. The public can participate remotely.
Service Delivery Expectations
Fundamental Town services continue to operate, but do so incorporating social distancing protocols that limit in-person public contact. Staff have shifted to remote access when feasible. Most programs, services, and meetings are postponed or cancelled; such as public events, community meetings, or other engagements at City Hall or the Park. The Park itself remains open, but all facilities at the Park are Closed to Public Access.
Details and protocols are subject to being ramped up or down based on staffing availability and expansion of COVID-19 emergent issues. The Town will post any changes to its COVID-19 website, here, via News Flash, and post on the Bulletin Board at Town Offices in the Park.
Changes to Operations and Activity under the Shelter in Place Order (updated 3/25/20)
The Town will comply with the San Mateo County Health Officer directive and the State’s directive. Local conditions may dictate that operations be further restricted in the Town based on local circumstances and the ability of the Town to respond or provide service support. Changes in operations became effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and will continue, at this time, through April 7, 2020. This Order is subject to extension. The full text of the County’s SIP Order is available via the following link. Residents are urged to stay informed and follow the recommended COVID-19 prevention measures and the directives from the San Mateo County Health Officer.
There is an FAQ section of the County’s website for COVID-19 and FAQ section of the County’s website on the Shelter in Place (SIP) Order that is very useful. The Town will also be aggregating FAQs for its website as well.
— All businesses with a facility in the County, except essential Businesses as defined in the Order, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County.
— All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside of a household or living unit are prohibited.
— All travel, including, but not limited to travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit, except Essential Travel and Essential Activities as defined in the Order, are prohibited.
— For the purposes of the Order, individuals may leave their residence only to perform Essential Activities, as defined in the Order.
Section 10 of the Order includes various Definitions and Exemptions. Some key areas of allowed activity are:
— Section 10(a)(i) - engaging in activities or performing tasks essential to health and safety or the health and safety of family or household (cleaning services, childcare, adult-care, etc.)
— Section 10(a)(ii) - obtaining necessary services or supplies (deliveries of food, medical supplies and equipment, etc.)
— Section 10(a)(iii) - engaging in outdoor activity, with social distancing (walking, hiking, biking, running, walking pets, etc. - largely defined as recreating from one’s own home as a starting point)
The Governor’s Office has closed the parking lots to all public parks. The rationale for doing so was to force recreational outdoor activity to be within one’s own neighborhood.
— Section 10(b) - obtaining healthcare (does not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities)
— Section 10(d) to perform emergency services - specifically emergency responders
Section 10 (f) of the Order lists out Essential Businesses that are allowed to continue operations under the Order. This area is quite broad and includes a number of support businesses - healthcare, home cleaning services, grocery stores, farmers markets, pet stores, farming, gas stations, newspapers, banks, hardware stores, educational (distance learning), laundromats, dry cleaners, restaurants (take out or delivery), essential supply businesses, home-based care, transportation, professional services, etc.
Section 10(f)(x) provides that "...plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining their safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences, essential activities and essential businesses. This is interpreted to mean work associated with maintaining the safety and sanitation of a residence. For example, plumbers and electricians for necessary repair; house cleaning for sanitation; care for at-home children or elderly, pest control for sanitation. Landscaping and/or gardening services are not considered an essential service and are not allowed. Public safety personnel will be making contact with landscaping and gardening services when observed in the community and providing them with notification of the prohibition. If these services are related to an emergent safety situation such as a failed tree or broken window, etc. these services would become necessary under maintaining the safety of a residence. Please contact your service delivery personnel and advise them of the probation.
Any activities must be done compliant with social distancing protocols. Social distancing requirements include maintaining at least 6-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.
Managing and Coping with Stress (updated 3/25/20)
Managing and coping with stress during the SIP Order will be important for us all as we move forward under these ever-changing conditions. San Mateo County Health offers help to support the wellbeing of those coping with the outbreak. The linked PDF on Coping with Stress During Infections Disease Outbreaks discusses ways to stress, stay informed, inform your friends and family, connect with the community, and reach out and help. The Town is also a partner with the Atherton Disaster and Preparedness Team (ADAPT). Each neighborhood has an ADAPT Representative that is reaching out to their respective areas to offer assistance where needed. This could be in the simple form of basic contact all the way to assisting with reaching out to friends and neighbors with needs or information. For more information on ADAPT and to find your area representative, visit the Get Ready Atherton website.
Town Meetings (updated 3/25/20)
— All Town Committee Meetings have been cancelled through April 30 (Audit & Finance, Bicycle & Pedestrian, Environmental Programs, Park and Recreation, Rail, Transportation, and Tree).
— City Council and Planning Commission Meetings are limited to essential action items only but will continue at this time. The City Council will have weekly Wednesday Special Meetings to discuss the continuing local emergency.
— City Council and Planning Commission Meetings will be conducted pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order regarding the Brown Act to allow maximum remote participation by the Public and Council/Commission.
— Special Meetings of the City Council scheduled for March 24 and April 1 are cancelled (Fire Services Issue and Budget Study Session).
Items on the City Council and Planning Commission will largely consist of essential items only for the continuation of normal operations. There will be the regular items such as minutes, check register, awards of contracts, planned land use review and approval, budget review, etc. But large items that might engender a large public engagement process will be held, if possible, until after the SIP Order is lifted. If the SIP extend into late April, staff will begin to adapt and work to accommodate larger discussion items.
Events and Activities at the Park or In the Community (updated 3/25/20)
— All organized activities at the Park are cancelled and will be rescheduled. The Park remains OPEN for non-organized recreational activities, compliant with social distancing protocols.
— Tennis facilities are CLOSED. Playground and Par Course facilities are open, but the Town wipes down the equipment only once daily. Please wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer often when using these facilities.
— Scheduling of any new events at the Park through April 30 have been placed on hold.
— All currently scheduled private events, training, and classes from April 7 through April 30 are encouraged to self-cancel or postpone, if appropriate. The Town will assist in facilitating a cancellation or postponement without incurring a fee to do so.
— Knox Preschool has suspended their services.
— Residential and Commercial Construction activity is NOT ALLOWED unless related to an emergency situation or Town or Utility Infrastructure Public Works Project (excluding the Town Center at this time). No new permits will be issued until the SIP Order is lifted.
— Essential Governmental Services (to include the work of first responders) is exempt from the Order. For the purposes of the SIP Order, the Town has identified the work of Police, Building, Public Works (MCE, Interwest), Planning, and Administrative Staff are the Town’s employee and contractor first responders and their work in support of the continuation of Town Operations is deemed essential. Throughout this pandemic, the Town will also rely on the support and contribution from many other first responders, that include, but are not limited to fire personnel, EMS personnel, ADAPT, CERT, dispatchers, court personnel, and others. All such personnel are exempt for the purposes of the SIP Order.
— All Town Offices are CLOSED to the public; but, Town operations are considered an essential service under the SIP Order and basic internal operations will continue. Unlike larger agencies, the Town does not have a depth of staff that would allow for full rotation of staffing should a COVID-19 quarantine need arise. Should there be a need to quarantine staff, a full shut down of services could result. As such, the Town is limiting public in-person contact to allow staff to telecommute where possible, use an A-Team/B-Team approach when at the office, and make adjustments to public contact situations when they are necessary (increased separation, phone contact, electronic interaction, outside waiting areas, etc.).
— All field services will continue operations (police, public works, building inspection when needed and code enforcement), with the implementation of social distancing protocols and limitations. At this time, no construction is allowed and no new construction permits will be issued unless it is for emergency maintenance of a residence or facility; or a facility compliant with the SIP Order. Use electronic communications to contact staff via email or phone. Phones will be forwarded to those staff telecommuting.
During the next few weeks, you will experience delays and at times, an inability to immediately connect to staff. Please be patient and help us move forward cooperatively. Bottom line, if you can do it by phone or email - do that first. If it’s not an immediate need, wait. If you are sick or experiencing a compromised immune system, please self-quarantine.
COVID-19 will require the patience of us all as its impact will at times seem quite dramatic; but, again, most will ultimately only be temporary interruptions. Adapting to these changes with understanding, cooperation, and collaboration will help move us all through these times safely.
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