Two people have died in Alameda County from the coronavirus, according to the county Public Health Department.

The first person’s death was announced Monday, March 23, and the second one was revealed on the following day.

A county news release said the first victim was over 60 years old, and had underlying physical conditions that made him or her more vulnerable to coronavirus. The person had no history of travel or known contact with a COVID-19 case. The department said the virus likely was picked up through community contact.

The department had no detailed information on the second victim as of deadline.

The county reported Tuesday a total of 124 confirmed cases of coronavirus, up from 112 the day before. The numbers do not include Berkeley, which has its own Public Health Department. As of Tuesday morning, Berkeley had 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and no fatalities.

One of the county’s confirmed cases lives in Livermore, according to Denise Bridges, Development Director for Open Heart Kitchen, which feeds free meals to those who request them.

Bridges said the health department confirmed the case to her. Calls and emails to the health department were not returned in time for deadline. The county tested the food volunteer, who went into isolation for a two-week quarantine.

The volunteer was working at Asbury Methodist Church in Livermore. A professional

cleaning team was brought in to scrub the environment, but it is now closed. Bridges said those who worked with the volunteer should have themselves tested.

Open Heart Kitchen will use other available sites to prepare meals. Open Heart Kitchen distributes meals at the senior centers in Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin. Seniors or their representatives may go there to pick them up. For more information, see https://www.openheartkitchen.org/. Tap the button that says “Find a meal.” The site has a menu for each day, but people must call the day before to reserve a meal.

Livermore Council Broadcasts Live from Homes

A special meeting of the Livermore City Council on Monday, March 23 was broadcast live on a special YouTube channel. During the meeting, City Manager Marc Roberts reported on the status of each department. They have split employees into two categories: those who are able to work from home, and others, such as police and fire, who have public contact.

The council has cancelled its meetings until further notice, but was open to having more special meetings resembling the March 23 meeting, which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWALXNaNtY0. One was set for Monday, March 30.

“While the ‘shelter in place’ order is in effect, the City is committed to maintaining essential City services. In adhering to the order, we have cancelled and/or postponed beloved City programs and events, adjusted City staff schedules, and instituted alternative ways of doing business,” Mayor John Marchand wrote in a letter to the community.

For instance, building plans and permits are still being checked and issued, but Roberts urged the public to send emails to staff or set up conference calls.

For the full text of Marchand’s letter, please turn to the Letters to the Editor on page 4.

In Pleasanton, the council met on March 23 to unanimously ratify an earlier declaration by City Manager Nelson Fialho that a State of Emergency exists. Fialho, who is also Chief of Emergency Services, will run the daily business of the city. Work will continue on such things as billing customers for utilities, issuing building and engineering permits, and limited residential inspections for emergencies, as they relate to health and safety, said city spokeswoman Cindy Chin.

All city meetings have been suspended, including regularly scheduled City Council meetings, committees and commissions, at least until April 17. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council is planned for April 21.

The Dublin City Council met March 18 to grant City Manager Linda Smith the power to run the city during the crisis. She is also Chief of Emergency Services. As with the other Valley cities, the emergency declaration establishes the city’s eligibility for FEMA disaster funding.

With many projects underway, backed by earlier council approvals, no delay is expected in carrying out such projects as street repair and lane construction, she said.

Only a dozen or so employees are working at City Hall, practicing social distancing; the remainder of the city’s 95 regular employees are working from home, said Dublin spokeswoman Shari Jackman. Police and fire services are fully staffed.

In county government, the Board of Supervisors and its committees will continue meeting, said Chief of Staff Shawn Wilson in 1st District Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s office.

Haggerty’s staff will have one member at the office. The others are encouraged to work at home. There are so many county departments that Wilson noted he could not speak for all of them, but he said the offices of the County Clerk, Tax Collector and Assessor are open.

Economic Impact on Cities

The cities foresee economic shortfalls from the coronavirus pandemic. Dublin expects that its hotel tax income will fall in the next quarter, with people staying at home, not traveling. Sales tax revenues will plummet, because so few stores remain open under the state’s shelter in place orders, said Jackman.

“We can even begin to anticipate what the governor's May (budget) revise may look like at this point,” said Jackman.

In Livermore, Roberts explained that the main financial impact will be related to the broader economy. “If the overall economy slows considerably or for an extended time, there will be a financial impact to the city. It is too early for us to know how significant that will be or whether state or federal programs will mitigate that impact. Although I’m hoping the economy bounces back quickly, the city is well positioned to weather an economic downturn.”

“I think the sooner we all shelter in place, the sooner we are all personally and financially healthy,” U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell added. “The best thing we can do is to physically distance ourselves from others and see the virus die because it cannot spread any farther.”

Senior Hours at Stores Popular

During the crisis, some stores have instituted special senior hours, usually early in the morning, when high-demand goods such as paper towels and toilet paper are available, for seniors or the people who will run errands for them.

Safeway stores are reserving 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays as a special time for seniors, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

In Dublin, Whole Foods is opening its store at 8 a.m. for seniors seven days a week, said a customer service person. Others can start using the store at 9 a.m.

100 People Start Free Senior Errand Service

Seniors’ need for sheltering in place has created a new organization in the Valley. More than 100 people have formed Community Helping Seniors, which will run shopping errands for them. It’s free, and refuses tips.

For people interested in becoming a volunteer, go to https://forms.gle/HKWda5ik6YsWHc1U6. Their email is trivalleyhelpseniors@gmail.com.

The URL for seniors to sign up is at https://forms.gle/joXZ7zMWWjJ6rD6B8.

Changes in Transportation

The Valley’s bus system, Wheels, has suspended bus fares, and asks passengers to board at the rear doors. This prevents contact with money and keeps passengers at a longer distance from drivers.

BART has changed its hours of operation, because usage has fallen by 90%. For up to date information, check the BART page at https://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2020/news20200319.

The state has made express lanes free until April 7, because there is so little traffic.

People Sewing Masks For Hospitals

Karen Scola, who manages the Dublin Sewing Center, is taking signups from the public to help sew 100% cotton masks for the Intensive Care Unit at Kaiser Oakland Medical Center. A nurse there is a sewing center customer. The goal is to create 400 masks, which are washable, unlike the paper masks that can be used only once, then thrown away.

Artist Shines Light To Buoy Spirits

Not to be daunted by the anxiety of the coronavirus climate, Pleasanton artist Claudette McDermott has an original idea. She is encouraging people to display Christmas lights in their windows or outdoors. She calls it Lights for Life. Her own are strung on a wisteria branch outdoors.

“Cheering people up during this crisis, by turning on some Christmas lights, neighbors reaching out to neighbors is something we can do together,” said McDermott.