How to get informed, find resources, help others
What we’re doing: Santa Cruz Local is a small news organization with three people. We expect the local response to the coronavirus to be our main story over the next few weeks. We will update this website as frequently as possible, answering your frequently-asked questions about the response to the virus in Santa Cruz County.
Our goal with our COVID-19 coverage: We want to connect you with information you need on the local response to COVID-19’s spread in Santa Cruz County. We also want to connect people in need with people and programs who can help.
We are not chasing breaking news. We’re examining solutions: what’s working elsewhere, how it might apply in our county, and where it might fall short.
We believe that a well-informed and supportive community will get us through this pandemic.
Here’s a list of questions that we’re using as a starting point for brainstorming our coronavirus stories, courtesy of the Solutions Journalism Network. Feel free to comment and share links.
We’ll also post updates in our newsletter.
Times like these need reliable reporting. Our work is free for everyone in Santa Cruz County, but we need your support. Become a member today.
Santa Cruz County general government resources
- County Hotline, open 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday: (831) 454-4242
- Official County Updates: www.santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus
Get informed on the virus and the local response
- What is the virus and what are the symptoms?
- What are the latest numbers?
- What can I do to help prevent the spread?
- Should I cancel my event? Should I attend an event?
- What are the rules of Santa Cruz County’s lockdown?
- What do I do if I feel sick?
- What are the county’s capabilities and guidelines for testing?
- What are some dependable sources to learn about the virus?
- What are some local stories written about the local response to the coronavirus?
Other local resources
- I have a child in public school. How can I pick up meals and groceries during the public school closures?
- I have a small business and we’re not equipped to work remotely. Who can provide technical support?
- My work situation has changed due to the non-essential business closures. How can I apply for unemployment?
- Which local businesses are open in Downtown Santa Cruz for online shopping?
- What groups are organizing connecting people who can give help with people who can get help?
- I would like someone to regularly call me to check in. Where can I sign up for this free service?
Resources for workers and employers
- I’m an employee. What are my options for paid sick leave?
- I’m an employee. How can I find out more about Disability Insurance, if I qualify, and where to apply?
- I’m an employee. What are my options for paid family leave?
- I’m an employer. What do I need to know about workplace health and safety guidelines?
- I’m an employer. What information do I need to know in order to help protect my employees, physically and financially?
- I want to see up to date government information on the California state level. Where can I find the latest information?
- Where can I find more resources from the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency?
We want to hear from you
What questions do you want answered? Take our short survey. We’ll report back what we hear.
Give us a call: We’d love to hear your voice! Send us a voicemail with your thoughts. We may feature you on our podcast. We want to hear what’s on your mind this week.831-222-0460
Get informed on the virus
What is the virus and what are the symptoms?
- COVID-19 is a flu-like illness that ranges from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The virus is thought to be spread through respiratory droplets, when an infected person coughs or sneezes on someone else. The latest information from the Centers for Disease Control shows that the virus spreads from person to person, within six feet of each other.
What are the latest numbers?
Editor’s note: Based on what we know about how the virus can be spread by people without symptoms and the rate of testing in California, numbers of confirmed cases are not a perfect measure of the spread of the virus. Numbers are expected to rise as testing becomes more available.
COVID-19 case data as of Monday, April 6, 2020
|Santa Cruz County
|San Mateo County
|San Francisco County
|Santa Clara County
All figures cumulative unless otherwise noted.
* Latest figures. Not all health departments update daily.
What can I do to help prevent the spread?
- Stay home and do not leave unless necessary. Santa Cruz County residents have been ordered to stay at home. The order lasts through April 7. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, according to the CDC.
- Stay 6 feet from people.
- Wash your hands, and do it right: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap is not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your hands, eyes and mouth.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Wear a face mask if you’re sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces.
- See the Centers for Disease Control website for details.
Should I cancel my event? Should I attend an event?
As of Tuesday, March 17, all gatherings of any size outside homes are prohibited in Santa Cruz County. The county health officer has ordered residents to stay at home and not leave unless necessary.
What are the rules of Santa Cruz County’s lockdown?
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel ordered residents to stay home and not leave unless necessary, such as for grocery shopping or medical appointments. The order lasts through April 7.
Among the rules:
- At all times and within reason, people must stay 6 feet away from each other outside their homes.
- All business must cease, except “essential” business. Essential business include: healthcare, grocery stores, farming, media, gas stations, hardware stores, plumbing, laundromats, restaurants that deliver food, and businesses that supply products that allow people to work from home. (See link for full list.)
- Schools must allow remote learning, and allow for 6 feet of space between people.
- All gatherings of any size are prohibited outside of homes.
- All non-essential travel is prohibited. People riding the bus must stay 6 feet away from each other.
- People are allowed to exercise outdoors, as long as they stay 6 feet away from each other, wash hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes, clean frequently-touched equipment and do not shake hands.
- Homeless people are exempt from the order, but are encouraged to seek shelter.
Read the order:
What do I do if I feel sick?
If you feel sick, stay home. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, call your health provider and schedule an appointment. Your provider can make arrangements for testing and assessment in a way that limits exposure to other people.
If you feel sick and don’t have a health care provider or insurance, and you’re concerned you may have been exposed to COVID-19, stay home if your symptoms are mild. You can call 211 to find the nearest safety net clinic. Safety net clinics accept patients without insurance. Call the clinic before going in.
What are the county’s capabilities and guidelines for testing?
The situation is evolving. Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel said in a press conference March 16 that the county had 11 cases of coronavirus, and results were pending for many more tests.
“We have been severely limited by the inability to provide testing, and suspect that the number of cases is far higher than 11,” Newel said. “It will take each and every one of us to protect our community.”
The county depends on labs outside the county to process its test kits. When we interviewed a county epidemiologist on Thursday, March 13, we learned that local doctors can test for COVID-19, but the capacity is limited by how much the labs can handle.
As of Thursday, private labs such as Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp had the greatest capacity. A representative from Quest Diagnostics told us Saturday that the lab was ramping up its testing capacity, and she expected the lab to test 20,000 kits a day by the end of March.
Friday, the county released its guidelines for testing. We posted them below. The takeaway: People who do not have symptoms should not be tested.
A Sutter Health representative told us Monday, March 16 that some Palo Alto Medical Foundation clinics in Santa Cruz County have drive-through testing available for patients with a doctor’s order. Sutter Health also relies on private and public labs to process test kits.
People with mild or moderate symptoms to not need testing and should stay home, the representative said. Sutter Health patients who feel ill can schedule a video visit to see if they meet the criteria for testing.
What are some dependable sources to learn about the virus?
Times like these show the importance of reliable, accurate reporting on what we know about the virus and testing.
We asked Santa Cruz Local member and UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program Director Erika Check Hayden for her recommendations on good sources for science reporting on the virus.
- The COVID tracking project is tracking availability of tests (still woefully unavailable).
- We have many alums involved in coverage who I trust, including virologist Erin García de Jesús, who graduated from our program last year and is now covering the pandemic for Science News. Here’s their FAQ with the basics.
- This is also a helpful chart that explains the necessity of social distancing, from Eliza Barclay and Dylan Scott of Vox. I don’t think enough people realize that social distancing is the only tool we have right now to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed, which is going to lead to death and suffering of the type we are seeing in Italy, where patients are dying due to shortages of medical equipment. This isn’t a question of “I’m young, I won’t die from this, so I can still go out to bars/schedule play dates for my kids,” etc. When any of us gets the virus, we can spread it to others who are vulnerable, thus endangering their lives and worsening the epidemic.
- Live Science has a good primer for kids, but it’s also appropriate for anyone.
- And NPR posted this very good comic for kids.
What are some local stories written about the local response to the coronavirus?
- Global lessons for Santa Cruz in the COVID-19 response – Santa Cruz Local, March 26
- Santa Cruz County medical capacity to face coronavirus test – Santa Cruz Local, March 19
- Santa Cruz County orders residents to shelter in place – Santa Cruz Local, March 16
- Coronavirus spreads in Santa Cruz County: County epidemiologist talks testing capability – Santa Cruz Local, March 13
- Santa Cruz County pivots on coronavirus health strategy – Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 13
- Santa Cruz County braces for coronavirus spread – Santa Cruz Local, March 10
Which local stories are we missing from this list? Email us at [email protected].
How to help the community
Beyond the health impacts, the virus is bound to have many economic impacts locally over the coming months.
Who needs help?
Santa Cruz County public schools have been closed March 16 to April 10, leaving some parents without childcare plans. Some children depend on free school lunches. Their parents will have to pick up meals and groceries from school.
Elderly people are vulnerable to the coronavirus and need to stay home. They will need food deliveries and other help.
Large events have been canceled, leaving many low-wage hourly workers without work.
Many local businesses have already seen revenue losses, with employees working from home and fewer customers.
I’d like to donate money. Who can I help?
The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County has created a COVID-19 Local Response Fund to protect public health and support vulnerable people. The Community Foundation has already donated $30,000 each to Second Harvest Food Bank, Grey Bears and Community Bridges, and $15,000 to the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, said Susan True, the Community Foundation’s CEO. Those nonprofits give food to people with limited access, such as the elderly, children from low-income families and migrant farmworker families.
You can also donate to programs directly. Some links are here: Second Harvest Food Bank, Community Bridges’ Meals on Wheels, Grey Bears Healthy Food Delivery, Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County.
Some nonprofits have had to cancel fundraisers.
For example, Housing Matters, formerly the Homeless Services Center in Santa Cruz, cancelled its annual Soupline fundraiser in April, which was forecasted to raise $100,000, said Phil Kramer, Housing Matters executive director. You can donate to Housing Matters here.
The Santa Cruz Symphony has a Musician Relief Fund to support its musicians with little income, now that concerts and events have been canceled.
Support our local businesses and healthcare workers by buying meals from local restaurants for our healthcare workers at covid-meals.org.
I’d like to donate goods. Who can I help?
Santa Cruz County now has an online form to coordinate donations of new masks, goggles, disinfectant wipes, hospital gowns and other gear.
Community Bridges, which runs the Meals on Wheels program for elderly residents, needs new, unopened Braun digital ear thermometers with disposable tips. They are now hard to find in stores. The program also needs unopened masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and vinyl gloves. Email [email protected] if you have items to donate.
Housing Matters, formerly the Homeless Services Center, in Santa Cruz, has an Amazon Wish List.
Grey Bears, a nonprofit that delivers meals to seniors, needs non-perishable food. Drop off non-expired, non-perishable food 8 a.m. to noon Monday to Friday at Grey Bears, 2710 Chanticleer Ave. in Live Oak.
The Warming Center and Footbridge Services Center, which offers emergency shelter and storage services for homeless people, needs “hoodie” sweaters, blankets, and small adult sizes of pants. Donation barrels are at Staff of Life, 1266 Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz and the Westside Santa Cruz New Leaf, 1101 Fair Ave.
I’d like to donate my time. How can I help?
TWIN LAKES CHURCH: Sign up to volunteer to provide home aid, elderly support, meal delivery services, and making cookies and cards to help people through this time.
CRUZ ONE: If you’re familiar with Zoom, Slack, Freshdesk (ticketing), or writing technical support articles, or are willing to learn any of those tech tools or tasks, Cruz One is looking for volunteers. Cruz One is a volunteer group that will provide technical support to the community during the coronavirus emergency. Its first goal is to help local K-12 schools transition to remote-based learning, during the public schools shutdown. Its second goal is to help the local community work remotely.
The group was formed by Cruzio CTO Chris Neklason on Friday March 13. Sign up to volunteer on Cruz One’s website.
MEALS ON WHEELS AND GREY BEARS: Elderly people are vulnerable to the virus and need to stay home as much as possible. Santa Cruz County has a few nonprofits that elderly people rely on for meals.
Community Bridges’ Meals on Wheels program and Grey Bears have put a call out for healthy volunteers, to deliver food and assemble food delivery bags.
This is a tricky situation, since Grey Bears’ assembly lines usually have about 50 people in the room. County health leaders have asked people, especially people 60 or older and those with underlying health conditions, to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
We heard from many of you that you’re itching to help, but please make a responsible decision about volunteering and follow the county’s guidelines.
Other local resources
I have a child in public school. How can I pick up meals and groceries during the school closures?
Santa Cruz County public schools are closed March 16 – April 10. During the closure, schools will offer meals and groceries for any public school students ages 1-18 and their families. Pickup locations and times are listed here.
I have a small business and we’re not equipped to work remotely. Who can provide technical support?
Cruz One is a volunteer group that will provide technical support. Its first goal is to help local K-12 schools transition to remote-based learning, during the public schools shutdown. Its second goal is to help the local community work remotely.
The group was formed by Cruzio CTO Chris Neklason on Friday March 13. Sign up for help on Cruz One’s website. The group also is recruiting volunteers.
My work situation has changed due to the non-essential business closures. How can I apply for unemployment?
Unemployment Insurance may be available to you if your work has been affected by the closures. You can online on the California Employment Development Department website.
Make sure to have your past employment information on hand, such as information on your previous employer, work dates, earnings, and your employment authorization information (citizenship status, immigration status, etc).
What groups are organizing connecting people who can give help with people who can get help?
Twin Lakes Church has put together a “Give Help/ Get Help” page with resources for emotional and spiritual support, food pantry information, meal deliveries, driving assistance, elderly care, and more.
I would like someone to regularly call me to check in. Where can I sign up for this free service?
The “You Are Not Alone” or “YANA” program has been launched by the Santa Cruz Police Department to help keep give seniors, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable residents access to check-ins. Learn more here.