SCC Exec: ‘Vigorous’ Statewide Quarantine Would Better Serve People Than Mere Warnings

Intensive care beds are filling up. Bodies are being counted by the hour.

While the vaccine brought a glimmer of hope to a dark season, California’s coronavirus surge continues its record-shattering onslaught, with 45,053 new cases and 269 deaths statewide and 1,490 cases and 17 deaths in Santa Clara County.

Experts predicted this months ago.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom, who won praise for getting ahead of the pandemic this past spring, squandered those gains by Thanksgiving by loosening restrictions on sports, dining and gatherings. Amid national debate over saving lives or the economy—which a robust, equitable federal bailout would have rendered a false choice—the governor resisted stronger action until cases began skyrocketing this fall.

And now, this.

Newsom announced earlier this week that he’s activating a statewide “mass fatality” response. With California on track to expend ICU capacity by Christmas, he said that means ordering an extra 5,000 body bags and converting 60 refrigerated 53-foot-long storage units as overflow morgues.

That declaration didn’t sit well with some of the folks in charge of Santa Clara County, whose pandemic response under Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody has made it a national model and whose leaders took a relatively cautious approach to reopening after the spring-through-summer Covid-19 spike.

“First of all,” county Executive Jeff Smith says, “they’re obviously trying to scare people, and I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best approach.”

Yes, the state needs to brace for a wave of excess fatalities, he concedes, but Newsom could also do more to curb the trend.

“I would prefer to see a more vigorous, more thoughtful statewide reduction in activity,” Smith says. “I don’t want to call it a shutdown, because I don’t think we need to shut everything down, but we do need something more consistent.”

Instead of a statewide quarantine, California enacted a county-by-county plan in which jurisdictions can allow certain activities depending on coronavirus test positivity and case rate. The patchwork system and the absence of meaningful enforcement led to some counties putting others at risk, Smith says.

Meanwhile, aside from verbally imploring the public to stay put, Newsom has done nothing to actually limit movement on highways and through ports and airports.

“Travel is a big deal,” Smith says. “It’s really difficult to close ports or prevent people from crossing state boundaries, but you can put in place significant restrictions related to quarantine and testing, which would really slow the spread.”

That’s how Hawaii has managed keep its case rate well below the national average. Though the archipelago enjoys a geographical advantage over most of the country, its requirement of a negative Covid-19 test for entry could be adopted in other states.

“The reason we’re here right now,” Smith says, “is because we reopened too fast in late spring and early summer, and now we’re playing catch-up, which is very hard to do.”

So, what would be more effective than Newsom’s sobering news of additional body bags and filled-to-the-brink morgues? For Smith, at least, the answer is a “vigorous” statewide quarantine that lasts for about six weeks.

“That would allow for a major reduction in the viral load in the community,” he says. “Then you could get back to a much lower volume and make this easier to manage.”

San Jose Inside’s requests for comment from County Counsel James Williams and officials from the Department of Public Health and Emergency Operations Center remained unanswered by press time.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > For Smith, at least, the answer is a “vigorous” statewide quarantine that lasts for about six weeks.

    I don’t think Jeff Smith knows how viruses work.

    Viruses spread. They spread as long as there is an infectible population. A population is infectible until it reaches “herd immunity”.

    Successive lockdowns just creates a succession of infection waves.

    Jeff Smith’s six week quarantine will NOT wipe out the virus; it will just cause a temporary dip in the rate of spread. When the quarantine ends, the virus will bounce right back.

    Government officials and health bureaucrats should stop jiving us.

    Just bite the bullet, quarantine the people most at risk, and let nature take it’s course. It’s not wise to fool Mother Nature.

  2. Jeff Smith should have been fired months ago.

    Masks and lockdowns are utterly ineffective in slowing the virus, which, like much of nature, operates in defiance of human arrogance. The science has shown this, but anyone who speaks the truth is shouted down as a heretic by the mavens of mass hysteria.

    Meanwhile, the medieval-style lockdowns have caused misery and despair everywhere they have been imposed. They are crimes against humanity. A reckoning is coming, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will have much to answer for in having destroyed lives and livelihoods by allowing the lockdowns to persist here. So, too, will the craven members of the San Jose City Council and our hypocritical mayor, each of whom have been cheerleading the human rights violations, while never missing a paycheck. If history is a guide, and it definitely is, either the courts will intervene soon, or there will inevitably be violent insurrections. People who have nothing left to lose can be exceedingly dangerous.

  3. Why didn’t the health officials like Dr. Cody (aka Dr. KFC) develop more ICU capacity— they had nine months. And while the Trump administration was talking about having a vaccine before the end of the year, all the Dem “experts” said it couldn’t be done. So what did they think was going to happen? Everyone knew that there were going to be waves of outbreaks.

  4. > “Why didn’t the health officials like Dr. Cody (aka Dr. KFC) develop more ICU capacity— they had nine months.”

    Facilities and equipment are a factor, but the bigger problem seems to be an insufficient number of healthcare providers necessary to provide for all aspects of care.

    The demand for nurses, physicians, and all kinds of medical professionals only grows, but we ration who will receive training through too few spots in professional programs that cost too much for too many to bear.

  5. ICU beds are only being used at 87 percent capacity in Santa Clara County per its own hospitalization dashboard, as of Friday, December 18, 2020. COVID patients comprise 37 percent of that usage.

    That means one of one of six beds remains available. And roughly only two of the five ICU beds currently being used is by a COVID patient.

    Intrepid journalists fail to report a key fact, the comparative baseline of mid-December hospitalizations, so the public can evaluate whether 87 percent ICU occupancy is abnormal. It very likely is not. Currently, flu-caused hospitalizations are reportedly way down across the country, approaching near zero. Yet, in other years they inundate hospitals. Here’s an article about hospitals being overwhelmed by flu patients in California in January 2018:

    There were no lockdowns in January 2018. And, blissfully, none of us at the time knew of, or were made to hear about, a teary-eyed Sara Cody by sensationalist scribes trying to stoke fear.

    Recall that a month ago, around Thanksgiving, Dr. Cody predicted that the trajectory of COVID would mean local hospitals would be overrun within three weeks. Her prediction was (predictably) wrong. And (predictably) that goes unreported by the media, as well.

  6. In other words, they are unable to overcome the inertia that exists in the bureaucracy that they created and ostensibly run.
    When NYC had its initial surge back in April, the president brought in a hospital ship and massive field hospitals, which actually were not used to any significant extent. Has CA or the counties asked for help from the Trump administration? Or, are they waiting for President Biden wave his magic wand of positive media coverage to save the world the day after his inauguration?
    The SCC Covid site
    Clearly shows a reduction in ICU beds in SCC county over the course of the pandemic. (The grey bar chart above the red line). SCC has been unable to even maintain the number of ICU beds in the county let alone increase the number? Why?

  7. “In other words, they are unable to overcome the inertia that exists in the bureaucracy that they created and ostensibly run.”

    tip o’ the hat…

    that’s ending the year with strength

  8. > “SCC has been unable to even maintain the number of ICU beds in the county let alone increase the number? Why?”

    “Beds” are not physical “beds” alone but include the medical staff and infrastructure necessary to care for critically ill patients. Set up “beds” on a boat or in a tent or under a bridge, but without the necessary medical staff, aren’t we just corralling people to rally or succumb to their fate on their own and in isolation. Is that the intent?

    I’m looking at the hospitalization dashboard on 12/19/2020 and seeing ICU beds filled at 94% capacity.

    I have a family member scheduled for life-saving open heart surgery this week in another California county whose capacity to handle critical ICU care is similarly hobbled as Santa Clara by the current coronavirus surge.

    It seems words are cheap when we dismiss the care needs of others we don’t know, but the longer this fools’ errand pursuit of “herd immunity” persists, the more of us will be impacted through the denial of healthcare due to system overload at those moments when we our our loved ones need it most.

    Get your flu shots and your affairs in order. As friends, neighbors, countrymen deny the need to heed public health advisories, we’ve got a cold, grim winter ahead.

  9. I’m looking at the hospitalization dashboard and seeing BOTH 94 percent capacity filled but 13 percent still available. Government math.

    I don’t see any comparison to how things looked last year, the year before or other recent years. That’s the key data point. No surprise it’s being hidden from us.

    Meanwhile, here’s an article from Britain suggesting things are less harried in hospitals than last year. Go figure.

  10. California’s ICU capacity, 2.1 per ten thousand residents, is below the national average of 2.7 per then thousand, based on Kaiser Family Foundation data from 2018, and among the lower third of all states.

    Average would equate to about 120 additional ICU beds for approximately two million residents in Santa Clara County, assuming our local capacity mirrors statewide capacity circa 2018.

  11. No. The government cannot and should not interfere in pandemic mitigation. The only thing that works is dissemination of facts, and the government and media do nothing but give us misleading and confusing orders and opinions.

  12. If we quarantined Smith for 6 weeks everyone in the county would be better off.

  13. Just an education regarding ICU care.

    You need more than a room and a bed or even the equipment. You need a certified medical person to monitor and provide care to the patient. That requires being a Critical Care Nurse

    Becoming a Critical Care Nurse

    A critical care nurse provides specialized care to patients in the intensive care units of a hospital that treat the most severely ill or injured patients, caring for the daily needs of those who are the most vulnerable. To perform effectively in this position, critical care professionals require specialized training.

    While education and training are essential for this type of nursing career, it’s equally important that the critical care nurse has the right temperament. He or she must be cool-headed and confident, with the ability to endure physical and emotional stress. Indeed, the critical nurse also must have the ability to make vital decisions while under stress. Critical care nurses, also known as “ICU nurses,” must also possess excellent communication skills and be able to work with patients of all ages from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.

    ICU nurses often face a harsh reality. Many will not be able to restore their patients to good health; in fact, the patient may die while in the ICU unit. Over the course of their career, critical care nurses may experience patient death many times, which can take a toll on the nurse’s own mental health. This type of emotional stress can be draining and heartbreaking, but the right person for the job may find working as a critical care nurse a very rewarding career. This nurse often finds fulfillment in playing an important role in the lives of the patients with the greatest needs.

    1. Earn Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

    2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)

    3. Earn a Master’s Degree from an Accredited MSN Program

    4. Get Certified as a Critical Care Nurse by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)

    Without this an ICU bed is not available, and since many health professionals have been made sick by COVID it has already made the shortage of these professionals even worse. In effect Dr. Cody cannot do anything about it at all.

    Stop trying to criticize the people that were warning all of us for months and some of us didn’t take the proper care, thus we wound up in this mess.

  14. How many sock puppets are commenting on this thread? Four comments are duplicate posts by different people… Who is paying and putting out talking points? What is the going rate, $ 0.05 per verified post…

  15. So Steven, what you are saying is that it’s our fault. You and the rest of the finger wagging scolds never get tired of pontificating, and if that doesn’t work, you go into your passive aggressive threatening mode. What government bureaucracy do you work for?

    As for Dr. Cody and many of our health officials, the truth is that they have an impossible job. No matter what they do they’ll be criticized. Unfortunately, because of their previous efforts to dissuade people from wearing masks as “unnecessary“ or “ineffective,” along with missing virtually every other prediction, they have lost credibility. When we see someone who is supposed to be a leader sniveling during a report on the status of the pandemic, it does not project confidence in their abilities.

  16. “Stop trying to criticize the people that were warning all of us for months and some of us didn’t take the proper care, thus we wound up in this mess.” — Steven Goldstein

    Here’s a radical thought: What if, instead of telling the public what to do despite their unfamiliarity with the virus, our health officials had admitted they didn’t have recommendations to offer other than to treat the virus as if it were a deadly flu? Common sense and grown-up responsibility would’ve dictated an increase in preventative hygiene (washing hands, no touching face), intolerance for the symptomatic (in the workplace and at social gatherings), and an added layer of circumspection in everyday tasks and travels. Such advice, which the American people are quite capable of handling, would’ve proved at least as effective as anything produced by our panicked leaders in health and government, without demolishing trust, ruining the economy, or inviting political exploitation.

    Hysteria, even in the face of the unknown, ceased being a productive group response when our ancestors could no longer take to the trees. Had it been avoided the early phase of the pandemic would’ve revealed where vulnerabilities existed and where they didn’t, and would certainly have prevented Emmy award winning Governor Cuomo’s nursing home catastrophe (the result of his panicked reaction to the panic over a hospital bed shortage that never materialized). Schools wouldn’t have been needlessly (and harmfully) closed, malls would’ve stayed open (though the crowds would’ve self-thinned), businesses (even those without political influence) would’ve remained in operation, and caution-deficient young adults would’ve filled the bars, traded germs, spreading among themselves the virus and immunity.

    To believe the unaffected can protect themselves by wearing masks is to believe chain-link fences afford privacy and keeps out the wind. To believe hiding from the virus by shutting down the country is a sound strategy is to believe that leaving the mail unopened will cause the IRS to forget you. To believe politicians, gifted in scheme and duplicity, are capable of reasoning us out of a crisis it to believe that Hunter Biden can be trusted running a pharmacy.

    History will reveal the heroes of this pandemic as the front line workers (in medicine, public safety, and at the cash register), the profit motive (which mobilized vaccine-chasing investments), the gifted and dedicated scientists giving their all in laboratories, and Donald Trump, whose knee-jerk faith in this country and can-do intuition energized the race to a cure.

  17. > Who is paying and putting out talking points?

    I check my mailbox three times a day.

    Those bastards at big oil and big pharma have yet to send me a nickel for all the stuff I’ve done for them.

    I’m hearing that China pays better. And with China, there are even opportunities for some “romance”.

  18. > . . . but the longer this fools’ errand pursuit of “herd immunity” persists, the more of us will be impacted through the denial of healthcare due to system overload . . . .

    Dear Mr. Pandemic Authority:

    Kindly explain to those of us who are less informed than you, WHY the pursuit of “herd immunity” is a fools errand. Is herd immunity a bad thing? Are we better off without herd immunity?

    Experts are standing by to act on your healthcare advice. Hurry!

  19. The scare tactics are just intended to keep the masses in check.

    I find it interesting from the SCC Covid dashboard that the number of ICU and surge beds has dropped since June.

    Looking at June 13, the dashboard reported 399 ICU and surge beds available, now as of Dec 18 that dropped to 336. So did we really close 60 ICU beds during a pandemic? Or did we reduce the number of beds so we can scare everyone into following the state and local mandates, which have no true scientific support?

    I also find it suspect that they stopped focusing on the total hospital beds available on the dashboard, since that number doesn’t play into the narrative they want to portray.

    I doubt we will ever hear the real COVID death counts, since it seems dying ‘with’ COVID counts the same as dying from COVID.

  20. Ralph,

    I explained earlier a “bed” a “room” or even a “ventilator” is nothing without the proper staff monitoring and taking care of a patient, we don’t have AI and robots to act as nurses or doctors, there is an increasing SHORTAGE of staff that is cutting off the services as the pandemic keeps going. And you cannot say the “MARKET” or “MONEY” will solve the problem because it takes years to train them. You can’t “BUY” off a disease.

    HB you wrote:

    “As for Dr. Cody and many of our health officials, the truth is that they have an impossible job. No matter what they do they’ll be criticized. Unfortunately, because of their previous efforts to dissuade people from wearing masks as “unnecessary“ or “ineffective,” along with missing virtually every other prediction, they have lost credibility. When we see someone who is supposed to be a leader sniveling during a report on the status of the pandemic, it does not project confidence in their abilities.”

    Since when did Dr. Cody say wearing masks was unnecessary? In fact, I think you are really making a false claim here. This idea did start from Donald Trump and his need to minimize the pandemic and attempt to not take the steps early on to keep it under control. Even though he KNEW it was dangerous and said so to Bob Woodward months prior to the crisis.

    Yes, these Doctors still are not understanding COVID, in fact it just evolved a NEW strain. The fact is that very shortly the current vaccines may become ineffective as it evolves. The SAFEST course of action is PREVENTION, not pouring billions of dollars into labs that are likely never going to keep up with it. In fact, the Pfizer Vaccine cannot be used by as many as 50 Million people with KNOWN allergic issues. Even they are telling these people they are on their own. Only because of a “PRE EXISTING” condition they cannot control nor are personally responsible of having.

    As far as “herd immunity” goes evolution of the virus will likely not occur if it keeps changing, people will get reinfected by the new strains. Also, you are going to se at least 300,000-400,000 deaths per evolution, and countless millions permanently impaired due to “long haul” damages. So many here never took it seriously, or just that they like the idea of millions of people suffering impairments and deaths

  21. OMG, here we are with the scapegoat the Mexicans again. Classic Trumpet mentality

    The TRUTH is that unlike me and my friends that have cooperated and diligent since February, you and your kind took gambles and risks and argued for less effective prevention of the spread of COVID.

    THEN you complain that the DPH and the County isn’t doing enough to control it.

    This is just amazing, I hate to say this passage because it has been used against so many but “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7

    You and your team have been working to get us in more trouble since the very beginning and now you want to distract us by scapegoating. Ridiculous.

    The odds are we are not going to be able to stop the CODE BLUE status for a LONG time.

  22. Like the corona virus itself, shoddy science and “herd mentality” are both contagious and lethal. A case in point is the Trumpist/libertarian “negligence approach” to herd immunity. The likes of Scott Atlas ( want to allow a highly contagious and deadly virus to work its way through a susceptible population unhindered until it peters out on its own. Of the more than 17.8 million known COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of yesterday, nearly 317,000 people have died yielding a death rate of about 1.78 percent of detected infection cases (

    If Atlas had his way and the entire U.S. adult population (say 30 years and older) were to be infected, we could expect some 3.6 million deaths, in addition to about 10.2 million hospitalizations (about 5% of the infected adult population according to (Population data used are from:

    Total anticipated hospitalizations in the limiting case, in other words, would be more than 10 times the number of staffed hospital beds in the U.S. at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis ( Healthcare facilities would be overwhelmed. If some type of herd immunity is achieved with only a 70% infection rate of the total adult population, as scientists suggest might be the case, total expected deaths would decline to about 2.5 million, with about 7.1 million hospitalizations ( Either way, there would be millions dying unnecessarily and even more millions requiring hospitalization way beyond the capacities of U.S. medical facilities.

    Based on what is presently known about COVID-19, immunity responses from infection for survivors last perhaps as long as 5-7 months and may last longer–perhaps a year or so–based on evidence from other SARS-CoV viruses ( Beyond this, there are a number of cases of reinfection from around the world: people who recovered from COVID-19 were re-infected within months of their first infection ( laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30764-7/fulltext). So there is at least a possibility that any herd immunity response could be temporary and could potentially be defeated by re-infections. Add to this the very recent evidence of a mutated strain of the virus that is even more contagious than the currently known strain (although not necessarily more lethal nor resistant to the new vaccines

    Why endanger so many people, and unnecessarily strain the health care system? Modern medicine and public health have always achieved herd immunity by developing and methodically using vaccines to immunize progressively larger segments of the population (think polio) ( Atlas and his ilk are intentionally and recklessly endangering millions of lives with their pseudo-science.

    Let’s keep our wits about us and avoid the “herd mentality” fostered by Atlas and numerous of the above San Jose Inside troll commentators. Let’s follow the prudent guidance of public health officials based on the experience and evidence from the past year and protect and enhance the lives of our loved ones and communities.

  23. > want to allow a highly contagious and deadly virus to work its way through a susceptible population unhindered until it peters out on its own.


    This is a lie, Mr. Econoclast.

    Everyone agrees that the elderly and medically vulnerable should be protected via quarantine.

    Quarantines are for SICK people, not healthy people.

    If you have to misrepresent the opposing argument to make your argument like like a winner, you have a losing argument.

  24. Mr. Goldstein, I appreciate the perspective you’ve provided in multiple comments. They help to explain the ICU bed inventory situation and clear that you have insight into the pandemic.

    By appearances, it does seem as though our response could be better. Perhaps that includes intensive training to rapidly expand the number of ICU staff by training physicians assistants or other skilled personnel. And temporary relaxing requirements without sacrificing patient care.

    As a former EMT, I was not permitted to perform certain actions permitted for paramedics. However, paramedic skills ( e.g., inserting an IV line) can be rapidly acquired. Many of the skills for an ICU nurse mentioned in your response don’t require an academic qualifications to save lives – just the required skills.

    If the skilled labor shortage situation is as dire as claimed, rapidly expanding the number of skilled personnel seems more sensible than being constrained by academic credentials. Since elected officials can declare an emergency, I assume they could also issue related orders to temporarily indemnify hospitals and other allow skilled, but not credentialed health care professionals to save lives.

    By all appearances, the absence of creative solutions by government has contributed to the problem and increased suffering.

  25. Taxpayer,

    Our reliance on “Just-I-Time” operations management to maximize health care profits is the major problem regarding the current and future problems with either viruses/bacteria or even inadvertent massive poisonings that can occur with the environment.

    No argument, but as of now, we do not produce the required reagents for the testing enough. Why? Because as a primarily for-profit healthcare system, underproducing almost every resource has helped to make prices go up, thus making more profit.

    At the same time, underperforming both the testing and the contact tracing allowed the crisis get so extreme that the Pharma Companies are in effect given a blank check to make more profits, right?

    The for-profit healthcare system relies on Just-In-Time operational management strategies to maximize profits in performing health care. They order just enough supplies to deal with what they THINK is the predicted needs for a current year.

    This situation completely proves that our “health care” system is not a system at all, but a patchwork of self motivated systems that has no coordination at all.

    The reality is that a for-profit medical system is not designed to actually provide for a pandemic. And we are going to just wind up with more vulnerable health care and just wait, in about another 10 years there will be another COVID.

    By the way the Pfizer vaccine is now not to be used with children, pregnant women, the allergic sensitive, that rules out as much as 50% of the U.S. population, doesn’t it?, We cannot achieve “herd immunity” unless vaccines are given to at least 60% of the population. This may not be achievable for 2 more years.

    On top of the we now have a 4th evolution of the COVID virus. So far no evidence is proving that the vaccines will work on this new variant or any of the other 2 yet.

    The SCIENCE is a work in progress, we all understand that. But to just throw anything into the pot and just hope it doesn’t wind up becoming another long term health problem trying to solve the current one is no very wise, is it?

  26. I just saw that only 2,000,000 doses of vaccine were delivered and administered so far on CNN.

    Everyone said there would be 20,000,000 by the end of the month.

    If this trend continues, the projections made are not even going to be close. they barely reached 10% of the projection in December.

    If it urns out that the production is that slow or the supply chains cannot achieve even 50% of the projection, the vaccination program will double in time length, and that is if the vaccines prove safe and effective.

    Imagine if only say 25,000,000 people get vaccinated by July of next year and only 50,000,000 by the end of the year? The Movie Contagion predicted this problem, and Trump and the like simply said, of we got this we just spend enough and we can do better.

    It looks like that even if 2 more vaccines come on the market the best we might achieve is 100,000,000 people vaccinated by the end of 2021, Since there are 330,000,000 people in the U.S. that means it will be at least 2 years before we can approach enough people to START returning to normal, right?