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San Mateo County to align with Gov. Newsom’s Phase 2 guidelines

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San Mateo County extended public health order eases some restrictions

San Mateo County intends to break from the Bay Area’s more restrictive health order and align with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Phase 2 guidelines, effective May 18, County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow announced Wednesday.

The Phase 2 guidelines will allow curbside and delivery activities for non-essential retail, as well as logistics and manufacturing and other businesses, to open with modifications, such as social distancing protocols. This state roadmap provides more information on Newsom’s phased approach to reopening the economy.

The new county health order that’s in line with the state order will be released later this week, Dr. Scott Morrow said in a statement.

“I am encouraged that data about COVID-19 cases, hospital capacity, and other indicators show some stability so that San Mateo County can now enter the early stages of Phase 2,” Dr. Morrow said. “I want to remind everyone these modifications are not being made because it is safe to be out and about.  The virus continues to circulate in our community, and this increase in interactions among people is likely to spread the virus at a higher rate. Whether these modifications allow the virus to spread out of control, as we saw in February and March and resulted in the first shelter in place order, is yet to be seen. The social distancing and face covering directives, along with the prohibition on gathering, will remain in place since the risk of exposure to COVID-19 looms large for all of us. The public and open businesses need to fully do their part to minimize transmission of the virus.”

Photo: Dr. Scott Morrow, courtesy of San Mateo County

Donations to San Mateo Strong Fund top $8.2M

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Donations to San Mateo Strong Fund top $8.2M

More than 1,000 donors have contributed a total of $8.2 million to the San Mateo County Strong Fund, which provides emergency relief grants to individuals and families, small businesses and nonprofit groups impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to organizers of the Fund.

The Fund was created less than two months ago, with the County contributing $3 million in seed money from the Measure K local sales tax. Fund donations are directed to three categories: individuals and families to help cover basic household expenses, small businesses to help them avoid layoffs, stay open or reopen, and nonprofit organizations that provide services to the county’s most vulnerable residents.

“We are pleased to see that so many donors have opened their checkbooks to help those who are really struggling during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Warren Slocum, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. “Every dollar donated to the San Mateo County Strong Fund goes to those most in need. Seeing our community pull together like this – neighbor helping neighbor – is heartwarming and so important.

The Fund is still raising money to support residents in need. Those interested in making a donation should visit the San Mateo County Strong website.

Need food assistance? Visit this San Mateo County web page

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Need food assistance? Visit this San Mateo County web page

San Mateo County has now added a Food Assistance page to its website providing resources for community members in need.

The website features a link to the Great Plates program that delivers nutritious meals to older residents from local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also posts meal distribution sites for local students, from elementary school through college, as well as general food assistance from the Second Harvest Food Bank, the CalFresh program,  and the Women, Infants & Children program, which supports women who are pregnant or have kids under age 5.

Visit the Food Assitance page here: https://www.smcgov.org/food.

San Mateo police seize over one pound of meth in traffic stop

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San Mateo police seize over one pound of meth in traffic stop

A large amount of methamphetamine was seized during a traffic stop on Saturday, police said.

Officers pulled a vehicle over near S. Norfolk Avenue and Fashion Island Boulevard at about 10:42 p.m. They recognized the driver as being on probation for drug sales and, per his probation terms, searched his car.

The officers discovered over one pound of meth, a large amount of cash, multiple cellphones and a scale, police said.

“Due to COVID-19 jail restrictions, the suspect was released at SMPD with a felony citation,” police said.

The suspect’s name was not immediately released.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office has been releasing inmates from county jails in order to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

As of Monday, the jail population at Maguire Correctional Facility in San Mateo County was 276, down from 486 on Feb. 29, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. The jail’s maximum capacity is 684. Meanwhile, the Maple Street Correctional Center, which has a maximum capacity of 832, had 245 inmates as of Monday, down from 483 on Feb. 29.

 

Reliant on ticket sales, Caltrain faces devastating financial future

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Reliant on ticket sales, Caltrain faces devastating financial future

With ticket sales down by over 95 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caltrain is facing a devastating and uncertain future that may require a change in how the transit service is funded.

Even when the shelter-in-place orders end, the transit agency anticipates a future of fewer passengers per train, in part due to the need to promote social distancing and also because commuters nervous about riding in trains may choose other forms of transportation.

That likely won’t be sustainable for Caltrain, which currently gets 70 percent of its revenue from ticket sales. The transit agency has no dedicated source of funding and limited reserves.

Caltrain’s significant reductions in service during the shelter-in-place period have not produced enough savings to financially sustain the railroad, the transit agency’s staff said during a Board of Directors meeting last week. In March, the transit agency lost $3.3 million in revenue, and from April to June additional losses of $21.3 million are anticipated, the transit agency said. A $1 million budget deficit that was anticipated for the remainder of this fiscal year is now closer to an $11 million deficit. If service continued to run at these crisis levels, the annual deficit would be about $71 million, the transit agency said.

The COVID-19 pandemic struck at a time when Caltrain was planning for a future of vastly increased service. Building upon over a decade ridership growth, the Caltrain Business Plan’s 2040 Service Vision was approved by the agency’s Board last October with the aim of nearly tripling daily ridership to 180,000.

Today, the transit agency has shifted into triage and survival mode. Caltrain secured $49.3 million in federal CARES Funding to sustain the railroad in the very near term. But continued ridership constraints have the transit agency anticipating financial crisis through Fiscal Year 2021 and beyond. Agency staff said there is a need to reexamine Caltain’s funding structure in the long-term.

Caltrain staff is developing an initial opening plan for when the shelter in place is lifted and working to secure additional federal CARES funding. Meanwhile, it’s continuing to work on a possible sales tax ballot measure, as permitted by the signing of Senate Bill 797 in 2017. Ongoing electrification of the railroad continues, as well as the long-range plan. The agency aims to engage with local, regional, state and private sector partners in discussions about the system’s financial needs.

PHS/SPCA rescue raccoon dangling from highway onramp

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PHS/SPCA rescue raccoon dangling from highway onramp

The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (PHS/SPCA) rescued a female raccoon last week that had been dangling from underneath an onramp on Highway 92 where the freeway connects 101 in San Mateo.

The incident unfolded on Wednesday, May 6, when a member of the public called the PHS/SPCA about the raccoon in distress. Rescue staff were at the scene within minutes to help the raccoon to safety. The California Highway Patrol stopped traffic on the onramp to allow PHS/SCPA staff to reach over the side of the freeway with specialized equipment to rescue the raccoon.

“The raccoon was in an extremely precarious situation and her only options were to fall from the high above the ground onramp to the ground below or attempt to survive in the oncoming traffic,” said Buffy Martin-Tarbox, Communications Manager at PHS/SPCA. “Either option would have potentially ended in tragedy for the animal.”

The raccoon was taken to the Wildlife Care Center for evaluation and was released back into the wild with a clean bill of health — and in a safe distance away from the highway.

“Hopefully she has learned her lesson and will stay far away from any onramps but rescuing wildlife as we increasingly encroach on natural habitat is a very predictable and at times very challenging part of our work,” said Tarbox.

This raccoon is just one of more than 400 animals PHS/SCPA has helped since San Mateo County instituted the shelter-in-place order.

Photo credit: PHS/SCPA

See’s Candies donates sweet relief to San Mateo County frontliners

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See’s Candies donates sweet relief to San Mateo County frontliners

See’s Candies, the iconic candy company based in South San Francisco, has been donating heaps of its delicious product to frontline workers and community organizations across the West.

The South San Francisco-based company recently donated $125,000 worth of chocolate to the San Mateo County Health Foundation, which will be distributed to county frontline workers. Samaritan House has also received a donation, as has the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley Food Bank, which helped distribute thousands of pounds of candy, along with meals, to families in need. In recent weeks, over 100 tons of See’s Candies have gone to hospitals, schools, food banks, police and fire departments and charitable organizations.

With stores closed due to the shelter-in-place order, See’s Candies couldn’t sell its Easter-themed candies and didn’t want them to go to waste. So it decided to donate the product to various organizations, including Meals on Wheels, Ronald McDonald Houses and the YMCA.

ABC7 News’ Dan Ashley recently spoke with See’s Candies CEO Pat Egan in Walnut Creek, where the local See’s Candies store was delivering Easter-themed candies to a local hospital.

“We are so thrilled to be able to support our frontline workers and to put this to good use, and to thrill some people with our product which we absolutely love, and would love to sell, but in this case we get to give,” Egan told Ashley.

Since March, See’s Candies said it has “reconfigured how we make and sell candy,” with fewer people on its production floors. Some of its stores are testing pick-up options, where allowed. For more information and updates, visit See’s Candies’ website here.

Photo credit: See’s Candies

San Mateo County to allow ‘highly regulated’ vehicle gatherings for graduation ceremonies

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San Mateo County to allow 'highly regulated' vehicle gatherings for graduation ceremonies

Is the Class of 2020 prepared for its drive-in graduation ceremony?

To facilitate graduations, San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow has issued a new order allowing “highly regulated” gatherings of vehicles.

Effective at 11:59 p.m. tonight, the new order impacts gatherings of ten or more vehicles. It requires occupants of each vehicle to be members of the same household, prohibits them from exiting the vehicle at the gathering except to use a restroom or to collect an item such as a diploma, and requires them to wear face coverings when windows are open. The order doesn’t permit bicycles, motorcycles, door-less vehicles or convertibles with the the top open.

Gatherings are limited to no more than 200 invited vehicles, and the event can last no more than three hours, the health order states. Hosts must implement proper social distancing protocols and also security in form of local law enforcement, a private company, or staff that provide campus security. The security must monitor social distancing, traffic, safety and other order requirements. Hosts are required to prepare a Gathering Plan as detailed in an appendix to the order here.

The text of the order is here.

As of May 10, there were 1,464 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county and 56 deaths. While the rate of increase the cumulative number of confirmed cases continues to increase, the rate of increase has slowed in recent days, the county says.

“Evidence suggests that the restrictions on mobility and the social distancing requirements of the March 16 and prior Shelter in Place orders are slowing the rate of increase in community transmission and confirmed cases,” the County said.

County program helps homeowners add second unit

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Want to add a unit to your property? A San Mateo County program is offering 100 hours of free feasibility and project management support to eligible homeowners.

The program, Bright in Your Own Backyard, is launching in the pilot communities of East Palo Alto, Redwood City, City of Pacifica, and unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. Applications from all eligible homeowners are being accepted through 5 p.m. on June 1.

Bright in Your Own Backyard is a collaboration involving Hello Housing, philanthropy, major employers, local government, and homeowners to build more housing in the San Mateo County community. Launched with approval by the County Board of Supervisors last year, Hello Housing provides homeowners with no-cost support in the design, estimating, permitting and project management involved with building a second unit.

For eligibility and application details, visit https://www.hellobright.org/one-stop-shop.

 

San Carlos Youth Advisory Council hosting Diaper Drive

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San Carlos Youth Advisory Council hosting Diaper Drive

Happening tomorrow, May 9, the San Carlos Youth Advisory Council is hosting a Diaper Drive to help local families in need. Materials needed include diapers and wipes in all sizes that must be in the original packaging. All items collected will be donated to One Life Counseling Center.

Residents can donate materials in two different ways. A drop off bin will be located at the front of the San Carlos Youth Center from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 9 that allows for contact-free drop-off.

Secondly, residents can donate online via the One Life Counseling Diaper Drive Amazon Wish List that can be found here. All items can be shipped with Amazon Prime directly to the One Life Counseling donation center located at 1033 Laurel Street.

If you have any questions, please contact Caitlyn Matoso at cmatoso@cityofsancarlos.com.

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