The city will need to partner with other organizations including the school district

Photo by Marty Cheek
The owner of Betto’s Bistro Norberto Hernandez (right) and Roman Olvido, bartender, outside the downtown restaurant, which began curbside pick up in late April. With businesses suffering financially by COVID-19, the city’s sales tax revenue has taken a hit.

Opinion of Morgan Hill Life

The financial health of local businesses has been hit hard with the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order imposed in mid-March by the county’s Public Health Department. It was followed soon after by a state-wide order by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The drastic action of putting a brake on public interaction has saved thousands of lives. Yet there are no objective benchmarks showing when it might end so that communities can begin the process of “re-opening.” Millions of people are losing their jobs. Families are being separated. The crisis also has taken a heavy toll on the economic health of cities throughout California, the nation and the world. The devastation will be felt for years to come.

Los Angeles County extended it stay order through the month of July, an indicator that shelter-in-place might last through much of the summer and into the new school year. Regardless how long it lasts, it is vital for our city and county leaders to start now in planning for the eventual recovery. In late April, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to create a comprehensive plan that would serve as a roadmap laying out how and when to start the process of peeling back restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It reflects a similar statewide push to create clear public health requirements that need to be met to ease the restrictions that have shut down businesses, schools, and public gatherings.

The Morgan Hill City Council will discuss preparation for re-opening and recovery at the May 20 video meeting. Councilmembers Larry Carr and John McKay put together a draft of a COVID-19 recovery plan for the city. Among items they offer for consideration are:

  • Developing draft guidelines based on the current county protocols for essential businesses.
  • The city can begin working with the Chamber of Commerce to develop a draft as a starting point for local businesses.
  • The city can work with the Chamber to develop a “shop local” campaign to encourage residents to support stores and restaurants.
  • Promote curbside pick-up as well as in-home delivery for all retail through both local action and legislative advocacy.
  • Work with Visit Morgan Hill to support a strategic plan and branding campaign to promote the city to visitors.
  • Additional outdoor space to serve restaurants guests such as parklets or a “road diet” closure of lanes of Monterey Road through downtown.
  • Possible closure of select side streets to allow for outdoor dining and outdoor retail operations.

For the plan to succeed, the city will need to partner with other organizations including the school district. If the coronavirus crisis in mid-August prevents children from returning to their classrooms, parents who work will be forced to stay home or find daycare. Perhaps the city can make available its closed facilities such as the Morgan Hill Community Center and the Centennial Recreation Center to be used for the education of kids.

It has been more than two months since the restrictive health order was initiated. This drastic action seems to be working. As of Friday May 15, 2.391 county residents have been infected and 134 have died. The lives lost are tragic, but the numbers would have been considerably higher if society had carried on a business-as-usual policy and the novel coronavirus had spread through much more of the population.

Before an aggressive re-opening of the local economy takes place the county needs to ramp up testing capabilities so they are widely available to examine residents with symptoms. This should also include expansive testing in the county’s jails, homeless encampments, nursing facilities and other places where “accelerated transmission” might be a risk. The county and city of Morgan Hill can work together as a team to implement this.

Once health officials determine that the rate of transmission is low enough, the county will need to make sure the infrastructure and staffing is available for contact tracing. This will give a clear idea of who came in contact with those who test positive with the virus.

We’re glad to see city councilmembers and staff beginning a dialogue to consider how to implement the recovery of Morgan Hill businesses. We encourage the public to contact the mayor and their district’s councilmembers with ideas to help in the revitalization of our local shops, restaurants, and industry.

During a crisis such as the public health challenge we now face, people need good leadership at every level of government, but especially at the local level. We need leaders who are proactive and taking smart steps to plan for the day when the spread of the disease slows enough for re-opening to begin. The speed of our economic recovery in the future depends on how we start preparing now to help our businesses get back to business.

Morgan Hill Life Editorial
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