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Santa Clara Officials Ask Apple and Other Firms to Cancel Conferences And Travel Due to Coronavirus

Santa Clara Officials Ask Apple and Other Firms to Cancel Conferences And Travel Due to Coronavirus

Santa Clara County officials on Thursday created new health guidelines recommending companies to cancel “large in-person meetings and conferences” and to suspend non-essential employee travel, due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus. (Via The Verge)

The updated guidance comes as the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread, with six new cases discovered on Thursday, bringing the number of coronavirus infections in the county to at least 20 people.

The county’s guidance affects several major Silicon Valley employers. Apple is headquartered in Cupertino; Google in Mountain View; Tesla, in Palo Alto; Netflix, in Los Gatos; LinkedIn, in Sunnyvale; Adobe, in San Jose; and Intel and Nvidia, in Santa Clara. Other firms with offices in the area include Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Santa Clara County is asking employers to take steps to “make it more feasible for their employees to work in ways that minimize close contact with large numbers of people.”

Employers should:

  • Suspend nonessential employee travel.
  • Minimize the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another, including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences.
  • Urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.
  • Not require a doctor’s note for employees that are sick as healthcare offices may be very busy and unable to provide that documentation right away.
  • Consider the use of telecommuting options for appropriate employees.
  • Consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.

The county recommends that companies postpone or cancel “mass gatherings and large community events where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.”

If this can’t be avoided, companies should:

  • Urge anyone who is sick to not attend.
  • Encourage those who are at higher risk for serious illness to not attend.
  • Try to find ways to give people more physical space so that they aren’t in close contact as much as possible.
  • Encourage attendees to follow increased hygiene, such as:
    • Washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
      • If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used in a pinch
    • Avoid close contact with other people
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
    • Covering their cough or sneeze with a tissue – if available – or into their elbow
  • Clean surfaces with standard cleaners.

Google and Facebook have already canceled annual developer events that were set to be held in Santa Clara County. However, Apple has not yet made any announcements about WWDC, which is typically held in June.

Apple has also been rumored to be planning to hold a media event in later March to announce new products, including a lower-cost iPhone, AirTags, and new iPad Pro models. However, that now seems unlikely.