Closed for Business

Day 9: March 31, 2020

Well, it has been a bit. In the last week or so I have been up to the same shenanigans, more or less. Since my readers are such devoted fans, I suppose I can give a general overview.

I now have a car for the time being. Allow me to be the next to say what a blessing it is to have easy access to a car in Silicon Valley. As someone who only relied on public transit and my nifty bike, this is a game changer. It can always seem like Bay Area traffic is the bane of one’s existence, but it is important to realize how many people cannot get to where they need to be because of how our transportation infrastructure is set up. Especially in this pandemic, the luxury of a car is a health privilege. There are so many unhoused people and other community members who can only rely on public transit, where close proximity presents serious health risks.

In my time at Sacred Heart Food Pantry, I built a lovely friendship with another volunteer. We began by assembling boxes together and soon upgraded to filling boxes with produce. If the world remained the same, I never would have become good friends with this man from Fremont on court order to distribute food to the community, but here we were. He shared insight as to how East Bay is not reporting enough testing results from the virus because so many communities are black/brown with little access to health insurance or medical supplies. There was much to talk to about and share, but we soon found ourselves hurling produce across the warehouse at each other to make the day more fun.

One of my daily endeavors brought me to a local UPS shop to send something out for a friend leaving the area. I did not anticipate the lengthy wait time and intense social distancing. Most folks wait outside while only one customer entered the tiny essential business. I could not quite tell what these people were sending out across the country, but it was clear that they were all worried and in a rush. Silence within the store was snuffed out by the insistent cardboard shuffling and rhythmic foot tapping of nervous patrons. It was abundantly clear that no one wanted to be around each other with fear of getting sick, but they knew that this essential errand could not be delayed.

In an attempt to leave the crowds of society behind for a morning, I tried to go hiking. If only I read the COVID-19 lockdown update from the night before, Alum Rock park is indefinitely closed. Similar to most parks, public spaces, and trails, it is all closed. Since social distancing only recently became a serious task for the youth, the situation is only getting worse here as the number of cases is skyrocketing. Santa Clara county now has around 900 cases with 30 deaths. That being said, those are only the numbers provided from those who have been tested. The county does not have access to enough tests to track this spread as hospitals are spreading the virus like wildfire. A Safeway in South San Jose found multiple employees tested positive, but will continue to remain open and endanger the lives of hundreds. Similarly, Kaiser Permanente stated that over half of all their beds are confirmed to have the virus. If this is all not scary enough, local law enforcement and the national guard are checking in on MIA community members and finding that some folks are dying alone in their homes without any help.

As more people get laid off and the community remains indoors for the duration of this lockdown, there are thousands of locals stranded without food. Most notably, undocumented families cannot risk any chance of succumbing to this sickness or being registered in any database for law enforcement to access. To no surprise, ICE is adamant on ruining lives. Our undocumented brothers and sisters fear any call they get on the landline in fear that it could be a scam or setup. This then presents the issue of how to get them the resources they need to survive. Thankfully, local schools are utilizing the communication network with undocumented students to ultimately get aid to their families so that we can deliver groceries. It may sound dramatic and far fetched, but I guarantee this is how some of our neighbors are struggling to survive. While many of us can sleep at night surrounded by warm walls and plenty of food, we have family out there who are counting down the days.

This then takes me to my first two days of school. Walking by campus on what should be the busiest and brightest day of the quarter would normally be uplifting, but it was just cold. The streets grow more barren everyday as our social circles seem to be constricted by the fear of illness. I am not trying to say this fear is misplaced, but it is ironic how the majority of folks will only take this seriously once the danger befalls someone they may know.

My final adventure of the last couple days was a bike ride to the once popular Franklin Square. On a normal Saturday, this place is bustling with families attending the Santa Clara Farmers Market. Today, it was only home to birds and squirrels. I went ahead and attached pictures of some signs in front of local businesses during this time. It is heartbreaking to realize how many local shops and stores will go under and never resurface after this pandemic, hopefully, ends. These small businesses thrive off of the daily customers they get, but this new lockdown only presents definite closure for the families that survive off of the daily revenue.

Liquor Store in Santa Clara
Jasmine Thai Cuisine
Local Barber Shop

In other local news: CA school superintendent has suggested that most Bay Area schools remain closed for the rest of the school year. Santa Clara has expanded the shelter-in-place order to the beginning of May. More law enforcement and firefighters are testing positive everyday. Finally, the rent strike begins at midnight.

Buy sparingly, don’t be a snitch, check in on each other, and wash your hands 🙂

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