April 6, 2020

She shut down the Bay Area to slow the deadly coronavirus; ‘None of us really believed we would do it’


She is the Bay Area’s Anthony Fauci, Santa Clara County’s most “essential” employee, the one who banished us from Sharks hockey games, canceled her own daughter’s high school prom — and eventually shut in 6 million Bay Area residents in six neighboring counties to slow the stampede of a deadly pandemic.

You could be forgiven if you’d never heard of Sara Cody before Jan. 31 — what seems like a century ago, when Kobe Bryant’s death was still what shocked us. That’s the day Dr. Cody was already feeling late, sitting at her dining room table in Old Palo Alto, gulping down a cup of coffee when her cellphone rang. It was 6:49 a.m.

“You’ve got your first positive,” the voice said.

A virus’ lethal journey

Right then, Cody — Santa Clara County’s Public Health Officer since 2013 — was positive that even by Silicon Valley standards, life as we know it here was about to change. Santa Clara County had recorded the Bay Area’s first case of coronavirus — the seventh in the U.S. Later that same day, President Donald Trump would ban most travel from China, where the stealth virus had begun its lethal journey across the planet.

But early that morning, Cody was preparing to tell the public it had already landed right here. Ever since, she has been in a furious race against the virus, making critical decisions that would shut down festivals and family gatherings, ban people from school, work and church — all in a grave attempt to save untold lives.

It was Cody who would eventually lead her Bay Area cohorts to pull the trigger March 16 on the historic seven-county legal order — the first of its kind in the country — that required residents to “shelter-in-place,” days ahead of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s similar mandate for the entire state.

And it is Cody who is carrying the burden of those decisions and the uncertainty of whether they will actually work.

“We just want to do everything we can to slow the train down,” Cody, 56, told the Bay Area News Group in a series of interviews this week, “so that when it hits the curve in the track it will not derail.”

‘When do you need me?’

In these unparalleled eight weeks, colleagues from Cody’s inner circle say, she has seldom hesitated. The moment she learned of the county’s first coronavirus case she was already calling two of her most-trusted advisers, now retired, from the health department. She had worked with them during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent anthrax scare: her predecessor Marty Fenstersheib and Karen Smith, who had recently retired as the state’s public health officer and was on a girls’ ski weekend at Donner Summit when she got Cody’s call.

“When do you need me?” Smith asked.

“Right now,” Cody said.

When Smith arrived at the Public Health Department on Lenzen Avenue in San Jose that late January afternoon, she greeted Cody with a hug in the same conference room where she and Fenstersheib had interviewed the Stanford and Yale graduate 22 years …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health

      

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