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Coronavirus spreads alarm in Bay Area: Schools close and people keep their distance

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A passenger from the Grand Princess cruise ship is taken ashore after the ship docked in Oakland on Tuesday.
(AFP / Getty Images)

The coronavirus continued to spread across the San Francisco Bay Area this week, causing more closures and changes in everyday life.

The economic effects were being felt widely across the area, where businesses like dry cleaners, dumpling restaurants and hair stylists were reporting a loss in business, with some reducing days of operation to deal with the dramatic decline.

In San Francisco on Thursday, the normally bustling Ferry Building Marketplace was largely empty, with customers keeping their distance from food shops manned by worried employees.

“We usually have a line of 10 to 15 people at lunchtime,” said Jade Kim, manager of Namu Stonepot.

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Outside, a couple strolled through the empty square as seagulls and pigeons looked on.

“It’s weird. Things are super quiet. There was nobody on BART,” said Altoni Cabling, 28, of her ride on a Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter train from her home in Oakland to San Francisco.

The number of coronavirus cases in Santa Clara County jumped to 66, with at least 16 believed to be community spread.

The county health department said 33 remain hospitalized.

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A San Jose firefighter has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting precautionary actions by the Fire Department.

“We don’t know how the firefighter contracted the illness, however, he is in a hospital in another city where he resides, being treated by medical professionals,” the San Jose Fire Department said in a statement. Several dozen fire officials identified as at risk were placed on leave.

Schools run by the Catholic Diocese of San Jose were closed Friday for at least two weeks, and begin distance learning on Tuesday.

The West Contra Costa Unified School District and San Mateo Union High School District also announced closures beginning Monday; both said instruction would continue with remote learning.

San Francisco announced it was closing its public schools for three weeks, beginning Monday through the end of the previously scheduled spring break April 3.

San Francisco’s health officer issued an order banning non-essential visitors from long-term care facilities.

“We know that this virus has the greatest likelihood of harming elderly people and those with underlying health conditions and chronic illnesses,” Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of health, said in a statement. “Looking at the patterns of illness in California and Washington state, we have chosen to move aggressively to protect residents of long-term care facilities in our community by restricting visitors who could unwittingly bring exposure to the virus into the building with them.”


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