With temperatures climbing around the Bay Area on Tuesday, the city of San Jose’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department made a last-second decision to open five cooling centers this week.
Cooling centers opened starting Tuesday evening at Mayfair Community Center, Camden Community Center, Seven Trees Community Center, Roosevelt Community Center and Cypress Community Center “to provide residents with a cool place to beat the heat,” according to a city press release.
The centers will be open from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday, 1 p.m.-9 p.m. on Wednesday and 1 p.m.-7 p.m. on Thursday, but access will be limited due to social distancing guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Public information manager Carolina Camarena said all visitors will be asked whether they’ve had a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing within the last two weeks. Anyone who answers “Yes” will be prevented from entering the cooling centers.
“In addition to that, we are using infrared thermometers to check temperatures,” Camarena said. “Anyone with a fever is also not allowed to come in. We’re doing that for the safety or our staff but also for any other visitors that may be getting a reprieve from the heat by coming to the cooling centers.”
The decision to open the cooling centers wasn’t made until the middle of the day Tuesday, after another outlet reported that the city did not plan to open them. Camarena told this news organization the department never committed to keeping the cooling centers closed and was instead evaluating several different factors.
“What we were looking at was whether or not we could do it safely,” Camarena said. “Can we enforce social distancing? What can we do to make sure people are not showing up sick? This is what we’ve come up with and they follow CDC guidelines.”
The department did not appear to have a solution people suffering in the heat who are sent away from a center, nor any way to stop the potential arrival of guests who are asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus.
Camarena said the city elected to open the cooling centers to provide a cool space for vulnerable populations who need them, but acknowledged there’s no way of guaranteeing someone who is infected with the coronavirus but not presenting symptoms will be kept out.
“There’s no way to tell whether someone is asymptomatic,” Camarena said. “Opening the cooling centers for health issues, it’s really so that those vulnerable populations, the seniors and children have a place to have a reprieve from the heat. We are asking the health questions and doing the thermometer screening to keep the staff and others who visit safe, but the best thing to do for everyone is to shelter in place.”
Camarena said all five cooling centers are different sizes, so they will each have a different maximum capacity that’s been reduced to help with enforcing social distancing. Even if visitors are healthy, they will not be allowed in if the cooling centers are full.
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Author: Kerry Crowley