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GDT’s John Woodall Comments on San Francisco Bay Area’s Stay-At-Home Extension

The following was originally posted by Joseph F. Kovar on CRN.

The six counties around California’s San Francisco Bay Area, the epicenter of the world’s technology industry, will extend the stay-at-home restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus while working to ease a few of those restrictions.

The length of the extension of the order was described as “through May,” the public health officers of the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara as well as the city of Berkeley wrote in a joint statement.

However, multiple Bay Area news outlets are reporting that the extensions will likely go through May 31.

The six Bay Area counties on March 16 were the first in the nation to implement wide-ranging stay at home rules in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The following day, California’s Monterey County joined the others with stay-in-place restrictions. By March 19, the state of California was the first to implement state-wide stay in place restrictions.

The six counties and the city of Berkeley said they will issue some time later this week revised shelter-in-place orders that will keep most of the current restrictions in place through May, and will ease specific restrictions for a small number of lower-risk activities.

By working through the restrictions, the 7 million residents in the area have helped ensure area hospitals were not overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, the officials wrote.

“At this stage of the pandemic, however, it is critical that our collective efforts continue so that we do not lose the progress we have achieved together. Hospitalizations have leveled, but more work is needed to safely re-open our communities. Prematurely lifting restrictions could easily lead to a large surge in cases,” they wrote.

The global COVID-19 pandemic is still in its early stages, with the virus easily spreading while testing capacity is limited and vaccines still in early development, the officials wrote.

“We expect to be responding to COVID-19 in our communities for a long time. As effective as our efforts have been, if we move too fast to ease restrictions, the potential of exponential spread could have grave impacts to health and wellness of our residents as well as the economy,” they wrote.

For solution providers in the area, the pandemic has changed how they do business, but they are determined to continue following restrictions with the aim of preventing larger issues over the long term.

Living and working under the stay-at-home restrictions is difficult, with increased unemployment and decreased business activities impacting the business environment, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering west at General Datatech, a Dallas-based solution provider.

Add to that the fact that people want to get back to work, and can’t be expected to stay home forever, and there’s a balancing act, Woodall told CRN.

“But you have to take responsibility to make the right choices, or have the state of California make them for you,” he said. “When people en masse put other people at risk because of the choice of ‘personal freedom,’ it’s like everybody in kindergarten being forced to stay after class because of one person.”

If restrictions are lifted too soon, people will die because of it, Woodall said.

He said the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 and 1919 shows what happens when restrictions are lifted too quickly. “The restrictions were lifted early, the restrictions on wearing face masks was lifted, and the following second wave of the Spanish Flu was much worse that the first.”

America gives us freedom of choice, which includes the freedom to do the right thing, Woodall said.

“It’s time to do the right thing like generations before have done and step back from opening too quickly,” he said. “This is not easy. This is hard. But we’re getting through it. We have the advantage of the sane expertise of experts. They tell us to social distance, wash our hands, and wear a mask. If we can do this, we get back to work faster.”

Carl Wolfston, principal at Headlands Associates, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based solution provider, said he would like to get back to normal.

However, Wolfston told CRN, it is hard to see business returning to how it was done pre-COVID-19, no matter how long the restrictions remain in place.

“You may want to visit people for business meetings, but most people in the Bay Area will not want to return to the offices after all restrictions lift,” he said. “Companies may want to bring in new equipment, but do the deployment and support over the phone. In this area, I’ve seen only one company that expects all its employees to return to the office after the pandemic. People in manufacturing might want to go back first, but it’s hard to see how.”

In the meantime, Wolfston said, he will continue to adapt as the restrictions stay in place longer than originally expected.

He said he had one customer of 20 years order $150,000 worth of equipment, which he himself hand-delivered with his van to the back door of that customer’s premises in downtown San Francisco.

“It was scary,” he said. “There could have been a cash flow issue. A lot of channel partners have problems with shipping products but no one at the customer is there to receive it. But because I knew the customer, I drove it over. Driving in San Francisco now is weird because no one is there. And I got paid in 10 days.”

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