The San Jose Sharks play their home games at the SAP Center in San Jose. (Courtesy photo)

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Santa Clara County officials are banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people starting Wednesday to limit the spread of COVID-19, county leaders said Monday evening.

County officials said the ban will last for three weeks.

The ban will affect, among other events, sports gatherings such as San Jose Sharks’ games at the SAP Center, but the teams could play without spectators, county counsel James Williams said.

Williams said the ban will be enforceable by sheriff’s deputies and police, and law enforcement will have discretion over how to enforce the ban. It may be the first such ban in the U.S.

Additionally, Dr. Sarah Cody, the county’s director of public health, is encouraging people to practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus.

She said slowing the spread is critical because a surge could overwhelm county staff as they try to help the people who are infected.

“I really want to emphasize the importance of everyone doing their part in coming together to slow the spread of this infection and protect the public,” Cody said.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was optimistic.

He said, “I’m confident that if we take care of each other and we work together we are collectively stronger than this virus.”

County executive Dr. Jeff Smith said the county is still looking for a place for the homeless to self-isolate should they become infected. He said Santa Clara County does not need to allocate money as San Francisco did Monday to protect the homeless and people in single-room occupancy hotels.

“We’re in a different situation than San Francisco,” Smith said. “We don’t have to allocate (money). Our health care system is available to anyone in need.

“Our system is designed to be able to provide whatever services are needed so the homeless are welcome. Anybody is welcome whether you are able to pay or whether you are a citizen or resident.”

The news briefing can be watched at https://www.facebook.com/sccpublichealth/videos/657978281685066/.

Woman in her 60s dies from COVID-19

Also on Monday, the county announced its first death from COVID-19 following confirmation of more cases of infection over the weekend.

Santa Clara County upped its total confirmed COVID-19 cases to 37 over the weekend and the city of San Jose halted some city services as precaution against the spread of the virus.

The deceased was a woman in her 60s with chronic health conditions, according to the county, who had first been reported infected on Feb. 28. She was also the first case to be confirmed in the county who had not traveled internationally or had any known contacts with infected persons, which signal the first case of community transmission in the county. She had been hospitalized for several weeks.

She died at El Camino Hospital Monday morning, the county said.

“This is a tragic development,” Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s director of public health, said in a statement. “We are facing a historic public health challenge and know this is a very difficult time. Our top priority continues to be the health of our community.”

According to the city of San Jose, certain bus trips for seniors have been canceled until May, and senior meals have been transitioned to “boxed to-go, pickup format” until an undetermined time.

Also, a vaccine clinic scheduled for Saturdays through April 4 at San Jose’s Animal Care Center has been canceled, a career-day exhibition scheduled for March 11 in the City Hall rotunda has been postponed until the fall, an art and wellness program at the Northside Community Center is temporarily canceled until March 12 and a rent stabilization program scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. at Rosemary Elementary School in Campbell has been canceled.