San Mateo County asks employers to let employees telecommute to keep traffic low

After several tech companies told their employees to work from home, traffic congestion disappeared on Highway 101, as this photo from March 12 shows. AP photo.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted today (June 30) to encourage all employers in the county to offer employees the option to work from home and telecommute when feasible.

Supervisors David Canepa and Warren Slocum co-sponsored a resolution, which the board unanimously approved, encouraging telecommuting in an effort to tackle multiple problems.

Residents working from home, Canepa and Slocum argued, can protect themselves from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic while also minimizing traffic congestion and reducing carbon emissions from their vehicles.

Canepa noted that the American Lung Association gave the county an “F” for its particulate pollution and a “B” for ozone pollution prior to the pandemic.

However, he argued, following local health orders to stay home during the pandemic could have lasting positive results in the form of reducing pollution in the Bay Area.

“There’s a big lesson to learn here: do we return to gridlock or do we look at what is working now … to come up with new innovative policies to protect the environment,” Canepa said.

Slocum argued that local employers should take a cue from technology companies that have expanded telecommuting opportunities. In May, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told employees they could continue working from home permanently.

“I think it’s important that San Mateo County, that we demonstrate leadership on this issue,” Slocum said.

San Mateo County Health Chief Louise Rogers told the board that the county is seeing a rise in coronavirus cases that is similar to other parts of the Bay Area that have begun reopening.

The county’s 14-day average testing positivity rate is at 4% while the rest of the Bay Area is at 3.4%, according to Rogers. A large number of the county’s 3,232 coronavirus cases and 108 deaths are also associated with congregate care facilities and nursing homes.

“We’ve expected, as society loosens, that people will be moving around, we’ll see a lot of that activity,” Rogers said. “The question in whether we will observe, in our community, that people are respecting the guidance about wearing face coverings, about observing physical distance of at least 6 feet, about avoiding crowds.”

“If we don’t respect all of those behaviors, we’re going to start to see more of a taking off of the numbers that we’ve now seen in other states,” she said. — Bay City News