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Bay Area shelter in place orders trigger employee layoffs
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The sudden impact of the COVID-19 virus is starting to affect the employment outlook for Central Valley residents.

Especially if they had previously been commuting over the Altamont to the San Francisco Bay Area – where widespread shelter in place orders are keeping non-essential employees home to prevent the spread of the illness.

While he usually commutes over to the Bay Area five days a week to work in a union trade, John – who asked that his last name not be used – ended up taking home a computer and a monitor last week so that he could check plans for when the jobsite gets up and running again soon.

There were more than 550 people on the job that he’s currently on, and that number, he said, has dwindled down to less than 100 since the government began putting pressure on people to stay home out of fears that the number of cases will overwhelm the existing medical infrastructure.

“It’s crazy right now,” he said. “Nobody really knows what’s going to happen next.”

And John isn’t alone.

With a large number of residents that commute to the Bay Area five days a week residing in and around the South County, a growing number of people are being told to work from home as the government tries to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading throughout the populace.

For Chris Harding, that means that the word that he would be doing at a Bay Area tech firm is now being done from his home office – complete with cyber conferences with colleagues that he used to meet with multiple times during the workday.

The development, he said, is not ideal, but noted that it has become the standard throughout the industry that he works in – which has cancelled nearly all of its major conferences and events scheduled for this spring and early summer as the virus got a foothold in the tech-heavy Bay Area.

“I’m hearing about people that are having to stay home and don’t know whether they’re going to be paid, and fortunately that’s not the case for me,” Harding said. “So, in that respect, I’m fortunate.

“But there’s going to be a big impact from this if this goes on the foreseeable future and that has a lot of people on edge and worried about what the future may hold.”

But the crisis has already created opportunity here in the Central Valley – where grocery stores have been looking to fill newly created positions as residents that are staying home have crushed their local retailers looking to stock up on supplies.

Amazon, which operates warehouses in Tracy and Patterson and staging distribution centers in places like Manteca, is also looking to hire employees to keep with the demand that the COVID-19 crisis has created during what is typically a slow online shopping period.

Ryan Martinez, who is currently not working after being laid off late last year, said that he’s hoping to be able to find something close to home that will help him pay the bills during this period of transition, and wouldn’t mind if it’s temporary work.

“If you go to a grocery store you can see how badly they need help right now,” Martinez said. “Maybe that’s a place for me to look even if it’s not something that’s going to be permanent.

“Anything would help right now – things are just really uncertain.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.