Contra Costa County moving toward recovery

Photo courtesy of Metro Creative

The county took a step toward economic recovery this week when Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) announced the easing of a number of shelter-in-place restrictions

The county took a step toward economic recovery this week when Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) announced the easing of a number of shelter-in-place restrictions.

The latest county health order, issued Tuesday, June 2, allows the resumption of indoor retail shopping. Business offices and outdoor museums can reopen, and services that don’t require close customer contact, such as housekeeping, car washes, plumbing and pet grooming can also resume.

“We look forward to all businesses opening up as soon as possible with the community’s commitment to adhere to social distancing and all of the other safety protocols that we are now well aware of,” said Bryan Montgomery, Oakley city manager. “It is our adherence to these protocols that will make such openings possible and safe.”

Small outdoor social gatherings are allowed under the new health order, as are child care services and camps for up to 12 children in stable cohorts. Libraries can reopen for curbside pickup service and protests of up to 100 people will also be permitted. Religious services with some limitations can resume June 15. The county is working with the state to reopen swimming pools and outdoor dining with guidance from the county expected in the coming weeks.

CCHS monitors five key factors that indicate the degree to which the novel coronavirus is spreading in the community. Among those indicators are: the growth rate positive COVID-19 cases and the number of patients hospitalized; the capacity of county hospitals to manage a surge in patients; sufficient testing for detection of the virus; the capacity for contact tracing of patients who test positive for COVID-19 and area hospitals have a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Progress made toward slowing the virus’ proliferation as reflected in these indicators provided the opportunity for the county to loosen restrictions that were initially enacted March 17.

“This latest step toward reopening our county is a reflection of our successful collective effort as a community to limit the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, CCHS health officer. “I know there’s a lot of frustration out there, but it’s important to keep in mind that interventions like social distancing have saved lives.”

With 1,506 reported cases in the county as of June 1, new COVID-19 infections grew at 1.6% per day for May, compared to 4.2% in April and 15.6% in March. In terms of absolute number, 126 cases were added for the week ending May 30, while the three preceding weeks recorded 174, 100 and 103 cases, respectively. 

The average number of patients hospitalized per week has held steady at 13.4 for the last two weeks of the month. This indicator peaked at 39.3 during the week ending April 18 and has fallen steadily since then. 

Testing for COVID-19 has been a challenge, and the county has struggled to achieve its goal of 2,200 tests per day. CCHS only got close to that number once last month when 2,019 tests were completed May 19. The average number of tests completed per day for the last week of May was 784.

CCHS is making a concerted effort to increase the number of tests completed, and a particular emphasis has been placed on doing more testing at the Brentwood site it operates in conjunction with the state. Located at the Brentwood Senior Center, less than half of the site’s available appointments are getting booked, said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, CCHS deputy health officer. He is urging residents, even those who are healthy, to get tested.

“People are getting out more,” he said. “They’re doing more. Churches are going to be open soon. Sports are opening up. Kids are having more contact with their friends. You could be experiencing transmission without even knowing. Some sort of regular testing is an important aspect, and it’s an important contribution to the health of your family and the community.”

Tzieli explained that changes to testing protocols will contribute to wider patient acceptance. 

The nasal swab test now in use is much less invasive, and he expects that patients will soon be able to swab themselves under the watch of a medical technician. 

Among those getting tested, the World Health Organization advises the rate of positive results should be less than 5%. Contra Costa County reported a seven-day positive rate of 2.7% at the end of May. The rate remained well under 5% for the entire month.

No deaths related to COVID-19 were reported for the week ending May 30, the first calendar week without a death since the middle of March. However, one death was reported June 1, and the total number of deaths now stands at 38. Farnitano said in a CCHS press release that ten times the number of deaths might have occurred had the county not acted quickly and aggressively in the early stages of the pandemic.

All eight of the county’s hospitals have attested to having a 30-day supply of PPE, up from only two last week. 

“We are pleased with the progress made by our citizens adhering fairly well to the shelter and social-distancing practices and grateful indoor retail is now allowed in safe ways because of our efforts,” said Tim Ogen, Brentwood city manager. “We hope these reopenings help the businesses resume doing what they do best and are very eager to see more openings of other businesses and recreational activities as soon as the county allows it.”

For more information visit, https://www.coronavirus.cchealth.org. To schedule a COVID-19 test, call 800-421-0804. 

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