Covid-19 Testing 04-27-20 563

A technicians swabs a drive-thru patient at the Alameda County Fairground testing site. While cases are on the rise, the percentage of cases in the Tri-Valley remains lower than the county average. (Photo - Doug Jorgensen)

While health officials tapped the brakes last week on Alameda County’s reopening schedule, the Tri-Valley’s cities show rates well below the county average.

Alameda County is reporting a COVID-19 case rate of 408.5 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. However, the case rates reported by city vary widely. Rates in the Tri-Valley are below the county average. Livermore’s rate of 231.7 is the highest in the Tri-Valley followed by Pleasanton at 162.4 and Dublin at 101.2. There are no cases reported in Sunol. Hayward has the highest case rate in the county at 693.1 infections per 100,000 residents.

Currently, the county is reporting 6,887 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 140 related deaths. The county ranks sixth in the state based on the total number of cases. Only one other Bay Area county, Santa Clara, is in the top 10. The county ranks seventh in the state for deaths related to COVID-19 behind Santa Clara, which has reported 161.

Last week’s paused reopening announcement came amid souring trends in the indicators used to track progress toward slowing the spread of COVID-19 infections in the county.

“Given recent increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates in our county and region, we are temporarily pausing our reopening plans,” wrote Neetu Balram, public information manager for Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD). “This means extending the timeline for the next phase of reopening in Alameda County and pulling back our request for the board of supervisors to support a variance attestation on June 30.”

Indoor dining, barber shops, salons, pools and pro sports without fans were all slated to resume in the next phase of the county’s effort to reopen the economy. All those industries have now been placed on hold by last week’s decision. The county has not given any indication as to when these businesses and activities will again be considered for reopening.

“We recognize the multifaceted challenges presented by a slow reopening and are grateful for the sustained effort and sacrifices made by our residents and businesses,” Balram said. “As the pandemic evolves, we will need to remain flexible and nimble in our response. We all play a part in safely reopening our communities and protecting people at high risk for COVID-19 infection and death.”

Scott Haggerty, Alameda County Supervisor, District I, addressed the matter of a deferred reopening prior to the Fourth of July holiday in a press release issued July 2.

“While this development may represent a small hurdle in our largely successful efforts to safely reopen the county,” Haggerty said, “it is important to note that the county health officer has not reintroduced any new restrictions at this time.”

Driving ACPHD’s decision to pause its reopening plan is the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the county, which began to grow dramatically toward the end of June. There were 78 patients on June 22, and by July 3, that number had doubled to 157, far higher than the county has experienced since the beginning of the pandemic in March. That number dropped slightly to 146 on July 4, the last date reported as of this writing.

The number of ICU patients grew by 53% during that period, slightly more than half the growth rate seen in hospitalizations. Admissions to the ICU tend to lag hospitalizations, so it remains to be seen if this indicator will continue to climb over the coming weeks. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in Alameda County has increased 30% since June 22.

“While variance attestation offers a path to greater alignment with the state’s pace for reopening, it requires counties to attest only when the data show that it is safe to do so,” Balram said. “We are concerned by the increase in local cases, disproportionate impact on communities of color, local impact of the outbreak at San Quentin State Prison, and the alarming disease trends we see in counties that have opened at a faster rate.”

Health officials continue to urge residents to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus in the community by wearing face coverings when in public; staying 6 feet away from others; staying home as much as possible and washing their hands frequently.

For more information, visit the Alameda County Public Health Department at http://www.acphd.org.