Solano COVID report on Fri. Sept 25: 31 new cases, 5 new hospitalizations, no new deaths

[For a complete archive of day by day data, see my Excel ARCHIVE – R.S.] [Please note that some of the numbers of new deaths and hospitalizations this past week may not actually be new.  The Fairfield Daily Reporter, quoting Dr. Matyas, is reported that some of the deaths reported Wednesday were updating discrepancies in reporting from last summer.  Dr. Matyas confirmed in an email to me on Thursday that some of the spike in hospitalizations are also adjustments rather than new hospitalizations.  No information as yet as to how many are new and how many are old.  Regardless, these illnesses and deaths are still serious, sad and disturbing…  – R.S.]

Friday, September 25: 31 new cases overnight, 5 hospitalizations, no deaths.  Since the outbreak began: 6,309 cases, 389 hospitalized, 63 deaths.Compare previous report, Thursday, Sept 24:Summary

  • Solano County reported 31 new cases today, total of 6,309 cases since the outbreak started.  Over the last 7 days, Solano reported 224 new cases, average of 32 per day.
  • Deaths – RECENT SPIKE: 3 new deaths reported yesterday, 3 the day before, and another 2 the day before that, total of 63 Solano deaths.  Thankfully, no new deaths reported today.
  • Active cases – Solano reported 7 fewer ACTIVE cases today, total of 269.  Note that only 21 of these 269 people are hospitalized, so there are a lot of infected folks out among us, hopefully quarantined.  Is the County equipped to contact trace so many infected persons?  Who knows?  To my knowledge, Solano County has offered no reports on contact tracing.
  • Hospitalizations – the number of currently hospitalized persons remained at 21 today.  However, the total number hospitalized since the outbreak started increased by 5 today, total of 389, an increase of 73 in just the last week. (see age group hospitalization stats below).
  • ICU BedsThe County reported 50% of ICU beds available, same as yesterday and down from 56% a  week ago Monday.  (After 7 weeks, still no information about availability of ventilators.)
  • Testing – The County reports today that 591 residents were tested today, new total of 86,789.  Solano has a long way to go: only 19.4% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.

Positive Test Rate

Solano County reported today that our 7-day average test rate remained steady today at 3.9%.  Our supposedly smooth 7-day moving average has jumped all over the place recently (see note about delayed adjustments below).  For the record, just two weeks ago we saw Solano rates above 7% for the first time since we peaked at 9.3% on July 22.  Week before last we bottomed out at 2.7%.  The County’s line graph for positive test rate looks like a flat line and tells us absolutely nothing, not worth posting here.  Health officials and news reports focus on percent positive test rates as one of the best metrics for measuring the spread of the virus.  The much more stable California’s relatively stable 7-day test rate remained at it’s lowest point, 2.8% for the 5th consecutive day today(Note that Solano County displays past weeks and months in a 7-day test positivity line graph which also shows daily results.  However, the chart does not display an accurate number of cases for the most recent days, as there is a lag time in receiving test results.  The 7-day curve also lags behind current unknown results.) 

By Age Group

  • Youth 17 and under – 5 new cases today, total of 701 cases, representing 11.1% of the 6,309 total cases.  No new hospitalizations among this age group today, a total of 6 hospitalizations since the outbreak began.  Thankfully, no deathsIn recent weeks it seems too many youth are ignoring public health orders.  Cases among Solano youth rose steadily over the summer, from 5.6% of total cases on June 8 to 11% on August 31 and has remained around 11% since then.  Youth are 22% of Solano’s general population, so this 11% may seem low.  The significance is this: 1) youth numbers have increased steadily and at a faster rate than the other age groups, and 2) youth are SERIOUSLY NOT IMMUNE (!) – in fact 6 youth have now been hospitalized.
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 20 new cases today, total of 3,783 cases. This age group is 41% of the population in Solano, but represents 60% of the total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  The County reported 2 new hospitalizations in this age group today, total of 129 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths in this young age group today, total of 5 deaths.  Some in this group are surely ignoring public health orders, and many are providing essential services among us.  I expect his group is a major factor in the spread of the virus.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 3 new cases today, total of 1,197 cases.  This age group represents 19% of the 6,309 total cases.
    No new hospitalizations today, total of 104 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths in this age group today, a total of 13 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – Today the County reported 3 new cases, total of 627, 3 new hospitalizations, total of 150.  Thankfully, no new deaths, total of 45 of our elders who died of COVID.  Much of the recent spike in this age group may be related to an outbreak at the Parkrose Gardens Alzheimer’s and Dementia care facility in Fairfield, where 31 patients and 8 staff were reported on September 15 to have tested positive.  This age group’s 627 cases represent 9.9% of the 6,309 total cases.  In this older age group, 23.9% of cases required hospitalization at one time.  This group accounts for 45 of the 63 deaths, or 71%.

City Data

  • Benicia remained steady today, total of 165 cases since the outbreak began.
  • Dixon remained steady today, total of 413 cases.
  • Fairfield added 5 new cases today, total of 2,056 cases.
  • Rio Vista remained steady today, total of 48 cases.
  • Suisun City added 3 new cases today, total of 461 cases.
  • Vacaville added 4 new cases today, total of 1,056 cases.
  • Vallejo added 19 new cases today, total of 2,090 cases.
  • Unincorporated areas remained steady today, total of 20 cases.

Race / Ethnicity

The County report on race / ethnicity includes case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  This information is discouragingly similar to national reports that indicate significantly worse outcomes among black and brown Americans.  Note that all of this data surely undercounts Latinx Americans, as there is a large group of “Multirace / Others” which likely is composed mostly of Latinex members of our communities.

  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 9% of cases, 11% of hospitalizations, and 19% of deaths.
  • Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 11% of cases, but 18% of hospitalizations, and 24% of deaths.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 31% of cases, 30% of hospitalizations, and 21% of deaths.
  • White Americans are 39% of the population in Solano County, but only account for 21% of cases, 26% of hospitalizations and 25% of deaths.

More…

The County’s new and improved Coronavirus Dashboard is full of much more information, too extensive to cover here on a daily basis.  The Benicia Independent will continue to summarize daily and highlight a report or two.  Check out the Dashboard at https://doitgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=055f81e9fe154da5860257e3f2489d67.

You can VOTE in Benicia on Monday, September 28! Roger’s recommendations…

By Roger Straw, September 25, 2020
Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

Voting starts earlier than ever this year – you can already cast your mail-in ballot next week!

It’s all new to me.  I have ALWAYS waited, and cast my ballot at the polling place on election day, but not this year.

Candidates for public office have had to change tactics.  I should know –  I’ve been involved in 7 local campaigns over the last 13 years.  We used to send out mailers and knock on doors in October, and there was always a big Get Out the Vote push on Monday before the election.  It all has to be done much earlier now.  And most of us will have already voted by early-, mid- or late-October this year.

So we are making up our minds now.  It’s not hard at all for most of us to know who would make the better President: Joe Biden, of course.  But who will we elect as the next Benicia Mayor?  Who for City Council?  And what about those pesky ballot measures?

For good guidance on these, check out ProgressiveDemocratsOfBenicia.org.  See their CANDIDATE ENDORSEMENTS page and their Recommendations on Ballot Measures.

~ How and where to cast your mail-in ballot EARLY ~

Roger’s recommendations

Steve Young – for BENICIA MAYOR

Benicia Mayor: Steve Young.  I support Steve for his careful analysis of facts and his grounding in city administration.  Benicia will forever owe Steve a debt of gratitude for his intense and persuasive questioning of Valero and City staff during the long fight against Valero’s dirty and dangerous “Crude by Rail” proposal.  The entire Planning Commission and City Council deserve praise, but it was Steve whose star shined most brightly during those pivotal times.  By the way, those who know me are aware of my bias in favor of women candidates.  I’m a longtime male feminist, and usually I will lean left and go with a woman candidate.  But in this year’s race, with Mayor Patterson choosing not to run, I have to go with Steve Young.  More about Steve Young, or Donate and Volunteer.

Terry Scott – for BENICIA CITY COUNCIL

Benicia City Council: Terry Scott.  I support Terry for his vision and values, and for his leadership as Chair of Benicia’s Arts and Culture Commission.  More about Terry Scott, or Donate and Volunteer.

Solano is mailing your ballot to you this weekend – Benicia, Vallejo, Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun City, Rio Vista, Dixon

By Roger Straw, Friday, September 25, 2020

Solano County will mail all ballots for our November election tomorrow, Saturday, September 26, 2020.

In an email yesterday evening, Assistant Solano County Registrar of Voters John Gardner confirmed that “ballots are being mailed on Saturday 9/26.”  Gardner added, “All ballots will be delivered to the post office at the same time for delivery.”

In years past, we might then assume that our ballots would arrive in our mailboxes on Monday, September 28.  Given recent national stories about post office slow deliveries, we will have to watch and see.

IMPORTANT – Return your ballot early!

  • Cast your ballot NEXT WEEK: Mail it back on the same day you get it, maybe next Monday, September 28.  Return it ANYTIME via US Postal Service (postage paid).
  • If you wait a week, you can drop it off in person beginning Monday, October 5: There are 15 NO CONTACT DROP-OFF LOCATIONS (inside office buildings).  Here’s the list on the Solano County website, including City Clerks’ offices in all 7 Solano cities.
  • I hope you don’t wait until October 29, but if you do… There are 10 NO CONTACT CURBSIDE DROP-OFF LOCATIONS.  For 5 days before election day, beginning on Thursday October 29, and continuing on Oct. 30, 31, Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, you can drop off ballots “Curbside.”  (Stay in your car, hand ballot to pollworkers.)  Here’s the list of at least one in each city, on the County website.
  • And there’s 4 options on ELECTION DAY, Tuesday, November 3:
    1. NOT RECOMMENDED: It’s still possible to mail your ballot.  If (and that’s a big IF) the post office postmarks it on Nov. 3, it will be valid and counted.  Please DON’T do this!  I wouldn’t mail my ballot at all, but if you must, I’d say do it at least 2 weeks prior to election day – by October 20.
    2. The office building drop-off locations will still be available.  List of locations.
    3. The curbside drop-off locations will still be available.  List of locations.
    4. And there’s the good old In-Person voting at your local polling place.  Your polling place location will be printed on your ballot.  Note that some polling places may have changed since the last election.  To plan ahead, here is the County’s list of 100 polling placesBetter yet, to look up your location using your home address, go to this page on the County website: solanocounty.com/depts/rov/sample_ballot_polling_place_lookup.asp


Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

Oh, and on a personal note… I am clearly encouraging everyone to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  Donald Trump is unfit in so many ways, a disaster already, and a threat to our democracy if returned for another 4 years.  Dems, GOPs and Independents please unite and do the right thing – Trump and Trumpism have got to go in a landslide victory for Biden/Harris!

Smoke from California fires may have killed more than 1,000 people

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19: Smoke blankets the area from local fires in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Paul Rogers, September 25, 2020

Heavy smoke from wildfires that choked much of California in recent weeks was more than an annoyance.

It was deadly. And it almost certainly killed more people than the flames from the massive fires themselves, health experts say.

Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 10, the historically bad concentrations of wildfire smoke were responsible for at least 1,200 and possibly up to 3,000 deaths in California that otherwise would not have occurred, according to an estimate by researchers at Stanford University. Those fatalities were among people 65 and older, most of whom were living with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory ailments.

By comparison, through Wednesday, 26 people have died directly in wildfires this year statewide.

“Clean air is much more important than we realize,” said Marshall Burke, an associate professor of earth system science at Stanford who calculated the impacts. “When you look at it on a population level, you can see very clearly that breathing clean air has huge public health benefits, and breathing dirty air has disastrous consequences.”

Decades of medical research has shown that soot is among the most dangerous types of air pollution. Known as “PM 2.5,” for particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 microns, the microscopic soot particles are so small that it would take 30 or more to span the width of a human hair.

Generated by diesel trucks, power plants, fireplaces and other sources, the tiny particles can travel deep into the lungs, even entering the bloodstream, when people breathe them in high concentrations.

In mild levels they cause itchy eyes and sore throats, coughing and a tight feeling in the chest. In more severe instances, they can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes or respiratory failure, particularly in the elderly, infants and people with heart and lung problems.

Smoke levels broke all-time records in California. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District called 30 “Spare the Air” days in a row from Aug. 18 to Sept. 16. Soot levels exceeded federal health standards for 19 days. Air quality was even worse in the Sierra, the Sacramento Valley and parts of Southern California, where it reached 10 to 15 times the federal health standard. On Sept. 9, smoke turned the air across Northern California an apocalyptic orange.

Burke and Sam Heft-Neal, a research scholar at Stanford’s Center on Food Security and the Environment, looked at a study published last year that used Medicare data to show that when levels of particulate pollution increased around the United States, the death rate of people 65 and older also increased, as did emergency room visits.

That study, by researchers at the University of Illinois and Georgia State University, found that for each day particulate air pollution increased by about 10% over typical levels — or 1 microgram per cubic meter — there was an increase in deaths and emergency room visits among people over 65 during the next three days.

California has roughly 6 million people older than 65. The Stanford researchers compared air pollution readings during California’s fires with increased death rates and emergency room rates from the previous study. They concluded at least 1,200 “excess deaths” occurred from Aug. 1 to Sept. 10 in California, along with about 4,800 extra emergency room visits.

“These are hidden deaths,” Burke said. “These are people who were probably already sick but for whom air pollution made them even sicker.”

Burke noted Stanford’s analysis doesn’t include young children or people under 65 with serious respiratory or heart conditions.

Other researchers say they generally support Stanford’s conclusions.

“It makes total sense,” said Dr. John Balmes, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and a member of the California Air Resources Board. “It should give us pause.”

In recent days, Bay Area air has cleared. But there is still at least another month of fire season.

Balmes and other experts say it’s important when people can smell smoke outdoors that they go inside and close doors and windows. On very smoky days, towels, masking tape or painter’s tape can block leaks. Air purifiers and wearing N95 or KN95 masks also can help.

“I don’t want to panic people who are healthy and without pre-existing disease, but we should reduce exposure as much as possible,” Balmes said. “You should stay indoors and not be outside any more than you have to be. Exercising outdoors when the air quality is bad is particularly problematic.”

The big unanswered question is whether exposure to thick wildfire smoke has long-term effects on healthy people. A study published this summer by the University of Montana found that of 95 people who lived in the small town of Seeley Lake near Missoula — where wildfire smoke choked the area for 49 days in 2017 — roughly one-third had compromised lung function two years later.

Other studies of wildland firefighters are ongoing. But the public and media often pay more attention to flames than smoke, because we’ve evolved that way, said Dr. Anthony Harris, medical director at WorkCare, a health care company based in Anaheim.

“Those things that are immediate we see and are alarmed by,” he said of the flames. “But studies show that fear only lasts for about two weeks in terms of behavior modification. So the notion that I might have a poor outcome in 15 years because of the smoke I am inhaling today just doesn’t cause a rise in the awareness of people.”

For safe and healthy communities…