All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Steve Young files official papers, runs for Benicia Mayor

Benicia Councilmember Steve Young files for mayor candidacy

Benicia Councilmember Steve Young is sworn in to run for Mayor of Benicia in the Nov. election on July 30.

BENICIA – Thur., City Councilman Steve Young filed to run in the Nov. 3 race for Benicia Mayor.

“I am happy to announce that I have submitted the signatures required to secure my place on the ballot for Mayor of Benicia,” said Young.

As a Community Development Director, as a Planning Commissioner and as a City Councilmember for Benicia, Young has built a foundation in public service.

“I’m proud to be the voice that listens to the local voter in Benicia, the person who works for a living, who cares for their family, or who is retired,” said Young. “These residents of Benicia want the best public education for their kids, a safe neighborhood, and a walkable downtown with access to our wonderful parks and waterfront. These are the people that I hope to represent, not out of town special interest groups.”

When it came time to collect signatures for the petition for his nomination papers, Young did not seek out specific voters or representatives from large organizations – he took a different approach.

“In the time-honored tradition of using our public spaces for public endeavors and announcements, I stood by the City Park Gazebo and invited the public to sign my petition and be part of my campaign,” said Young. “I cannot tell you how proud and honored I am to be able to submit my election petition and to commit my time and energy to representing the voters of Benicia.”

Steve Young wants to continue his commitment to the residents of Benicia, his commitment to transparency, and to continue to listen and work for them.

“I ask for your vote on or before Nov. 3, 2020,” said Young.

Residents can learn more about his platform, read about his views on current City issues, and volunteer to help by going to

Marathon Refinery in Martinez Closing, most jobs no longer needed

Details posted on Refinery website July 31

By Roger Straw, August 1, 2020

The PLAN to close the Gallup and Martinez Refineries was announced in April, but Marathon posted a newsworthy update on July 31.

Quotes and details:

  • Will “…indefinitely idle these facilities with no plans to restart normal operations.”
  • Will convert to a “terminal facility.”  (Reuters suggests this means an “oil-storage facility.”)
  • VERY interesting that they are “evaluating the strategic repositioning of Martinez to a renewable diesel facility.” Renewable diesel may be cleaner and greener, but burning of any fuel in any combustion engine produces carbon dioxide (CO2).  (See “4 Things To Know About Renewable Diesel“)
  • Big news: “most jobs at these refineries will no longer be necessary” with the start of “phased reduction of staffing levels in October.”

Here’s the UPDATE from the Marathon website:

Update on Gallup & Martinez Refineries

On July 31, we informed employees at our Martinez and Gallup refineries that we will indefinitely idle these facilities with no plans to restart normal operations. As part of these changes, Martinez will be converted to a terminal facility. We are also evaluating the strategic repositioning of Martinez to a renewable diesel facility, which aligns with California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standards objectives and MPC’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. Indefinite idling unfortunately means most jobs at these refineries will no longer be necessary, and we expect to begin a phased reduction of staffing levels in October. We do not anticipate supply disruptions in these regions, and we will continue to utilize our integrated system to meet customer commitments.

Breaking news coverage of the update: 

Marathon Petroleum to permanently close two US oil … – Reuters
August 1, 2020 Marathon Petroleum plans to permanently close two small U.S. oil refineries in Martinez, California, and Gallup, N.M., the company said, in response to … to request for comment on whether the closings would require a charge to earnings.

Marathon Martinez Refinery ‘Indefinitely Idled’ On Friday … – SFGate
August 1, 2020 Marathon Martinez Refinery ‘Indefinitely Idled’ On Friday. The Marathon Petroleum Co. will “indefinitely idle” its refinery in unincorporated Contra Costa County and convert the site to a terminal facility, the company announced on its website Friday night.

Comparing June and July COVID numbers in Solano County cities – dramatic increases

[NOTES: For June-July comparison, see City Data below.  Solano County publishes a DAILY update, and displays past weeks and months in epidemic curve charts.  However, the curve charts do not display an accurate number of cases for the most recent days, as there is a lag time in receiving test results.  This methodology is accurate coronain a way, but it misleads the public by consistently displaying a recent downward curve which is often corrected upward on a later date. For a complete archive of day by day data, see my Excel ARCHIVE – R.S.]

Friday, July 31: 91 new cases today, no new deaths.  Since the outbreak started: 3,611 cases, 37 deaths.

Compare previous report, Thursday July 30:Summary

  • Solano County reported 91 new cases today, total of 3,611 cases since the outbreak started.  Over the last 7 days, Solano reported 482 new cases, an average of 69 per day.
  • Deaths – no new deaths today, total of 37 deaths.
  • Active cases – Solano reported 10 fewer ACTIVE case today, total of 240.  On July 16, Solano hit a record high of 440 active cases.  Note that only 40 of these 240 people are hospitalized, so there are a lot of infected folks out among us, hopefully quarantined.  One wonders… is the County equipped to contact trace so many infected persons?  (See SF Chronicle report on contact tracing in Bay Area – “Solano County did not respond”.)
  • Hospitalizations10 fewer currently hospitalized persons today, total of 40.  1 more in the total number hospitalized since the outbreak started, 163.  (The County no longer reports Total Hospitalized, but I have added the hospitalization numbers in the Age Group chart.)  For the 5th day in a row, the County offers no information about ICU beds and ventilators.  Apparently, the County does not collect or receive this data from our hospitals, but relies on data collected by the State.  You would think that when the County gathers data on Currently Hospitalized they could also easily collect the ICU bed and ventilator data.  Or… ??
  • Testing Exactly 500 (?!) residents were tested since yesterday, total of 52,557.  But we still have a long way to go: only 11.7% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.

Percent Positive Test Rate

Solano County reported today’s 7-day percent positive test rate is down from 6.5% yesterday to 5.8% today.  (The chart may be misleading – see NOTE at top of this page.)  The County posted a high of 9.3% on July 22.  CONTEXT: California’s 7-day positivity rate is reported today at 7.0%.  Increasingly, health officials and news reports are focusing on percent positive test rates.  This information is immediately important, as test positivity is one of the best metrics for measuring the spread of the virus.  Positive test rates in California and other southwestern states have been on the rise.

By Age Group

  • Youth 17 and under – only 1 new case today, total of 354 cases. No new hospitalizations, only 2 hospitalizations since the outbreak began.  2 weeks ago, there were 243 cases among this age group – we’ve seen 111 new cases in just 14 days.  Despite the recent correction, I continue to raise an alarm for Solano’s youth.  Cases among Solano youth have increased to nearly 10% of the 3,611 total confirmed cases.
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 68 new cases today, total of 2,219 cases.  This age group represents over 61% of the 3,611 total cases, 3/4 of today’s new cases and by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  Good news is that the County reported no new hospitalizations in this age group today, total of 45 hospitalized since the outbreak began, and no new deaths among this age group, total of 3 deaths.  However, this young and active age group may be out among us, spreading the virus!
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 11 new cases today, total of 683 cases.  This age group represents just under 19% of the 3,611 total cases.  The County reported no new hospitalizations in this age group today, total of 51 hospitalized since the outbreak began, and no new deaths among this age group, total of 4 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 11 new cases today, total of 354 cases.  This age group represents nearly 10% of the 3,611 total cases. 1 new hospitalization, total of 65 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths, total of 30.  In this older age group, over 18% of cases required hospitalization at one time, a substantially higher percentage than in the lower age groups.  This group accounts for 30 of the 37 deaths, or 81%.

City Data (with June-July comparison)

  • Benicia remained steady today, total of 82 cases.  Benicia was extremely stable in the month of June, adding only 3 new cases, adding 55 new cases in July.
  • Dixon added 7 new cases today, total of 192 cases.  Dixon added 40 new cases in June, 122 new cases in July.
  • Fairfield added 25 new cases today, total of 1,187.  Fairfield added 314 new cases in June, new 724 cases in July.
  • Rio Vista remained steady today, total of 26 cases.  Rio Vista had less than 10 cases throughout June, jumped to 14 cases on July 1 and added 12 new cases in July.
  • Suisun City added 14 new cases today, total of 273 cases.  Suisun City added 51 new cases in June, 184 new cases in July.
  • Vacaville added 8 new cases today, total of 619 cases.  Vacaville added 127 new cases in June, 419 new cases in July.
  • Vallejo added 37 new cases today, total of 1,220 cases.  Vallejo has added 185 cases in the last 7 days – a major outbreak?  Vallejo replaced Fairfield this week with more positive cases than anywhere in Solano County.  Vallejo added 199 new cases in June, 686 new cases in July.
  • Unincorporated areas – Unincorporated areas remained steady today, total of 12 cases.  Unincorporated areas had less than 10 cases for most of June, began July with 6 cases and added 6 new cases during July.

Race / Ethnicity

The County report on race / ethnicity includes case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  There are also tabs showing a calculated rate per 100,000 by race/ethnicity for each of these boxes.  This information is discouragingly similar to national reports that indicate worse outcomes among black and brown Americans.  As of today:

  • White Americans are 39% of the population in Solano County, but only account for 20% of cases, 25% of hospitalizations and 27% of deaths.
  • Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 13% of cases, but 23% of hospitalizations, and 30% of deaths.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 30% of cases, 32% of hospitalizations, and 24% of deaths.
  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 9% of cases and 12% of hospitalizations, but 15% of deaths.

Much 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

Dr. Matyas: We’re assuming you are going to get together with family and friends…

How Solano County is approaching private gatherings differently

While avoiding public gatherings, Solano County Public Health recognizes it is important for people’s mental health to interact with others.

ABC10 News Sacramento, July 30, 2020

SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. — In several counties across the Sacramento region, private gatherings are being blamed for the recent rise in coronavirus cases.

However, Solano County Public Health Director Dr. Bela Matyas said his department recognizes that it is not healthy to tell people to avoid their friends and family.

“Honestly, it’s not a really good message,” Matyas said. “It’s not a message that really tends to work for anyone.”

In the county’s most recent newsletter, the public health department said that while the risk of exposure is higher with every gathering, people need human interaction for their mental health. While Matyas, like other health officials, have said gathering with friends and family put people at risk, the county would prefer if people do plan to gather, they do it in the safest possible way.

“We’re assuming you are going to get together with family and friends; when you do, please do the following things to protect people,” Matyas said.

  • Practice social distancing, including wearing a mask, if possible.
  • Have your elder relatives stay at home and connect with them over the phone or through video messaging services like Zoom, Facetime, and Facebook Messenger.
  • Gather outdoors instead of inside.
  • Have fewer people gather together to minimize the number of people potentially exposed.
  • Avoid sharing food or utensils.
  • Avoid singing, chanting or shouting.

“The whole idea here is we know that the virus is transmitting on our respiratory droplets, so what can you do to minimize that transmission even though we are together,” Matyas said. “It’s not perfect — I don’t want to pretend its perfect — but in an imperfect world, it is the best we are able to come up with.”

Solano County has seen a slight drop in the number of new cases reported each day recently, but is still working to keep its total number of coronavirus cases from rising. Currently, the county has reported 3,520 cases with 250 active cases from the last ten days.