All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Benicia students organize Youth Against Brutality rally, Sunday May 31, 11AM City Park

By Roger Straw, May 30, 2020

Several Benicia High School students are organizing a YOUTH AGAINST BRUTALITY rally to be held on Sunday, May 31 at 11am.

The Facebook event gives details: Join us for a rally this Sunday, May 31st at 11AM to protest racism and hatred. Meet at the First Street Park in Benicia, near the Gazebo. This will be a peaceful protest with respect to social distancing. Wear a mask, bring friends, make a sign, or whatever you please. Please repost this! Let’s make it known that we do not support racism and fight for those who have lost and fear for their lives because of it. Black lives matter. We will march down First St. at noon.

I tracked down the two organizers, who prefers to remain anonymous.  “This protest and movement is much larger than us,” one graduating senior said, “and we do not wish to receive recognition for organizing this.”  His co-organizer, a junior at Benicia High, added, “It’s just the two of us ‘officially’ and I put that in quotations because we are just the people who decided a date and a time. The people who show up and march are the ones who really make it a protest.”  A third student at Benicia High is responsible for making the Facebook event.

Asked about the purpose of the rally, one of the young organizers said, “I was inspired to organize this protest after the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery and more recently, George Floyd. After hearing of the many protests around the nation, I realized that a small community like Benicia could benefit from a rally like this. Racism needs to be fought. I saw an opportunity to bring our community together to fight racism and injustice in this country and I took it.  This is about showing our support while standing up against racism and police brutality.”

His colleague added, “Personally, it’s been something that’s been boiling in me for a while. I remember being 10 and hearing about the Trayvon Martin case and I thought it would be a onetime thing. But of course, it kept happening and showed itself as a real issue in America. I see the protest as an opportunity to make a difference in my community and to give angry people a chance to speak. We specifically chose this Sunday so it would align with the protest in Berkeley.”

The protest has been promoted on many social media sites, including Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.  Nearly 60 people have claimed to be attending the event on Facebook. Nearly 90 people have claimed to be interested in going.  Organizers anticipate at least 50 to show up.

Several speakers will make brief statements at the city park.  A moment of silence will be observed before marching down the sidewalks of First street.

Asked about City permitting, the organizers said they went to the Benicia Police Department on May 29 to receive information regarding obtaining a permit. “Unfortunately, who we spoke with was unsure as to whether or not one was needed and the city’s planning department was closed. So we did not obtain a permit. However, Benicia Police had already caught wind of the situation and we spoke with a very respectful and supportive sergeant. We explained our intentions to them and they let us know that police presence would be there. I understand that having the police there threatens our protest and its protesters but I am very confident that Benicia Police supports us and is willing to cooperate with us. We all want this to be peaceful and safe.”

I’ll be there at 11 on Sunday – hope to see you, too!

One Bay Area county health officer says California is reopening too soon

Santa Clara health officer Sara Cody suggests California is reopening too soon

Politico, by Victoria Colliver, May 26, 2020
Sara Cody | AP Photo
Santa Clara Public Health Officer Sara Cody | AP Photo

OAKLAND — The local public health officer who led the nation’s first regional shelter-in-place order early in the Covid-19 pandemic sounded the alarm Tuesday on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s swift reopening plans, which now allow haircuts and church services.

After keeping the state largely in lockdown since March 19, Newsom has quickly advanced counties that meet certain criteria — now up to 47 out of 58 counties — through his reopening phases. Newsom announced Tuesday that barbers and hair salons can reopen in those 47 counties, a day after he said religious gatherings and protests could occur with up to 100 people.

“The pace at which the state has made these modifications is concerning to me,” Santa Clara Public Health Officer Sara Cody told the county Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday afternoon meeting, noting that other states have exercised more caution, including New Jersey, which limited such gatherings to 25 people, and New York, where no more than 10 are allowed.

Cody stressed to the board that at least a full incubation period of 14 days — and preferably 21 days — is needed to effectively gauge the impact of each step of the reopening process.

“The state modifications are being made without a real understanding of the consequences of what the last move has been, and with the possible serious effects for health and possible serious risks or an exponential growth in cases,” she told the board.

Hair salons and barbers are in the third phase of Newsom’s reopening plan, though nail and facial salons, which have more direct contact, still must remain closed.

The governor on Monday also allowed retailers statewide to resume in-store sales if allowed by their county; his previous guidance only allowed such business activities in counties that hit certain benchmarks.

Cody was most disturbed by Newsom’s actions to expand the number of people allowed to gather in public, a move she warned would overwhelm “our current ambitious and unprecedented effort” to establish a large network to track and trace the spread of the virus as the state reopens.

Not only did Cody lead six Bay Area counties in imposing the nation’s first shelter-in-place order on March 16, but she was also first to ban large gatherings such as concerts and pro sporting events earlier that month.

Just two weeks ago, Newsom, under pressure from mostly smaller counties that had relatively few or no cases of the coronavirus, allowed the first two counties — Butte and El Dorado — to move into the second phase of the state’s reopening plan, which involved curbside retail pickup and resuming mostly niche businesses like car washes and pet groomers.

But the number of counties given the green light quickly mushroomed to include many large counties, including Orange, Riverside, Sacramento and San Diego.

Santa Clara, along with most of the other central Bay Area counties, has opted not to move ahead, as had Los Angeles. But the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors on Tuesday announced plans to submit an application to reopen more quickly.

Newsom, during Tuesday’s press conference, was asked how state and local officials would be able to detect clusters of outbreaks given the pace of the reopening. He responded by touting the state’s stabilizing hospitalization rates, increased testing capacity and growing workforce of “contact tracers” who track down people who may have been exposed to the virus.

Cody said she wants to reopen Santa Clara County — but only when safe to do so. Santa Clara was one of the nation’s first hot spots for the virus but slowed the spread and was eventually overtaken in California by Los Angeles and other Southern California counties. Santa Clara reported 24 new cases out of a total of 2,675, and no new deaths beyond its total of 139.

“If our overall rate of transmission remains stable, we will be able to continue to ease our restrictions and safely reopen activities on a regular cadence with at least an incubation period between each phase,” Cody said.

Solano County Public Health should learn from Santa Clara on reporting of COVID-19 deaths

This is how they died: Santa Clara County releases information on every COVID-19 death

San Francisco Chronicle, by Joaquin Palomino , Matthias Gafni and  Erin Allday, May 26, 2020
Dr. Sara Cody, MD, right, Health Officer and Public Health Department Director, listens to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaking during a news conference about the shelter in place extension order in Santa Clara County on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in San Jose, Calif. The Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order, which bans all non-essential trips outside the home and requires restaurants to operate only through takeout and delivery, will be extended until May 3.
Dr. Sara Cody, MD, right, Health Officer and Public Health Department Director, listens to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaking during a news conference about the shelter in place extension order in Santa Clara County… Photo: Tony Avelar / Special to the Chronicle

Health officials in Santa Clara County released detailed information Tuesday on every confirmed death from COVID-19, providing a thorough accounting of the human toll the disease has taken on the South Bay community.

The data, the most comprehensive to be published by a public health department in the Bay Area, provides the age, race, gender, residential ZIP code, cause of death and underlying health condition for all 139 people who have perished from the disease since the first documented casualty on Feb. 6.

Pneumonia, respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome were listed as a cause of death in more than three-fourths of the COVID-19 deaths. Other fatal complications included renal failure and cardiac arrest, adding to evidence that the disease can ravage not just the lungs but other systems.

More than half of the people who died from COVID-19 had hypertension as an underlying health condition, and about 40% had diabetes. Other common preexisting health issues included congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease and coronary artery disease. Many had multiple comorbidities.

Sixteen people — or 12% — had no significant underlying health problems. Those individuals ranged in age from 54 to 82 years old. The youngest reported death was a 37-year-old man who had several comorbidities. Three people age 100 or older were among the deceased.

Roughly 40% of the people who died of COVID-19 resided in four ZIP codes that are mostly in East and Southeast San Jose — predominantly Latino and Asian communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese welcomed the release of information, but said policy makers still need more to help restrain the spread of the virus.

“These are real human beings, real people and the report at least starts to present the loss of human life” in those terms, Cortese said. “I think that’s significant, but it’s just a small beginning as to where we need to go.”

The records were released Tuesday and include all deaths reviewed by the medical examiner-coroner, as well as those handled by private doctors in hospitals. County officials said they plan to eventually fold the information into their public data portal.

To date, Santa Clara County has provided a wealth of information related to the pandemic. Many other counties in California, including San Francisco, post only aggregate figures on coronavirus cases and deaths, making it difficult to find common threads that connect the people who have perished — a fact that has frustrated the public and researchers.

Click this image to view the 8-page report in PDF format. The report lists every death, including Date of Death, Location, Gender, Age, Race, Death Zip Code, Residential Zip Code, Cause of Death and Other Significant Condition.

George Rutherford, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, said the numbers seem to fit exactly what you’d expect from the disease. “It looks pretty much standard for mortality,” he said.

As in other counties in the Bay Area, the disease has hit some groups harder than others. Across Santa Clara County, Latino residents have died at a higher rate than any other race or ethnicity.

Victor Vasquez, director of organizing and policy at the advocacy group Somos Mayfair, said at the county supervisors meeting Tuesday that the stark disparities “continue to show how much systemic inequities exist for poor black, brown and Asian communities.”

While most of the people who have died of COVID-19 were in hospitals, nursing homes or skilled residential care facilities, nine people, or about 6%, died at home — a number that UC Berkeley infectious disease expert John Swartzberg found noteworthy.

“If somebody’s got COVID-19 they should get treated for it. There are good treatment options,” he said. “Clearly, some of it relates to people being scared to death to go into a hospital.”

Such data are dependent on scattered and inconsistent testing policies that make it difficult to understand the true scope of the pandemic. Judy Melinek, a Bay Area forensic pathologist, said that a lack of testing likely led to an “undercount” of COVID-19 deaths.

“The question I have is who is not on that list because they were not tested either because there was not sufficient COVID-19 testing at the time or they had no symptoms and weren’t tested,” Melinek said.

County Supervisor Cortese has asked the county to provide more information, including summary statistics on all deaths, not just those known to be caused by COVID-19.

“That will help inform where we should be focusing resources, where we’re having clusters within the community, and whether or not we’ve had unattributed deaths that are suspect,” he said. “I want the who, what, why, when and where.”


Joaquin Palomino, Matthias Gafni and Erin Allday are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.

Solano County COVID-19 UPDATE: 9 new hospitalizations

Friday, May 29:  8 new positive cases, no new deaths. Total now 517 cases, 22 deaths.

Source: Solano County Coronavirus Information & Resources

Solano County Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Updates and Resources.  Check out basic information in this screenshot.  IMPORTANT: The County’s interactive page has more.  On the County website, you can hover your mouse over the charts at right for detailed information.
Previous report, Thursday, May 28

Summary

  • Solano County reported 8 new positive cases today, total of 517.
  • No new deaths today, total of 22.
  • The County reports an increase of 9 hospitalizations since the outbreak began, but only 1 new active hospitalization.  Correcting old errors, perhaps, adding some that weren’t reported previously?
  • The County reported 21 new cases among our youth in the last 17 days, having reported only 6 over the 5 weeks prior.  (See table below).

BY AGE GROUP

  • No new cases were reported today among young persons under 19 years of age, total of 27 cases, increasing over the last two weeks to 5.3% of total confirmed cases(See table below.)
  • 5 of today’s new cases were persons 19-64 years of age, total of 365 cases, 71% of the total.   No new deaths in this age group today, total of 5.  Note that 49 of the 365 cases in this age group have been hospitalized at one time, 13% of total cases in the age group(It is unclear whether the 5 deaths were ever hospitalized.)
  • 2 of today’s new cases were persons 65 or older, total of 124 cases, 24% of the total.  No new deaths, total of 17.  Note that 34 of the 124 cases in this age group, an increase of 3, (27%) were hospitalized at one time, more than double the percentage in the mid-age group(It is unclear whether the 17 deaths in this age group were ever hospitalized.)
  • NOTE: The County reported 8 new cases overall today, but only 7 assigned to an age group.  This is likely to be corrected tomorrow.
Recent surge in positive cases among youth 18 and under
Date New cases Total
Thursday, May 29, 2020 0 27
Thursday, May 28, 2020 3 27
Wednesday, May 27, 2020 0 24
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 (3-day holiday weekend) 7 24
Friday, May 22, 2020 0 17
Thursday, May 21, 2020 3 17
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 0 14
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 0 14
Monday, May 18, 2020 1 14
Friday, May 15, 2020 2 13
Thursday, May 14, 2020 3 11
Wednesday, May 13, 2020 1 8
Tuesday, May 12, 2020 1 7
Monday, May 11, 2020 0 6
Friday, May 8, 2020 0 6
Thursday, May 7, 2020 0 6
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 0 6
Tuesday, May 5, 2020 0 6
Monday, May 4, 2020 0 6

CITY DATA

  • Vallejo added 4 of today’s new cases, total of  293.
  • Fairfield added 3 of today’s new cases, total of 101.
  • Vacaville added 1 of today’s new cases, total of 54.
  • Suisun City remained at 25 cases.
  • Benicia remained at 23 cases.
  • Dixon remained at 11 cases.
  • Rio Vista and “Unincorporated” are still not assigned numerical data: today both remain at <10 (less than 10).  The total numbers for other cities add up to 507, leaving 10 cases somewhere among the 2 locations in this “<10” category (same as last reported).  Residents and city officials have pressured County officials for city case counts.  Today’s data is welcome, but still incomplete.

UPWARD TREND IN HOSPITALIZATIONS?
84 of Solano’s 517 cases resulted in hospitalizations since the outbreak started, 9 more than yesterday.  This is an important stat to watch.  On May 1 there were 51 hospitalizations, and the daily increase has been relatively steady, adding 2 or less each day.  Exception: a week ago, on May 22, the County reported 4 new hospitalizations.  Now today’s increase of 9 new hospitalizations is sudden and unusual.  Stay tuned!

ACTIVE CASES:  69 of the 517 cases are currently active – 3 fewer than yesterday.  Note that the county does not report WHERE the active cases are.  Below you will see that only 19 are currently hospitalized, which leaves 50 of these 69 active cases out in our communities somewhere, and hopefully quarantined.

HOSPITAL IMPACT: The County shows 19 of the 84 hospitalized cases are CURRENTLY hospitalized, 1 fewer than yesterday.  Yesterday, 20 cases were active out of 75 total.   (How the County can report an increase of 9 cumulative hospitalizations on the same day they report 1 fewer actively hospitalized is a puzzle to me.  Someone should ask Dr. Matyas about this….)  The County’s count of ICU beds available and ventilator supply remains at “GOOD” at 31-100%. (No information is given on our supply of test kits, PPE and staff.)

TESTING: The County reports that 11,096 residents have been tested as of today, an increase of 257 residents tested since yesterday.
We still have a long way to go:
only 2.5% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.  NOTE: State run testing sites in Vallejo and Vacaville are open to anyone.

Solano’s steady upward curve – as of May 29

This chart shows the infection’s steady upward trajectory in Solano County.  Our “curve” continues to creep up.  Our nursing homes, long-term care facilities and jails bear watching!

Still incredibly important – everyone stay home if you don’t need to go out, wear masks when you do go out (especially in enclosed spaces), wash hands, and be safe!