Tag Archives: Delta variant

10 Reasons to Extend Benicia’s Face Mask Mandate

By Benicia author Stephen Golub, November 16, 2021
Open letter to Benicia City Council, considering amendments to the mandate TONIGHT, Tues. Nov. 16.  (See Council Agenda: Instructions for Public Comments are on p. 6.  Items 20.E. and 21.A. are on p. 9.)

Dear Mayor Young, Vice Mayor Campbell, and Council Members Strawbridge, Largaespada and Macenski:

Benicia Author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country

I am a Benicia resident writing to urge that, at tonight’s meeting, the City Council extend indefinitely (and probably until at least March 2022) Resolution No. 21-88, which requires that “face coverings be worn in all indoor public settings in the City.”

I am not a public health expert. But it is clear that the evidence demonstrating that masks limit the spread of Covid is overwhelming. It includes a 350,000-person randomized controlled trial, summarized below, that was completed in August. But before diving a bit into such data, the following list of reasons for extending the mandate starts with one very basic consideration:

  1. Common Sense. Winter is coming, and with it the very strong likelihood of a significant rise in Covid cases and resulting deaths due to more people being indoors and holiday gatherings. We’ve seen this movie before – last winter, to be exact. And we’ve seen other Covid waves caused or exacerbated by relaxing precautions prematurely, even after vaccines were made available. Let’s not repeat such mistakes by weakening or eliminating our mask mandate.
  2. Europe’s Record-high Cases a Harbinger for California. As recently reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Europe, including highly vaccinated Western European nations, are seeing skyrocketing cases: According to the director general of the World Health Organization, two million cases last week, which was the highest figure at any point in the pandemic, along with a 10 percent mortality increase.
    As Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease and public health expert warns us, “Throughout the pandemic, Europe has been a harbinger of things to come to the US, including California and the Bay Area,” he wrote in an email to the Chronicle. “If this pattern holds true (and I suspect it will), we should be very worried. The colder weather (more people inside) and the holidays already make the upcoming winter a precarious time.”
  3. Look Toward the Future, Not the Past. If, in the final days leading up to the October 24 storm that pummeled the Bay Area, someone had suggested that it would be a good day for a picnic since the past week had been pleasant, we’d look at them askance (to put it mildly). Yet that is somewhat akin to the policy the Council adopted with the best of intentions in August, relying on the past 30 days of transmission rates to determine whether to drop or modify the mask mandate.
    I am not suggesting that such a criterion be dropped. It is in fact useful and relevant. However, I urge that it be supplemented by consideration of likely trends and other data. As I’ve noted, such trends point toward a very possible storm of Covid cases, which in turn points toward leaving the mandate in place. Even if this means the Council makes a somewhat subjective assessment of whether or when to modify the mandate, that is what you’ve been elected to do: take account of recent data, yes, but also exercise your good judgment regarding what the future holds. This probably means holding off on revising the mandate until at least March, when winter is behind us, and only if the data and trends suggest doing so.
  4. Evidence from Across America. As pointed out by Dr. Richard Fleming, who called in to your August meeting, a comparative study in Kansas found that masks help limit Covid’s spread. More specifically, “counties that chose to enforce [a statewide mask] mandate saw their cases decrease. Counties that chose to opt out saw their cases continue to rise…. the findings were consistent with declines in coronavirus cases observed in 15 states and the District of Columbia where masks were mandated, compared with states that didn’t require the face coverings.”
  5. “Gold Standard” Evidence from Abroad. For the 18 months ending in August 2021, a Stanford/Yale-led team conducted in Bangladesh the largest and most rigorous study of whether masks make a difference in people catching Covid. Involving roughly 350,000 people in 600 villages, it featured research comparing results between carefully selected, demographically similar populations. Some, in the “intervention villages” were encouraged to wear masks and were supplied with them; others – the “control villages” – were not.
    The upshot? Despite the fact that fewer than 50 percent of intervention villagers wore masks in public places, Covid infections were 11 percent lower in the intervention areas for the population as a whole and 35 percent lower for those over 60. “We now have evidence from a randomized, controlled trial that mask promotion increases the use of face coverings and prevents the spread of COVID-19,” said Stephen Luby, MD, professor of medicine at Stanford. “This is the gold standard for evaluating public health interventions.”
  6. Yet More Evidence for Mask Efficacy. I am only scratching the surface of the research indicating that masks prevent Covid. Two of the numerous compilations of relevant data can be found here and here.
  7. Heed Benicia’s and America’s Health Authorities. As pointed out by the aforementioned Dr. Richard Fleming in a letter to the Times-Herald, Solano County Health Officer and Deputy Director Dr. Bela Matyas has been wrong on face masks in key respects, including his claim that “Our data clearly shows that indoor public spaces are not where the disease spreads.” As Dr. Fleming notes, “[Dr. Matyas] said spread results from private gatherings, so a mask mandate would not help. Yet he has published no data to support that statement.”
    Indeed, regarding the mask mandate and other Covid-related matters, Dr. Matyas has been at odds with other Bay Area counties, the State, the CDC, the Napa-Solano Medical Society, numerous other public health authorities and the roughly half-dozen Benicia-based medical and public health personnel who called in to your August meeting in support of the mandate. Going forward, the Council should heed that broad consensus of data-based opinion rather than Dr. Matyas.
  8. Protect Benicia’s Businesses and Workers. The face mask mandate benefits Benicians by making workplaces and workers safer. In the process, it makes good business sense. One reason the country saw a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September is because of Covid safety concerns, according to this Washington Post piece: “There are likely some delta-induced quits here,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at Glassdoor, in reference to the coronavirus variant. “Workers are fed up with working conditions and feel unsafe…Quits are high in leisure and hospitality, health services and education,” Zhao noted. “Those are all industries where an increase in covid can make work less safe.”
    While masks are by no means the sole solution, the absence of a mandate can be part of the problem.
  9. Freedom. It’s unfortunate that this bears repeating nearly two years into the pandemic, but I’ll repeat it anyway: Face masks protect not just or mainly the persons wearing them, but the persons with whom they come into contact. In voting to maintain the mandate, the Council will be doing what it can to advance freedom from disease and death. That’s a freedom far more important than from having to wear a simple facial covering.
  10. In sum, I ask that the Council extend the mandate because common sense, a plethora of data and Benicia’s and the nation’s public health authorities have concluded this:
    • Face masks help prevent Covid’s spread.
    • Face masks help prevent illness.
    • Face masks save lives.

Sincerely,

Stephen Golub

My blog: A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country

Seven new COVID deaths reported in Solano County, Benicia’s 7-day transmission rate is HIGH

NOTE: This information is archived.  Click HERE for today’s latest information

By Roger Straw, Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Wednesday, October 13: Solano County reports 7 new deaths and 207 new infections, remains in the CDC’s SUBSTANTIAL transmission rate.  Benicia sees 24 new cases, still in HIGH transmission rate.

Solano County COVID dashboard SUMMARY:
[Sources: see below.]

DEATHS: Solano reported 7 new COVID-related deaths today, 2 age 50-64 and 5 age 65+; including 1 each Black and White, and 2 each Hispanic and Multi-raceThe County has reported 42 COVID deaths just since Sept 1.  A total of 312 Solano residents have died of COVID or COVID-related causes over the course of the pandemic.

CASES: The County reported 207 new COVID cases over the holiday weekend, 41 per day.  AGES: 40 of these 207 cases (19%) were youth and children under 18.  48% were age 18-49, 21% were age 50-64, and only 11% were 65+.

COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE: Over the last 7 days, Solano has seen 413 new cases, up from 375  on last Friday.  This increase isn’t enough to move Solano up into the CDC’s population-based definition of a HIGH transmission rate, but it’s not far off.  Solano remains in SUBSTANTIAL transmission rate.

(CDC FORMULA: Based on Solano County population of 449,432, the CDC would rate us in “SUBSTANTIAL” transmission with 225 cases over the last 7 days.  Double that, or 450 cases in the last 7 days would rank us in “HIGH” transmission.  Reference: CDC’s “Level of SARS-CoV-2 Community Transmission”.]

ACTIVE CASES: Solano’s 396 ACTIVE cases is down from last Friday’s 486, but still far above our summer rates.

CASES BY CITY on Wednesday, October 13:

    • Benicia added 24 new cases today, a total of 1,491 cases since the outbreak began.  Although Benicia’s population is only 6.2% of Solano’s total, today’s 24 new Benicia cases are nearly double that (11.6%) as a percentage of today’s 207 new cases.  Benicia has seen 31 new cases over the last 7 days, continuing in the CDC’s definition of HIGH community transmission (defined as 28 or more cases, based on Benicia population – SEE CHART BELOW).  [Note that Solano County is at a level of SUBSTANTIAL transmission, and Solano’s 6 other cities (below) are likely also individually experiencing high or substantial transmission.]

    • Dixon added 11 new cases today, total of 2,510 cases.
    • Fairfield added 49 new cases today, total of 12,072 cases.
    • Rio Vista added 9 new cases today, total of 591 cases.
    • Suisun City added 14 new cases today, total of 3,190 cases.
    • Vacaville added 49 new cases today, a total of 11,834 cases.
    • Vallejo added 51 new cases today, a total of 13,208 cases.
    • Unincorporated added 0 new cases today, a total of 139 cases (population figures not available).

POSITIVE TEST RATE:  Solano’s 7-day average percent positivity rate was 7.2% today, up substantially from last Friday’s 5.8%.  COMPARE: today’s California rate is 1.7% and today’s U.S. rate is 5.8%[Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracking Center]

HOSPITALIZATIONS:

CURRENT hospitalizations were down today from 52 to 37 persons, our lowest number since July 23.  Good news!

ICU Bed Availability is up sharply today, from an alarmingly low 12% last Friday to 27% today, but still in the yellow danger zone.  We remain in the worrisome range we saw during last winter’s surge.

Ventilator Availability is down slightly today from 51% to 46%, still in the range of last winter’s surge.

TOTAL hospitalizations: Solano County’s TOTAL hospitalized over the course of the pandemic must be independently discovered in the County’s occasional update of hospitalizations by Age Group and by Race/Ethnicity.  The County updated its Hospitalizations charts today.  See below.  The differing race/ethnicity numbers indicate a number of persons whose race/ethnicity was not given or recorded.

FACE MASKS… Required for all in Benicia and Vallejo

Benicia City Council passed a citywide indoors mask mandate that went into effect on August 24 and includes everyone 4 years old and up when indoors in public places, even those of us who are vaccinated.  Benicia was joined by Vallejo on August 31.  In the Bay Area, Solano County REMAINS the only holdout against a mask mandate for public indoors spaces.

SOLANO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS failed to consider an agendized proposal for a countywide MASK MANDATE on Tuesday, September 14.  Last week’s Bay Area news put Solano in a sad light: all other county health officers issued a joint statement offering details on when they would be able to lift mask mandates (not likely soon).  TV news anchors had to point out that Solano would not be considering such a move since our health officer had not been able to “justify” a mask mandate in the first place.  The Solano Board of Supervisors has joined with Dr. Bela Matyas in officially showing poor leadership on the COVID-19 pandemic.


HOW DOES TODAY’S REPORT COMPARE?  See recent reports and others going back to April 20, 2020 on my ARCHIVE of daily Solano COVID updates (an excel spreadsheet).


>>The data on this page is from the Solano County COVID-19 Dashboard.  The Dashboard is full of much more information and updated Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 4 or 5pm.  On the County’s dashboard, you can hover a mouse or click on an item for more information.  Note the tabs at top for “Summary, Demographics” and “Vaccines.”  Click here to go to today’s Solano County Dashboard.


Sources

Solano falls today into CDC’s “Substantial” COVID transmission range, Benicia remains in “High” range


By Roger Straw, Friday, October 8, 2021

Friday, October 8: Solano County reports 124 new infections, drops from HIGH to SUBSTANTIAL transmission rate.  Benicia remains just barely in HIGH transmission rate.

Solano County COVID dashboard SUMMARY:
[Sources: see below.]

DEATHS: Solano reported no new COVID-related deaths todayBut the County reported 39 COVID deaths over the last 39 days (from August 30).  A total of 305 Solano residents have died of COVID or COVID-related causes over the course of the pandemic.

CASES: The County reported 124 new COVID cases over the last two days, 62 per day.  AGES: 18 of these 124 cases (15%) were youth and children under 18.  52% were age 18-49, 16% were age 50-64, and 18% were 65+.

COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE: Over the last 7 days, Solano has seen 375 new cases, down from 451  on Wednesday and 639 on Monday.  This good news drops Solano into the CDC’s population-based definition of a SUBSTANTIAL transmission rate for only the 2nd time since July 21.

(CDC FORMULA: Based on Solano County population of 449,432, the CDC would rate us in “SUBSTANTIAL” transmission with 225 cases over the last 7 days.  Double that, or 450 cases in the last 7 days would rank us in “HIGH” transmission.  Reference: CDC’s “Level of SARS-CoV-2 Community Transmission”.]

ACTIVE CASES: Solano’s 486 ACTIVE cases is up from Wednesday’s 467, and still far above our summer rates.

POSITIVE TEST RATE:  Solano’s 7-day average percent positivity rate was only 5.8% today, down from Wednesday’s 6.2%.  COMPARE: today’s California rate is 2.1% and today’s U.S. rate is 6.3%[Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracking Center]

HOSPITALIZATIONS:

CURRENT hospitalizations were up today from 50 to 52 persons, and still in the range we saw during the winter surge.

ICU Bed Availability is down sharply today, from 29% to an alarming 12%, barely above the red warning zone.  We saw rates this low once in September and twice in August – and before that, not since January.  Again, we are in the worrisome range we saw during the winter surge.

Ventilator Availability is up slightly today from 49% to 51%, but still in the range of last winter’s surge.

TOTAL hospitalizations: Solano County’s TOTAL hospitalized over the course of the pandemic must be independently discovered in the County’s occasional update of hospitalizations by Age Group and by Race/Ethnicity.  The County updated its Hospitalizations charts today.  See below.  The differing race/ethnicity numbers indicate a number of persons whose race/ethnicity was not given or recorded.

FACE MASKS… Required for all in Benicia and Vallejo

Benicia City Council passed a citywide indoors mask mandate that went into effect on August 24 and includes everyone 4 years old and up when indoors in public places, even those of us who are vaccinated.  Benicia was joined by Vallejo on August 31.  In the Bay Area, Solano County REMAINS the only holdout against a mask mandate for public indoors spaces.

SOLANO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS failed to consider an agendized proposal for a countywide MASK MANDATE on Tuesday, September 14.  Today’s Bay Area news put Solano in a sad light: all other counties’ health officers issued a statement offering details on when they would be able to lift mask mandates (not likely soon).  TV news anchors had to point out that Solano would not be considering such a move since our health officer had not been able to “justify” a mask mandate in the first place.  The Solano Board of Supervisors has joined with Dr. Bela Matyas in officially showing poor leadership on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases by City on Friday, October 8:
    • Benicia added 7 new cases today, a total of 1,467 cases since the outbreak began.  Benicia has seen 28 new cases over the last 7 days, continuing (just barely) in the CDC’s definition of HIGH community transmission (defined as 28 or more cases, based on Benicia population – SEE CHART BELOW).  [Note that Solano County is at a level of HIGH transmission, and Solano’s 6 other cities are likely also individually experiencing high or substantial transmission.]

    • Dixon added 6 new cases today, total of 2,499 cases.
    • Fairfield added 29 new cases today, total of 12,023 cases.
    • Rio Vista added 6 new cases today, total of 582 cases.
    • Suisun City added 6 new cases today, total of 3,176 cases.
    • Vacaville added 36 new cases today, a total of 11,785 cases.
    • Vallejo added 34 new cases today, a total of 13,157 cases.
    • Unincorporated added 0 new cases today, a total of 139 cases (population figures not available).

HOW DOES TODAY’S REPORT COMPARE?  See recent reports and others going back to April 20, 2020 on my ARCHIVE of daily Solano COVID updates (an excel spreadsheet).


>>The data on this page is from the Solano County COVID-19 Dashboard.  The Dashboard is full of much more information and updated Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 4 or 5pm.  On the County’s dashboard, you can hover a mouse or click on an item for more information.  Note the tabs at top for “Summary, Demographics” and “Vaccines.”  Click here to go to today’s Solano County Dashboard.


Sources

Solano County reports only 82 new COVID infections (but transmission remains HIGH)


By Roger Straw, Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Wednesday, October 6: Solano County reports 82 new infections, 13 in Benicia

Solano County COVID dashboard SUMMARY:
[Sources: see below.]

DEATHS: Solano reported no new COVID-related deaths todaySolano deaths over the course of the pandemic now total 305The County reported 32 COVID deaths over the last 32 days.

CASES: The County reported 82 new COVID cases over the last two days, 41 per day.  AGES: 13 of these 82 cases (16%) were youth and children under 18.  59% were age 18-49, 21% were age 50-64, and only 6% were 65+.

COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE: Over the last 7 days, Solano has seen 451 new cases, down from 639 on Monday but still just barely in the CDC’s population-based definition of a HIGH transmission rate.

(CDC FORMULA: Based on Solano County population of 449,432, the CDC would rate us in “SUBSTANTIAL” transmission with 225 cases over the last 7 days.  Double that, or 450 cases in the last 7 days would rank us in “HIGH” transmission.  Reference: CDC’s “Level of SARS-CoV-2 Community Transmission”.]

ACTIVE CASES: Solano’s 467 ACTIVE cases is down from Monday’s 514, but still far above our summer rates.

POSITIVE TEST RATE:  Solano’s 7-day average percent positivity rate was only 6.2% today, down from Monday’s 6.7%.  COMPARE: today’s California rate is 1.9% and today’s U.S. rate is 6.3%[Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracking Center]

HOSPITALIZATIONS:

CURRENT hospitalizations were down today from 53 to 50 persons, and still in the range we saw during the winter surge.

ICU Bed Availability is up today, from 23% to 29%, but still in the yellow danger zone.  Again, we are in the worrisome range we saw during the winter surge.

Ventilator Availability is down today from 53% to 49%, still in the range of last February’s winter surge.

TOTAL hospitalizations: Solano County’s TOTAL hospitalized over the course of the pandemic must be independently discovered in the County’s occasional update of hospitalizations by Age Group and by Race/Ethnicity.  The County did not update its Hospitalizations charts today.  See below.  The differing race/ethnicity numbers indicate a number of persons whose race/ethnicity was not given or recorded.

FACE MASKS… Required for all in Benicia and Vallejo

Benicia City Council passed a citywide indoors mask mandate that went into effect on August 24 and includes everyone 4 years old and up when indoors in public places, even those of us who are vaccinated.  Benicia was joined by Vallejo on August 31.  In the Bay Area, Solano County REMAINS the only holdout against a mask mandate for public indoors spaces.

OLD NEWS BUT SIGNIFICANT – SOLANO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS failed to consider an agendized proposal for a countywide MASK MANDATE on Tuesday, September 14.  The Board’s agenda called for discussion of an indoors mask mandate for all and a vaccination mandate for county workers.  The Board voted 4-1 to require county-run facilities in Vallejo and Benicia to abide by local mandates.  But the Board voted down the vaccination mandate 3-2, and failed to even consider the agendized question of a county-wide mask mandate.  The Solano Board of Supervisors joined with Dr. Bela Matyas in officially showing poor leadership on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases by City on Wednesday, October 6:
  • Benicia added 13 new cases today, a total of 1,460 cases since the outbreak began.  Benicia has seen 38 new cases over the last 7 days, continuing in the CDC’s definition of HIGH community transmission (defined as 28 or more cases, based on Benicia population).  [Note that Solano County is at a level of HIGH transmission, and Solano’s 6 other cities are likely also individually experiencing high or substantial transmission.]
  • Dixon added 6 new cases today, total of 2,493 cases.
  • Fairfield added 14 new cases today, total of 11,994 cases.
  • Rio Vista added 5 new case today, total of 576 cases.
  • Suisun City added 4 new cases today, total of 3,170 cases.
  • Vacaville added 13 new cases today, a total of 11,749 cases.
  • Vallejo added 27 new cases today, a total of 13,123 cases.
  • Unincorporated added 0 new cases today, a total of 139 cases (population figures not available).

HOW DOES TODAY’S REPORT COMPARE?  See recent reports and others going back to April 20, 2020 on my ARCHIVE of daily Solano COVID updates (an excel spreadsheet).


>>The data on this page is from the Solano County COVID-19 Dashboard.  The Dashboard is full of much more information and updated Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 4 or 5pm.  On the County’s dashboard, you can hover a mouse or click on an item for more information.  Note the tabs at top for “Summary, Demographics” and “Vaccines.”  Click here to go to today’s Solano County Dashboard.


Sources