Tag Archives: #Masks4ALL

Coronavirus – Solano County Health Officer will not require masks, waiting on State order

Coronavirus: Masks remain a recommendation in Solano County, not a requirement

The Reporter, by Nick Sestanovich, April 23, 2020

As the global coronavirus pandemic continues to show no signs of slowing down, five Bay Area counties and at least three cities have made it a requirement for residents to wear face coverings when going outside to help stop the spread.

This tally does not include Solano County just yet.

Dr. Bela Matyas, the county’s public health officer, said Solano may consider it down the line if the resources are available but there were a number of things preventing it being a requirement for the time being. The first, he said, was a lack of evidence that wearing masks reduces the transmission of the virus.

“From a public health standpoint, I don’t feel like there’s any reason to implement it, based on the absence of evidence that it provides usefulness,” he said.

The other drawback, Matyas said, was an issue of timing, noting that mandating wearing face coverings would be “making things stricter” at a time when jurisdictions have discussed relaxing their stay-at-home orders.

“It feels a little bit ironic to be, on the one hand, talking about relaxing the order and, on the other hand, implementing something that makes the order stricter,” he said.

Matyas also said that even with the recent orders, there has not been a consensus among Bay Area public health officers about requiring masks. Santa Clara County, for example, has opted not to issue a requirement, despite being the location of the first known coronavirus-related death in the U.S.

Finally, Matyas said that if Solano were to require face coverings, it would be obliged to provide them to residents who are unable to afford or obtain them.

“We can’t, in good conscience, be asking people to do something that they can’t do and then enforce on it,” he said.

However, Matyas said that if Solano were given the resources to provide masks to ensure everyone has one, it would consider a requirement.

“We’re not dogmatically opposed to it by any means, but there’s issues of timing and issues of being able to require something and then making it possible for people to be able to implement that requirement,” he said.

Matyas said the county is also waiting to see if the state requires it.

“This issue has been brought up to the state,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what their response is.”

“The expectation is that we can get something from the state that would be broader in its applicability,” he added.

On April 3, Solano Public Health issued its first notice recommending that residents wear masks when going out in public while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. The notice was not a strict requirement and suggested that the masks be fabric or homemade and not be medical grade.

On April 17, health officials in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Sonoma mandated that people wear face coverings when going outdoors, which went into effect Tuesday. Similar ordinances were also issued in Fremont, Pleasant Hill and San Francisco.

The ordinances tend to vary by jurisdiction, but they do not require masks or face coverings to be worn by children ages 12 and under and children ages 2 and under are prohibited from wearing masks because of suffocation issues. The orders also do not apply to people traveling alone or with family members in their cars or while exercising and are mainly intended for people standing in line at businesses, using public transit or going to a hospital.

Enforcements vary by jurisdiction, but many of the ordinances classify violations as misdemeanors punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Supervisor Skip Thomson said he felt requiring residents to wear masks was “a wonderful idea” but felt that there may not be enough masks available for everyone, particularly homeless individuals, to wear.

“It should be seriously considered, but until we’re able to give out masks to everyone, it just doesn’t work,” he said.

As of Wednesday, there have been 186 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak — including 21 cases that remain active — as well as 48 hospitalizations and three deaths. The data by city includes 76 confirmed cases in Vallejo, 47 in Fairfield, 26 in Vacaville, 12 in Benicia and 11 in Suisun City. Dixon, Rio Vista and the unincorporated areas of Solano have all had confirmed cases of 10 or fewer, a sample size too small for the county to fully report.

Thomson acknowledged that a lot of residents are awaiting a return to normalcy but felt full testing and tracing needed to be done to paint a clearer picture of the data.

“There’s a lot of work yet to be done before we can reopen this economy,” he said. “As all the experts are saying, if we open it prematurely, we’re gonna have a resurgence of the virus infections. There’s certainly a balancing act between opening up the economy but not opening it up too soon to where we have another spike in cases.”

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said the city is following the direction of the Solano County Health Department, and the state of California when it comes to requiring residents to wear masks.

“I strongly recommend residents wear some sort of mask when they go out into public,” Sampayan said.

Sampayan said he has spoken to Matyas about issuing an order requiring masks.

“His position has been that because Solano County is sparsely populated, and not densely populated like other local counties, he doesn’t believe masks should be mandatory here.”

Sampayan said that when he goes out, he sees people not observing the six-feet social distancing requirement and not wearing masks.

“I wish we all would be more concerned about our safety,” he added.

Matyas said masks and face coverings are recommended in Solano in situations where maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others outside their home is impossible. The county recommends the coverings be made from materials such as fabric, scarves, bandanas or towels and worn in a manner that covers the nose and mouth. The coverings are encouraged to be washed frequently, ideally after each use.

For more information, including a video on how to make your own face coverings, go to admin.solanocounty.com:4433/depts/ph/coronavirus_links/faq___face_coverings.asp.

John Glidden contributed to this report.

Coronavirus: Tuesday’s numbers show California hasn’t flattened COVID-19 curve yet

[Editor: See yesterday’s report from Solano County: Third Death, only one new case.  – R.S.]

Mask orders go into effect in some counties as deaths, new cases rise around the state

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Evan Webeck, April 22, 2020

California coronavirus map: 35,802 cases, 1,316 deaths, by county.  The Mercury News

Cases spiked Tuesday for a second straight day and California reported the third-most deaths in a single 24-hour period since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The deadly respiratory illness, caused by the new coronavirus, claimed another 93 lives in the state Tuesday as California’s death toll climbed to 1,316, according to data compiled by the Bay Area News Group.

The state has seen its largest increase in cases the past two days, adding nearly 2,000 on Tuesday alone to bring its total to 35,802. Patients in acute hospital beds, as well as intensive care units, rose by about 3% to 3,365 and 1,241, respectively. Statewide, the case count has grown by nearly 15% since the week began.

Those numbers would seem to indicate California has not yet turned the corner in its fight against the virus.

One widely cited model predicted the state passed its peak late last week. But there have been five days on which the state has reported more fatalities than the model projected on its deadliest day, and two since the projected peak. Researchers revised their projections Tuesday to show the state’s final death occurring May 12, with a final death toll of 1,743 (with a confidence interval from 1,340 to 2,701) — about 400 more than its total as of Tuesday.

But a lack of widespread testing has made it difficult to gauge what stage the outbreak is in. Labs in the state conducted their 300,000th test Monday, the most recent day for which data was available, but that still amounts to less than 1% of the state’s total population. Gov. Gavin Newsom set a goal of performing 25,000 tests per day, but on Tuesday, he admitted that wouldn’t be enough.

Another variable was thrown into the equation Tuesday. Officials in Santa Clara County discovered new deaths from from COVID-19 as far back as Feb. 6, a whole month before what was believed to be the first coronavirus fatality in the county and weeks before what had been thought to be the first death in the nation on Feb. 29 in the state of Washington.

“To have at least three people right around the beginning of February and late January already have the infection and two of them pass away means the virus has been around for a while,” County Executive Jeff Smith said. “It’s a much more dangerous virus than we initially recognized because we had limited testing.”

Residents in several California counties will now be required to cover their faces in most public settings, or risk possible fines or misdemeanor charges.

Six Bay Area counties begin enforcement of face coverings order, Solano not among them

KRON4 News, by Alexa Mae Asperin, Sara Stinson, Apr 22, 2020

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (KRON) – Six Bay Area counties on Wednesday will begin enforcement of face coverings in essential businesses and on public transit, all in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Counties that begin enforcement today are:

    • Alameda
    • Contra Costa
    • Marin
    • San Francisco
    • San Mateo

Sonoma County began enforcement of its face covering requirement last Friday.

Santa Clara County officials have yet to require face coverings but instead “strongly urges” its residents to cover up.

Solano County  is also recommending face coverings but not requiring them as of Wednesday. 

Face coverings will be required inside grocery stores and while waiting in line to get inside, too.

You must wear a face covering when you work at an essential business as well, like the grocery store or pharmacy, or when you are visiting a healthcare provider or facility.

Face coverings are also required when waiting in line for public transportation or riding it.

Businesses in the county are not recommended to serve customers who do not follow the order.

You do not need a mask if you are working in an office alone, or in the car alone, or at your home.

The order does not require children 12 and under to wear a mask and children ages 2 and under should not wear them at all for risk of suffocation.

While exercising outside, you are encouraged to have 6 feet of distance between others.

It’s a good idea to carry a face covering with you so you can easily put it on if you can’t keep distance from others.

You can cover your face with a cloth, bandana, or even a t-shirt, but leave the medical-grade masks for healthcare workers.

56 Benicia mask makers have delivered over 3,000 hand-sewn masks

[Editor: in an email this morning Larnie Fox updated the numbers: “We are now at 56+ mask makers, and 3,157 gorgeous hand-sewn masks distributed to nurses, EMTs, doctors, ambulance crews, nursing home staff and other healthcare workers.”  – R.S.]

Benicia mask making group for health care workers reaches 50-plus members

By Galen Kusic, Editor, Benicia Herald, April 17, 2020
Health care workers at Alta Bates Berkeley Medical Center show off their stylish masks made by the Benicia mask making group, which now has over 50 members.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate the United States with nearly 700,000 confirmed cases and over 31,000 deaths, the Benicia mask making group founded by Bodil and Larnie Fox is still going strong to protect health care workers on the front lines.

The Fox’s ingenuity and artistic creativity has started a movement in Benicia, with 51 mask makers having now distributed 2,727 masks to 28 health care facilities.

“You (all) have done an amazing amount of work, and there is little doubt that it is saving lives,” said Larnie in an e-mail to mask makers.

Here’s how it works: Bodil and Larnie have turned their home into a command center of sorts, with pick up and drop-off boxes in their front yard. When someone drops of materials, completed masks or anything else needed for this group effort, they sterilize everything and quarantine the item for 24 hours before getting ready to send the masks, fabric or elastic out to health care workers and makers.

The effort, which started as a simple request for masks from neighbor and Kaiser Vallejo registered nurse Marcella Spurgeon on March 20, has turned into a full-time job. Organizing, constant contact with mask makers, runners and people donating fabric and elastic is a non-stop process.

Health care providers at Piner’s Nursing Home in Napa show off their masks made by the Benicia mask making group.

No items are shipped, health care workers and designated runners come and pick up the disinfected final product and distribute them to health care workers around the greater Bay Area and beyond.

“It takes a bit of organizing,” said Bodil.

During the initial conversation, Spurgeon opened up about exposing the heartbreaking reality of health care workers fighting the pandemic due to a shortage of PPE and N-95 masks, a nationwide crisis. Workers may get one a day, or none at all. They are often forced to reuse them, which is why these cloth masks are so important to add an extra layer of protection.

“They (Fox’s) asked me how bad was it? I said if you have an N-95 you’re lucky,” said Spurgeon. “They asked what they could do for me and the next day they came back with about 25 sewn masks. They haven’t stopped since. I’m so thankful our conversation happened.”

While Kaiser was at first threatening discipline for workers using these cloth masks, as of April 2, the hospital has given the okay to use homemade masks over their own N-95 without fear of repercussions.

Aaron Newcomb of Benicia Makerspace has constructed three DIY face shields. Another 20 more are coming in to meet the needs of health care workers.

“I was on a mission to make sure all the bedside nurse units at the Family Birth Center had adequate masks,” said Spurgeon. “After reaching this goal of getting each person a mask, I brought some to each of the other units.”

Not even a month later, and Spurgeon has hand delivered over 1,200 masks to hospitals including John Muir Concord Campus, Cardiac ICU Walnut Creek, Santa Clara and Queen of the Valley in Napa.

“I feel so privileged to be a source to keep our front line safe,” she said. “Thanks to the mask makers and the Benicia community to make this possible.”

This effort has many facets and stories, each unique and equally important. As the mask making group grows, Bodil and Larnie have created a database with contact information and regular updates through e-mail and social media.

“We started out thinking we would just make a few masks for people, and now here we are,” said Bodil.

And the movement continues to grow, with more Benicia residents stepping up daily. The Fox’s note that the group will continue to churn out masks as long as there is a need.

Mask maker Melody MacKee with the finished product of masks ready to be delivered (after Bodil and Larnie quarantine them).

“We still need these made,” said Spurgeon. “I wish we could say that we’re fine, but we’re not.”

Benicia resident Ruby Wallis, a retired welder and pipe fitter created a video with a mask design that most mask makers are using. The two-minute video has been an imperative piece of the puzzle to make mask making easy and efficient.

After seeing the process on the Rachel Maddow Show on March 12, Wallis pulled out her sewing materials and fabric collection and started making masks. She was then linked up with the mask making group and made the video for everyone to follow.

“I just figured it out,” joked Wallis. “Everyone is so nice and we all work together.”

Mask makers have made an average of nearly 54 masks each. Some mask makers, like Benicia resident Melody MacKee, has sewn over 200 masks to date. She notes that seeing photos of health care workers wearing her masks is inspiring.

“I’m sewing as we speak,” MacKee told the Herald. “The video of how to make the masks made all the difference. While you can’t see their (health care workers) smile in the pictures, you can see it in their eyes.”

MacKee now makes masks in large sets, 16 to 32 at a time. She has created a production line of sorts to make the process quick and efficient to get the most masks possible made in a day.

“I’m a one woman factory,” she joked.

Bodil and Larnie Fox, founders of the mask making group with some of their self-made artistic masks.

Susan Bunch has been an integral part of the process as well. She knew Bodil and Larnie through Arts Benicia and has been working hard to help the effort. She explains that by working on these masks it gives a sense of purpose during shelter-in-place and passes the time knowing that these masks are for a noble cause.

“I have a fabric stash that I’ve been stockpiling for years,” she said. “Seeing health care workers get these masks, it really lifts the spirits of people. It feels really good. I’m going to keep making masks as long as they’re useful.”

Mask making isn’t easy and there have been many challenges along the way. A shortage of elastic, a main component of the mask making process is in high demand.

“Everybody is out buying 1/4” elastic,” said Larnie. “All of America is looking for it.”

Not to mention that endless hours at the sewing machine is hard on the back and can be mentally draining. But the mask makers push on. Mask maker and retired ICU nurse Elle Hands described the physical toll sewing for hours on end takes on the body.

“My lower back has been unhappy with me. Too much sitting at the sewing machine,” she said.

The search to gather all the needed materials is a main concern moving forward. Mask makers are having to use other materials to make masks that work.

More health care workers with Benicia-made masks.

“Only a few fabric stores remain open during this crisis,” said Hands. “On one trip, I pulled my number for service to have fabric cut. I was number 72. They were helping number eight. It would be a long wait while also social distancing.”

Hands and others are shocked that there are not enough masks or PPE to go around, which is why they are working so hard to help out health care workers in a dire situation.

“I’ve taken care of patients with serious infections. I know the importance of protective equipment. It shocks me they don’t have enough to meet the demand,” she said. “By creating these masks I’m offering them another layer of protection. This has been the most satisfying and rewarding part of this group effort!”

The mask making group now has three people who are making plastic ear guards to “save the ears of those who save our lives.” They have produced 111 of those, and 64 have been distributed.

Masks for a nurse that is Grateful Dead fan.

“They are very popular,” said Larnie. “Our nextdoor neighbor Darrell Lee started this ball rolling, and we are now also working with the Benicia Makerspace folks headed by Aaron Newcomb to get more.”

The group just acquired its first three DIY face shields made by Newcomb, and a batch of 20 is coming in soon from an old chorus friend, Beni Strebel from Sonoma County.

“We think there is a need for these,” he said. “We always try to find out what the nurses want – which is not always easy, because they are used to giving, not asking.”

Health care workers at Kaiser Permanente Vallejo.

Nurses report that facilities are steady, but nothing like New York. Many are in agreement that the swift action of Calif. government and individual’s dedication to social distancing has started to flatten the curve, as current data indicates.

“They’re the boss,” said Bodil of the health care workers. “We are trying to safely meet their needs. Everyone is working together, creating beautiful pieces of art. People are coming together and there are no politics. That’s really refreshing.”

Below is a list of all the health care centers that have received masks from the group to date:

• Alta Bates Herrick Center
• Alta Bates Oakland
• Alta Bates Berkeley
• Bay Medic Ambulance, Concord
• Children’s Hospital, Madera
• County Hospital Martinez
• EndoCare Walnut Creek
• John Muir Concord
• John Muir Walnut Creek
• Kaiser Antioch
• Kaiser Richmond
• Kaiser San Rafael
• Kaiser Vacaville
• Kaiser Vallejo
• Kaiser Walnut Creek
• Martinez VA Medical Center
• McClure Post Acute, Oakland
• Medical Hill Healthcare Center, Oakland
• Oakland Children’s Hospital
• Piner’s Nursing Home, Napa
• Sutter Peninsula
• Sutter Solano Medical Center
• Valley Children’s Hospital, Fresno
• Veteran’s Home, Yountville

(This article was updated for the online version. It was originally published in the April 15 print edition of the Herald)