Category Archives: Keeping Watch on Earth News

COVID-19 cases in Solano County up sharply again, with one new death


Wednesday, July 1: 114 new cases today,
1 new death. Since the outbreak started: 1,402 cases, 104 hospitalized, 25 deaths.

Compare with previous report, Tuesday June 30:Summary

  • Solano County reported 114 new cases today, total of 1,402 cases since the outbreak started.  Over the last 7 days, Solano reported 338 new cases, an average of 48 per day.
  • 1 new deaths today, total of 25, 2 more hospitalized, total of 41 currently, 104 since the outbreak started.
  • Solano reported 98 more ACTIVE cases today, total of 307.  This figure has been on a yoyo this week.  For whatever reason, 250 last Friday, only 70 on Monday, back up to 209 yesterday and 307 today.  An increasing number, no matter how you look at it….
  • Note the drop in ICU beds Available, from 37% to 32%.  Need to keep an eye on this one.
  • Testing – Solano county reported 831 residents were tested since yesterday.  Good progress!

Details and Demographics tab

The County’s new Public Health Dashboard design includes a second tab (panel), “Details and Demographics” (shown here).  Note that both tabs are user interactive – hover over a chart (or tap) to get details. On this Details/Demographics tab, most of the small charts have a small additional tab showing the rate per 100,000.   Go there and explore the two tabs.  (Expand a chart by clicking the small button in its upper right corner.)

SEVEN DAY MOVING AVERAGE

Yesterday’s Seven Day moving average of confirmed cases showed an uptick (see at right).  Today’s chart is back to its misleading look, supposedly tracking as a 7-day average the increase of 717 cases (!) we have seen in the last 2 weeks…

Don’t let these “smoothed out” charts fool you – cases are up dramatically here.  Masks and social distancing are still required and important!  Today’s chart shows a 7-day moving average of 21 new cases per day, supposedly down from 27 in yesterday’s report.

BY AGE GROUP

  • Youth 17 and under – 15 new cases today, total of 126 cases, only one ever hospitalizedTwo weeks ago, there were only 52 cases among this age group – we’ve seen 74 new cases in 14 days!  I continue to be alarmed for Solano’s youth.  Cases among Solano youth have increased in recent weeks to 9% of the 1,402 total confirmed cases.
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 66 new cases today, total of 805 cases.  This age group represents 57% of the 1,402 total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  The County reported no new hospitalizations among this age group today, and no new deaths.  Total of 27 hospitalized at one time and 2 deaths.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 22 new cases today, total of 282 cases.  This age group represents 20% of the 1,402 total casesNo new hospitalizations today, total of 35 hospitalized at one time.  No new deaths, total of 3 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 11 new cases today, total of 188 cases.  This age group represents 13% of the 1,402 total cases.  No new hospitalizations, total of 41 hospitalized at one time.  1 new death, total of 20 deaths.  In this older age group, 22% were hospitalized at one time, a substantially higher percentage than in the lower age groups And this group counts for 20 of the 25 deaths, or 80%.

CITY DATA

  • Vallejo added 28 new cases today, total of 534.
  • Fairfield added 39 new cases today, total of 462.
  • Vacaville added 17 new cases today, total of 200 cases.
  • Suisun City added 8 new cases today, total of 89 cases.
  • Benicia added 1 new case today, total of 27 cases.
  • Dixon added 19 new case today, total of 70 cases.
  • Rio Vista was reported greater than 10 cases for the first time today, showing a total of 14 cases.  (The other cities added up to 112 of today’s 114 new cases, so… supposedly Rio Vista must have added 2 new cases.  Perhaps the County failed to note Rio Vista as >10 yesterday?)
  • Unincorporated areas – Although the County still still shows Unincorporated at <10 (less than 10), a little math tells the story: Solano’s unincorporated areas must account for the 6 cases unaccounted for in the other City totalsResidents and city officials have long pressured County officials for full and transparent city case counts.  Finally we have complete city data for ALL areas of the County!
  • A “Rate” column shows the rate of positive COVID-19 cases (per 100,000 population) for each city.  Benicia is leading the way here, with a rate of only 97.9 cases per 100,000. Compare with other Solano cities in the chart, and note that the CDC reports today’s rate in California at 566 per 100,000 (up from 547 yesterday).  Johns Hopkins lists the overall Solano County rate at 252 (unchanged, as it reflects incomplete data for yesterday). UPDATE: Johns Hopkins updated its listing for cases per 100,000 in Solano County to 314 (a significant jump, up from 252 on Tuesday).

RACE / ETHNICITY

The County report on race / ethnicity data 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 24% of cases, 22% of hospitalizations and 21% of deaths.
  • Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 13% of cases, but 29% of hospitalizations, and 38% of deaths.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 37% of cases.  They account for 25% of hospitalizations, and 17% of deaths.
  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 11% of cases and 15% of hospitalizations, but 21% 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 https://doitgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=055f81e9fe154da5860257e3f2489d67.

Solano’s Thursday COVID-19 report: 30 more cases, including 5 new youth infections


Thursday, June 25: 30 new cases today, no new deaths. Since the outbreak started: 1,094 cases , 101 hospitalized, 23 deaths.

Compare yesterday’s report, Wed. June 24:Summary

  • Solano County reported 30 new cases today, total of 1,094 cases since the outbreak started.
  • No new deaths today, total of 23, no new hospitalizations, total of 101.
  • Solano reported 18 new ACTIVE cases today, total 272.
  • Testing – Solano county reported 1,124 residents were tested since yesterday’s report.

Solano’s new Public Health Dashboard design has 2 panels

The County’s new Public Health Dashboard design includes the “Summary Data” panel (at top above) and the “Details / Demographics” panel (here above).  Note that both panels are user interactive – hover over a chart (or tap) to get details. On the Details/Demographics panel, most of the charts have an additional tab showing the rate per 100,000.   Go there and explore the two panels.  (Expand a chart by clicking the small button in its upper right corner.)

SEVEN DAY MOVING AVERAGE

The County has added an important new feature: a Seven day moving average chart.  The chart is “The average of the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Solano County residents over the past 7 calendar days, by the date that their specimens were collected.”  Here is today’s chart, with a 7-day moving average of 26 new cases per day, down from 30 yesterday This chart shows a significant rise in the average number of cases during mid-June, tapering off here at the end of June.

BY AGE GROUP

  • Youth 17 and under – 5 new cases today, total of 87 cases, only one ever hospitalized10 days ago, there were only 40 cases among this age group – we’ve seen 47 new cases in 10 days!  I continue to be alarmed for Solano’s youth.  The trend has been rising dramatically.  Cases among Solano youth have increased in recent weeks to 8% of the 1,094 total confirmed casesThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the figure of coronavirus-infected kids younger than 18 at around 4% of those with the disease.  Our youth are testing positive at double the national rate!
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 18 new cases today, total of 618 cases.  This age group represents 56% of the 1,094 total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  The County reported no new hospitalizations among this age group today, and no new deaths.  Total of 27 hospitalized at one time and 2 deaths.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 5 new cases today, total of 228 cases.  This age group represents 21% of the 1,094 total cases.  No new hospitalizations today, total of 34 hospitalized at one time.  No new deaths, total of 3 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 2 new cases today, total of 160 cases.  This age group represents 15% of the 1,094 total cases.  No new hospitalizations and no new deaths today.  Total of 39 hospitalized at one time and 18 deaths.  In this older age group, 24% were hospitalized at one time, a substantially higher percentage than in the lower age groups And this group counts for 18 of the 23 deaths, or 78%.

CITY DATA

  • Vallejo added 10 new cases today, total of 456.
  • Fairfield added 10 new cases today, total of 349.
  • Vacaville added 2 new cases today, total of 145 cases.
  • Suisun City remained at 68 cases.
  • Benicia remained at 25 cases.
  • Dixon added 8 new cases today, total of 37 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 1,080, leaving 14 cases somewhere among the 2 locations in this “<10” category (one more than last reported)Residents and city officials have pressured County officials for city case counts.  Today’s data is welcome, but remains incomplete for folks in Rio Vista and unincorporated areas of the County.
  • The “Rate” column shows the rate of positive COVID-19 cases (per 100,000 population) for each city.  Benicia is leading the way here, with a rate of only 90.7 cases per 100,000. Compare with other Solano cities in the chart, and note that the CDC reports today’s rate in California at 481 per 100,000 (up from 450 yesterday).  Johns Hopkins lists the overall Solano County rate at 238 (up from 228 yesterday).

RACE / ETHNICITY

The County is reporting on race / ethnicity data for the first time, including case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  There are tabs showing the 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 25% of cases, 23% of hospitalizations (up 2% over yesterday) and 23% of deaths.
  • Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 13% of cases, but 29% of hospitalizations and 36% of deaths.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 35% of cases.  They account for 24% of hospitalizations and only 14 % of deaths.
  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 13% of cases and 15% of hospitalizations (down 1% from yesterday), but 23% 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 https://doitgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=055f81e9fe154da5860257e3f2489d67.

Solano County adds 73 new coronavirus cases over the weekend, expands reporting dashboard


Monday, June 22: 73 new positive cases, no new deaths. Total 933 cases, 23 deaths.

The County has re-designed its COVID-19 Dashboard.  More about this later…

Summary

  • Solano County reported 73 new positive cases today, total of 933 cases.
  • No new deaths today, total of 23, and no new hospitalizations, total of 98.
  • Solano reported 8 fewer ACTIVE cases today, total 168.
  • Testing – Solano county reported 4,193 residents were tested over 3 days since Friday’s report.
  • Youth – 7 new cases since Friday among the 17 and under age group, total 70.  There have been 65 new cases among Solano youth in the last 6 weeks, with only 6 new cases over the 5 weeks prior. (More on Solano youth data below.)

New Dashboard Design – 2 panels

The County’s new design includes the “Summary Data” panel (above) and the “Details/Demographics” panel (here below).  I’m  learning my way around, and  will go into some detail below and more at a later date.  For now, go there and explore the two panels.  Note that both panels are user interactive – hover over a chart to get details.  Note on the Details/Demographics panel that most of the charts have an additional tab showing the rate per 100,000.

SEVEN DAY MOVING AVERAGE

The County has added an important new feature: a Seven day moving average chart.  The chart is “The average of the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Solano County residents over the past 7 calendar days, by the date that their specimens were collected.”  Here is today’s chart, with today’s average of 14 new cases per day.  This chart surely shows a significant rise in the average number of cases during June.


BY AGE GROUP

  • Youth 17 and under – 7 new cases today, total of 70 cases, only one ever hospitalized. 10 days ago, there were only 39 cases among this age group – we’ve seen over 30 new cases in 10 days!  I am alarmed for Solano’s youth: there have been 59 new cases among those age 17 and under in the last 6 weeks, with only 6 new cases over the 5 weeks prior!  Cases among Solano youth have increased in recent weeks to 7.5% of the 933 total confirmed cases.  According to the SF Chronicle, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the figure of coronavirus-infected kids younger than 18 at around 4% of those with the disease.”  We are nearly double the national rate!
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 53 new cases today, total of 505 cases.  The County again adjusted its count of hospitalizations among this group, reporting 1 fewer hospitalization today.  No new deaths.  Total of 25 hospitalized at one time and 2 deaths.  This age group now represents 54% of the 933 total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.   26 of the 505 cases in this age group have been hospitalized at one time, 5.1% of total cases in the age group.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 10 new cases today, total of 204 cases.  The County adjusted its count of hospitalizations, reporting 2 additional hospitalizations today, total of 33 hospitalized at one time.  No new deaths, total of 3 deaths.  This age group represents 21.9% of the 933 total cases.   33 of the 204 cases in this age group have been hospitalized at one time, 16.2% of total cases in the age group.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 2 new cases today, total of 153 cases, including no new hospitalizations and no new deaths.  Total of 39 hospitalized at one time and 18 deaths.  This age group represents 16.4% of the 933 total cases.  39 of the 153 cases in this age group, 25.5% were hospitalized at one time, a substantially higher percentage than in the lower age groups.  And… this group counts for 18 of the 23 deaths, or 78%.

CITY DATA

Note the new “Rate” column, which shows the rate of COVID-19 cases (per 100,000 population) by city of residence.  Benicia is leading the way here, with a rate of only 92 cases per 100,000. Compare with other Solano cities in the chart, and note that the CDC reports today’s rate in California at 450 per 100,000.

  • Vallejo added 18 new cases today, total of 413.
  • Fairfield added 35 new cases today, total of 279.
  • Vacaville added 12 new cases today, total of 121 cases.
  • Suisun City added 2 new cases today, total of 58 cases.
  • Benicia remained at 25 cases.
  • Dixon is reported at 6 new cases today, total of 24 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 920, leaving 13 cases somewhere among the 2 locations in this “<10” category (one more than last reported)Residents and city officials have pressured County officials for city case counts.  Today’s data is welcome, but remains incomplete for folks in Rio Vista and unincorporated areas of the County.

RACE / ETHNICITY

The Dashboard is reporting on race / ethnicity data for the first time, including case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  The first 3 of these boxes have a tab showing the rate per 100,000 for each race / ethnicity.

(PERSONAL NOTE: I ran out of time today, so you will need to go to the dashboard for details on Race/Ethnicity, Hospitalizations, Active Cases, Hospital Impact, and Testing.  More on these tomorrow.  Also, see Revealing comparison of two views of Solano County’s COVID-19 case chart – Feb 24 to June 19.)

Proposed EPA rule would disadvantage minority communities

[Editor: The excellent article below does not link to the EPA’s proposed new rule.  It can be found here, and note that PUBLIC COMMENTS may be sent on or before July 27, 2020.  Submit your comment here.  – R.S.]

Soot rule thrusts EPA into spotlight on race

E&E News, by Jean Chemnick, June 12, 2020
Louisiana refinery. Photo credit:  John Dooley/Sipa Press/Newscom
A refinery is seen near Venice, La. EPA is changing its cost-benefit analysis to discount the health savings from lower levels of particulate matter and other pollutants. John Dooley/Sipa Press/Newscom

EPA published a proposal in the Federal Register yesterday that critics described as an assault on minority communities coping with the public health legacy of structural racism.

The agency’s plan would mandate changes to the way future rules under the Clean Air Act would weigh the costs and benefits of climate and air pollution regulations.

It’s the first time EPA has attempted such a rulemaking, and critics say the goal is to saddle future administrations with an inflexible set of cost-benefit methodologies that discount benefits from cutting pollutants while stressing cost to industry.

The rule would also bar EPA from giving special consideration to individual communities that bear the brunt of environmental risks — frequently populations of color.

“The rule won’t take into account any benefit that can’t be monetized and quantified, including important things like the effect, say, of a mercury rule on tribal communities that rely on fish and wildlife that are contaminated with mercury or the effect of particulate matter on communities of color and disadvantaged folks who live near the power plants that are being controlled,” said Ann Weeks, legal director of the Clean Air Task Force.

The Obama EPA did give special weight to the benefits that would accrue to specific communities when assessing whether a rule was cost-effective, she said. But this proposal seeks to make that impossible.

“You basically are tying your own hands, if you’re the agency, by saying this is the way you have to do things,” she said.

EPA describes the draft rule as an effort to improve transparency by demanding a strict accounting of costs and benefits for all economically significant air quality and climate change rulemakings promulgated under the landmark environmental law.

But it raises questions about whether a future administration could count so-called co-benefits when drafting regulations. Co-benefits are reductions in pollutants that aren’t the rule’s primary target but that yield public health benefits that EPA has traditionally counted.

Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former energy lawyer, has long sought to sideline co-benefits, which industry sees as justifying rules whose costs outweigh true environmental benefits.

The co-benefit that has packed the greatest punch in past Clean Air Act rulemakings is fine particulate matter, or soot. Epidemiological studies are chock-full of data linking these tiny particles to pulmonary, respiratory and neurological ailments and death.

So demonstrating that a rule would reduce particulate matter adds to its value — a fact that even the Trump EPA used last year to show that its Affordable Clean Energy rule for power plant carbon dioxide was worth its costs.

‘History of racism’

The proposal comes as communities of color are experiencing some of the worst impacts of the coronavirus, while protests over racism and police brutality continue in cities across the country.

There’s evidence that elevated exposure to soot from highways, industrial facilities and incinerators that have for decades been built in predominantly black, Latino and Asian American communities are disproportionately harming the health of their residents.

“It’s all deeply ingrained in the history of racism and the history of civil rights,” said Sofia Owen, a staff attorney with Alternatives for Community & Environment, an environmental justice group based in Boston. “The siting of these facilities — where our highways are, where incinerators are, where compressor stations or the bus depots and the train depots are — is communities of color and low-income communities.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists released modeling last year showing that Asian Americans are, on average, exposed to particulate matter concentrations from vehicle tailpipes that are 34% higher compared with other Americans.

They weren’t alone. Soot exposure was 24% higher for African Americans and 23% higher for Latinos. White Americans are exposed to 14% less soot from tailpipes than the average American (Greenwire, June 27, 2019).

“It’s primarily the PM2.5 that is responsible for environmental damage and health damage in communities living near highways,” said Maria Cecilia Pinto de Moura, a senior vehicles engineer with UCS, referring to particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. The science advocacy group is now doing similar modeling on proximity to coal-fired power plants by demographic group, she said.

The health impacts of PM2.5 exposure can be severe.

A 2017 study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other institutions found that incremental increases in soot exposure below the standards set by EPA can result in significantly more deaths among senior citizens. The study found that black people were three times more likely to die from soot exposure than other Americans.

“We know that when you inhale fine particulate matter, they penetrate very deep into your lungs, and they can actually get into your bloodstream, and they initiate a form of inflammation that can cause pneumonia and cardiovascular disease,” said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the School of Public Health and an author of the 2017 study.

Dominici also co-authored a recent study showing that counties with higher levels of particulate matter experienced more deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (Greenwire, April 7).

There’s a link between particulate matter and acute respiratory distress syndrome, she said, which causes COVID-19-related deaths.

“If you’re living in a county and you’re breathing polluted air for a very long time, even absent COVID, we know that your lungs are inflamed,” Dominici said. “After you contract COVID, your ability to respond to the inflammatory nature of COVID is severely compromised because your lungs already have inflammation.”

The result is worse for black and Latino people who contract COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in April that 33% of those hospitalized with the disease were black, as were nearly a quarter of those who died. Eighteen percent of the U.S. population is black.

While racial minorities are more impacted by high soot levels, they’re also responsible for producing less of it.

A 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that non-Hispanic whites consume the majority of the goods and services responsible for particulate matter. Black and Latino people on average are exposed to 56% and 63% more soot, respectively, than is linked to their consumption.

The same study estimated that soot caused 131,000 premature American deaths in 2015.

“The long tail of this is that particularly black Americans and Latinx communities have been discriminated against in this country, and because of their poverty, they are forced to live in neighborhoods that are less expensive and more polluted,” said Aaron Bernstein, director of the Harvard Chan School’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment.

EPA’s cost-benefit exercises could consider that history of racial injustice when assessing whether a rule is warranted, he noted.

“If you clean up the air, there is a pretty good likelihood that we’re going to benefit people of color more. And should we in fact prioritize those actions because of historical and, frankly, present-day injustices?” he said. “That is a highly contentious arena right now, but it’s hard to ignore, given what’s going on.”

Progress

The gap between soot exposure levels of white and nonwhite Americans has actually been shrinking in recent years.

A paper released in January that used satellite-based measurements to track air quality across the country found that disparities between soot levels in predominantly minority and white areas fell by nearly two-thirds between 2000 and 2015.

Reed Walker, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study, said this was partly due to white people moving into cities and minorities heading to the suburbs.

But a much larger part of the story, he said, had to do with the Clean Air Act.

Particulate matter standards set under the law — current ones were implemented in 2005 — require counties that fail to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards to take aggressive action to reach attainment.

“It just so happens that African Americans are overrepresented in these dirty areas,” Walker said, noting that in the last 15 years, counties with large minority populations have reduced particulate matter more than predominantly white counties.

Still, research shows that soot can cause illness and death at levels below federal air quality standards. This year, EPA declined to tighten the standard despite public health advocates’ warnings that an update is long overdue.

And the proposed cost-benefit rule seems to be directed at making tougher rules harder to promulgate in the future.

“Any failure to tighten the standard is going to continue the disproportionate exposures faced by individuals in those communities,” Walker said.

This story also appears today in Climatewire.