Category Archives: Public Health

Public health experts urge police to stop using tear gas during coronavirus pandemic

Doctors say the gas can damage the respiratory system and aggravate COVID-19 symptoms or aid spread of the disease

OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 1: Protesters run away as police shoot tear gas and flash grenades to disperse the crowd on Broadway near the Oakland Police Department during the fourth day of protests over George Floyd’s death by the Minneapolis police in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Vallejo Times-Herald, By Emily DeRuy, June 2, 2020

Public health experts are calling on police to stop using tear gas on people protesting the death of George Floyd.

An online petition started at the University of Washington and created with Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, opposes the use of tear gas, suggesting it could “increase risk for COVID-19 by making the respiratory tract more susceptible to infection, exacerbating existing inflammation, and inducing coughing.”

Thousands of people have poured onto streets from Walnut Creek to San Jose in demonstrations sparked by Floyd’s death and video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Those demonstrations have been met by tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and other measures from police.

While some health officials have worried the crowded demonstrations could spread COVID-19, the petition endorses the protests “as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.”

The document encourages protestors to wear face coverings and stay six feet apart if possible. It also calls on police to avoid arresting and holding protestors in confined spaces like jails and police vans, “which are some of the highest-risk areas for COVID-19 transmission.”

Santa Clara County is urging people who attend protests to get tested for the virus within a few days. The county has opened free testing sites available to anyone regardless of whether they have symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prolonged exposure to a large dose of riot control agent like tear gas can have serious consequences, including respiratory failure possibly resulting in death.

Echoing the petition, a UCLA professor of medicine and public health told LAist he was especially worried about the potential harm caused when law enforcement officers rely on the gas.

“During this time when we’re protesting police brutality, the use of tear gas is causing more harm in the way of spreading COVID,” the professor, David Eisenman, told the news outlet. “There is some culpability on the police for using this method, which increases the sneezing and increases the coughing and therefore increases the spread.”

Solano County on re-opening: guide and links to 8 new documents on County website

By Roger Straw, May 8, 2020

Late on Thursday evening, Solano County Public Health added 8 new links to COVID-19 information on the County website.

The detail is welcome, although late to be posted.  The detail is also somewhat confusing and open to interpretation.

I will detail here the new material.  I will leave the analysis and critique to others, or maybe to a later posting here.

Inventory of changes on County website as of 8am Friday May 8 (changes most likely posted sometime between 6 and 9pm on 5/7)

  1. The County’s main Coronavirus page at top, “NEW Solano County Public Health amends the shelter at home order, enabling low-risk businesses to reopen starting Friday, May 8, 2020 with specific social distancing practices. Click here for more information about the roadmap.”
    1. The link “amends the shelter at home order” goes to a 14-page PDF, “ORDER OF THE COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER No. 2020-07”.  The ORDER includes sections on Effective Date, Intent and Purpose, Guiding Principles for Resuming Activities, Prohibited Activities, Level of Risk (Low, Medium and High), Social Distancing, High-Risk Populations, General COVID-19 Business Precautions, and Enforcement.  It also includes Exhibit A – Previously Designated Essential Activities, Exhibit B – Low Risk Activity, Appendix A – Low Risk Activity – Golf Courses, Appendix B – Solano County Social Distancing Protocol (Updated May 5, 2020). Two additional pages are empty: Exhibit C – Medium Risk Activities and Exhibit D – High Risk Activities, both of which state, “Currently not permitted to be opened until the County Public Health Officer promulgates the necessary guidelines. Once issued, such guidelines will be inserted here.”
    2. The link “roadmap” goes to a web page, “Solano County COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery”.   This page summarizes the May 8 re-opening of low-risk activities, stating that “low risk businesses can open starting May 8th, subject to specific social distancing practices.”  The summary at top begins with the following links:
      1. Another link to the Public Health Order (see above).
      2. A link to a similarly named but more detailed Roadmap to Recovery.  This is a 9-page PDF, revised May 7, 2020, that details Low Risk, Medium Risk and High Risk activities with color-coded guides to re-opening.  This document “outlines the criteria for reopening and the phases for lifting the stay at home order to guide critical decisions in support of the public’s health and well-being in the weeks and months ahead.”
      3. A link to a “press release about the amendment and roadmap.” The May 7, 2020 press release begins, “County Public Health Officer amends shelter-at-home order — low-risk businesses to reopen starting Friday subject to specific social distancing practices”.
        1. The press release announces “Starting May 8, 2020, low-risk businesses in Solano County may reopen providing they have implemented and maintain social distancing best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19.” Acknowledging that enforcement will be near impossible, the document quotes Dr. Matyas, “Changes to lifting this order place a lot of responsibility on business owners, their staff and residents to make good decisions.”
        2. The press release states that “The FOX 40 News report and comments by Fairfield Councilwomen Moy are incorrect.”  That report (posted here on the Benicia Independent and subsequently removed), asserted that all Solano restaurants would be reopened by Friday, May 15.
        3. The press release announces the Supervisor meeting on May 12 when strategies for reopening medium-risk businesses will be considered, and links to “Details, including how to view and participate…included on the County’s website.” That link goes to a general page about Board of Supervisor meetings but with two new links:
          1. A bright red header box: “Solano County public meeting protocol in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19): CLICK HERE”. That page outlines how to access the live-streamed meeting, and how to submit public comments by email or phone.
          2. A link to Board Rules and Procedures, which goes to a 7 page PDF, the 2009 standing rules for Solano BOS meetings.

So yes, complicated.  I only hope this outline of the County’s new postings will help guide you to an understanding of the slow and careful openings that were passed by our Board of Supervisors on Tuesday May 5.  You, like me, might think it is still too soon to be opening these “low-risk” businesses.  And you, like me, might stay away from those businesses that do open.

Let’s all hope the County does NOT open “medium-risk” businesses when it considers the matter next Tuesday, May 12.  Consider attending or sending in your comment.  From the County press release: “The strategy for minimizing risk and the timeline for reopening of medium-risk businesses are still being reviewed and will be discussed further with the Solano County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, starting at 9 a.m.  Details, including how to view and participate, are included on the County’s website at www.SolanoCounty.com/BOS.”

Solano County Public Health allows some businesses to reopen today (May 8)

“In Solano County, there is a great deal of confusion about what is actually happening.”

Coronavirus Bay Area: Solano County to reopen some retail stores for Phase 2

ABC7 News, By J.R. Stone, Thursday, May 7, 2020 11:00PM

SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) — Some Solano County businesses will reopen on Friday. The county public health officer gave the go-ahead just after 8 p.m. Thursday night. The order is similar to that of the Governor’s that takes effect Friday across the state.

Solano is one of just four local counties that are loosening restrictions. Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz Counties are also taking action to make changes.

In Solano County, there is a great deal of confusion about what is actually happening.

“I asked what businesses over here gonna open up?” That question came from Bertha Thomas and every single other person we talked with on Thursday in Solano County. The health officer here is allowing low risk businesses that include clothing retail stores, pet grooming, florists, offices and parks.

Currently some businesses like Michaels are doing curbside service but the health officer says he fears curbside, which is part of the state recommendations, could be more dangerous due to the already long lines.

Because of that, businesses can open inside providing they have social distancing policies and post their plan so customers can see it.

“Yeah it’s confusing but you have to just deal with it,” says Timothy Payne of Vallejo.

And some are ready to deal with it. Especially the youngsters.

“We’re tired of being in the house,” says 14-year-old Lavita Johnson. She says this is a very tough time for kids and teens, especially ones who are in bad situations at home, “even if it’s just 20-30 minutes it’s a way to get away from all the problems.”

The number of cases here in Solano County continues to rise and there have been seven COVID-19 related deaths. Many we spoke with are now even more fearful.

“Imagine you go into a store there’s lots of people hardly any air circulating think of the people that you’re going to get infected,” says Manny Espinoza who is usually a wine country tour guide but is currently out of work.

But while the businesses may be opening, it’s uncertain if and when the customers will come back.

“So you’ll definitely start going out a little more? Oh no she’s not gonna let me but if I could I would,” says Johnson referring to her grandmother’s strict policies.

This change in Solano County does not include in-house dining at restaurants. We talked with the health officer about this and he tells us that is unlikely to happen even next week.

Testing chaos undermines California coronavirus response

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board, April 7, 2020
A health care worker speaks with a driver at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in a parking lot of the old California Pacific Medical Center on California Street in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, April 2, 2020. The appointment only tests were provided for employees and staff of CPMC and Brown and Toland physicians.
A health care worker speaks with a driver at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in a parking lot of the old California Pacific Medical Center on California Street in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, April 2, 2020. The appointment only tests were provided for employees and staff of CPMC and Brown and Toland physicians. Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

California has so far escaped an exponential coronavirus outbreak on the order of New York’s thanks to nation-leading social-distancing measures, particularly in the Bay Area. But the state has lagged in testing for the virus, undermining a relatively encouraging trajectory and threatening its ability to combat the contagion over the long term.

While federal failures have plagued coronavirus testing across the country, California’s capacity to identify the disease it’s fighting has been particularly poor. About 126,000 Californians had been tested for the novel coronavirus as of Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, or 0.3% of the population. That’s only about half the per capita rate nationwide in a country that has been a global underachiever in tracking the pandemic, ranking 42nd among the states according to one analysis. New York, with about half the population, has tested more than 300,000.

Extraordinary delays in processing those tests that have been conducted exacerbated California’s shortfall. At one point last week, results were still pending for more than 60% of tests. Some patients reported waiting well over a week to find out whether they tested positive, defeating any attempt to quickly identify and contain infections.

To Newsom’s credit, he took responsibility for the problem Saturday and vowed to increase testing “exponentially” by forming a testing task force and several diagnostic “hubs,” coordinating the distribution of supplies, and working with UC Davis and UC San Diego. The governor also reported significant progress on the testing backlog, which had fallen from nearly 60,000 awaiting results to around 13,000 as of last weekend.

Federal miscues early on put the entire country at a disadvantage in detecting the pandemic. Although the World Health Organization had distributed hundreds of thousands of working coronavirus tests by early February, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insisted on developing its own test only to discover flaws that made it largely unusable. The government nevertheless took weeks to relax regulations that prevented labs around the country from employing alternatives, finally doing so in late February.

Those difficulties were compounded in California thanks to shortages of testing supplies, a lack of coordination among dozens of public and private labs, and a huge backlog at one of them. Testing capacity has also been reduced by closures of about a quarter of the state’s public health labs over the past two decades.

If California’s relative success in slowing the spread of of the contagion continues, one likely consequence is that more of the population will remain unexposed and therefore vulnerable until a vaccine is developed, a process expected to take more than a year. A coherent testing regime will be that much more crucial to detecting and controlling any resurgence of the pandemic and beginning to restore a semblance of normalcy.