Category Archives: Solano County Health Department

Slanted coverage of Solano’s poor response to recent COVID surge

[Editor: The Fairfield Daily Republic is the only news agency in Solano County that covers meetings of the Solano County Board of Supervisors.  Their coverage is decidedly conservative, but regularly contains valuable news about Solano’s response (and lack of adequate response) to the COVID-19 crisis.  In today’s story, I will highlight several highly concerning quotes, followed by my critical observations below, after the Daily Republic article.  – R.S.]

Solano close to ‘purple,’ again; Hannigan calls for public campaign

Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd R. Hansen, November 11, 2020
Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano County Health Officer

FAIRFIELD — Dr. Bela Matyas, the Solano County health officer, told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the state’s testing adjustments are not likely to save the county from regressing into the state’s most-restrictive purple tier if the case rate is not lowered.

“The county’s current experience with Covid-19 has not been good,” said Matyas, noting a case rate nearly as high as 80 per day over the weekend.

Add that to the 136 cases reported Friday, that four-day average was 93.2 cases – more than three times higher than the 30.7-case average the county needs to be at or below to stay in the red tier.

There were 64 new cases reported in Tuesday’s Public Health pdate, which would put the five-day average at nearly 87.4.

“Our current case rate is nearly as high as our peak (during the novel coronavirus pandemic),” Matyas said.

The update to the board included the usual discussion of the cause of the case increases, which in Solano County comes back to the usual response: social gatherings of friends and family.

Matyas noted that Public Health hears people say they are concerned about meeting strangers in public so they take precautions, but they do not take the same precautions around family and friends.

 He also said that if the county does not want its businesses harmed, it needs to convince the governor’s office that the care rate has nothing to do with businesses. 

“I think we need a mask and social distancing campaign,” Supervisor Erin Hannigan said.

She proposed a media campaign using social media, TV, radio, school education and even the back of buses to get the message out to wear face coverings and keep a safe distance no matter what the setting: work, home or in the community.

 Supervisor Jim Spering was not convinced the expense would necessarily have the desired results, but he is increasingly frustrated that it will be businesses that will pay the price for the choices being made by county residents. “They are just ruining more lives, more businesses ; it’s unconscionable,” Spering said.

However, the board heard from several members of the public about their beliefs that face coverings do not work, and that the county should stop promoting it.

In addition to the state guidelines, face coverings are part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols and fully endorsed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Hannigan’s campaign idea, because it would educate children who would presumably take the lessons home, was also likened to a Nazi Germany propaganda approach.

The board also was urged, again, to take down from its website the phone number locals can use to report Covid-19 protocol violations by businesses.

Terry Schmidtbauer, the acting director of the Department of Resource Management, reported that since August, the county has received 267 complaints, which resulted in 203 site visits. Only seven of those have required a third inspection, which triggers the county referring the matter to law enforcement or state agencies.

In general, he said, the businesses are following the regulations.

 Matyas said the Halloween numbers are starting to show up in the Public Health data as well, noting that the new surge is mostly younger residents. That means the hospitalization numbers are not spiking like in past surges , but the disease has made its way into 15 care facilities, and some of those who are transmitting the disease, Matyas said, are medical staff who have participated in social gatherings but without following safety protocols.

It is in those facilities where the fatalities begin to rise. The past three deaths in the county were in a memory care facility in Vacaville, bringing the total to 79.

The Public Health Division reported that with the 61 news cases, the countywide total is 8,430.

 Matyas said he fully expects the state to put the county on notice, and while Solano will appeal the state’s position next week to put off a final state decision, in two more weeks the county could be going back to “purple.” 

The other key piece to the state’s decision is the seven-day testing rate, which was reported Tuesday at 10.1% – well above the purple tier threshold of 8%.

California’s color-coded monitoring system designates the purple tier for counties where transmission of the novel coronavirus is considered to be widespread. Shutdown orders for counties in the purple tier are the most severe. The red tier is for counties with substantial spread of the virus. The orange tier designates moderate virus transmission, while the yellow tier is reserved for counties where the spread of the virus is deemed to be minimal.

Restrictions to slow the spread of the virus are eased as counties move from purple to red, red to orange and orange to yellow.

 Hospitalizations across Solano County were at 31 Tuesday, the same as Monday ; and the number of active cases continues to rise, up from 577 to 580.  [continued…]


Quote from the Daily Republic:
“[Matyas] also said that if the county does not want its businesses harmed, it needs to convince the governor’s office that the care rate has nothing to do with businesses.”
Commentary:  This sentence perfectly captures the business-centric approach expressed time and again by our Public Health Officer and by one or more of his employers who sit on our Solano County Board of Supervisors.  I wish our businesses well, but it is not at all clear to me that “the case rate has nothing to do with businesses.”  Solano’s contact tracing may show more transmission due to private social gatherings, but there is no doubt in my mind that our businesses remain a threat to viral exposure as well.  Too often, our County leadership fails to properly call out businesses to enforce masking or face consequences.  And our County leadership completely fails to acknowledge the value of returning to business and community shutdowns when the numbers indicate a return to the purple tier.

Quote from the Daily Republic:
“Supervisor Jim Spering was not convinced the expense would necessarily have the desired results, but he is increasingly frustrated that it will be businesses that will pay the price for the choices being made by county residents.”
Commentary:  Supervisor Spering has consistently over the years promoted business interests at the expense of human welfare on issues like air quality and regulation of Bay Area refineries.  “Businesses will pay the price”?!  While people are sick and dying?  This sounds like the voice of a die-hard (as it were) right-wing doubter, not unlike the anti-government protesters spreading misinformation and casting nasty names at Board meetings.

Quote from the Daily Republic:
“Matyas said the Halloween numbers are starting to show up in the Public Health data as well, noting that the new surge is mostly younger residents. That means the hospitalization numbers are not spiking like in past surges…Hospitalizations across Solano County were at 31 Tuesday, the same as Monday…”
Commentary:  Well, we have learned directly from Dr. Matyas (in an email to me on November 7) that his office goes back periodically and adds large numbers of hospitalizations after the fact.  This practice increased the total hospitalizations by 106 in a single day on October 29, a single-day increase of 25%.  How can he with a straight face report that “hospitalization numbers are not spiking like in past surges,” when he knows from experience that he will likely need to go back and add hospitalizations at a later date?

Quote from the Daily Republic:
“Matyas said he fully expects the state to put the county on notice, and while Solano will appeal the state’s position next week to put off a final state decision, in two more weeks the county could be going back to ‘purple.'”
Commentary:  Solano’s kneejerk stance is to appeal.  At every step, Solano has resisted the direction of our State health officials.  Matyas has been featured on several Bay Area news media expressing disapproval of our State’s best guidance.  He seems to fear “going back to ‘purple'” more than overseeing a surge in illness and death that is spreading throughout the nation.

 

Solano County press release: Loosening some COVID restrictions, “…best defense is to continue with the safety protocols”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 22, 2020

  • News Contacts:
    Matthew A. Davis, Sr. Management Analyst and Public Communications Officer (707) 784-6111 and MADavis@SolanoCounty.com (AND)
  • Jayleen Richards, Public Health Administrator, Health and Social Services Department (707) 784-8616 and JMRichards@SolanoCounty.com

State moves Solano County into red tier (Tier 2) on COVID-19 framework; allows businesses to reopen some additional indoor activities with modifications

SOLANO COUNTY – The California Department of Public Health announced today that Solano County has been moved into the red tier (Tier 2) on the state’s COVID-19 response framework, allowing for more local businesses and activities to resume some additional indoor activities, with modifications.

“Solano County has made progress in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” says Bela T. Matyas, M.D., M.P.H., Solano County Health Officer. “As more businesses reopen, we all need to do our part to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 infection, and our best defense is to continue with the safety protocols—wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands.”

Before the move today, the State had placed Solano County in the most restrictive tier; Tier 1, the purple tier, where COVID-19 infection rates are considered “widespread,” and many indoor businesses operations remained closed or with limited capacity. The transition into Tier 2, the red tier, allows for more business with indoor operations to increase capacity. Businesses need to continue to adhere to the State’s Industry Guidance for social distancing best practices to help protect employees, customers and the community to continue to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 infection.

MOVING INTO TIER 2 (RED) ALLOWS:
  • Restaurants indoor dining (max 25% capacity of facility or 100 people, whichever is fewer)
  • All retail indoors (max 50% capacity of facility)
  • Shopping centers, swap meets indoors (max 50% capacity of facility, closed common areas)
  • Personal care services – hair and nail salons, barbershops (open with modifications)
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums (max 25% capacity of facility)
  • Places of worship (max 25% capacity of facility or 100 people, whichever is fewer)
  • Movie theaters indoors (max 25% capacity of facility or 100 people, whichever is fewer)
  • Gyms and fitness centers indoors (max 10% capacity of facility)
BUSINESSES MUST STILL IMPLEMENT STATE-MANDATED INDUSTRY GUIDANCE:

Prior to opening under Tier 2, all businesses must review the Solano County Health Order, complete a State COVID-19 general checklist and ensure a written plan is on file and available for public review. Information and resources on Guidance for Industries is available on the Solano County website at www.SolanoCounty.com/COVID19.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL WEEKS

If Solano County continues to make progress in preventing COVID-19 transmission, additional business sectors and indoor activities can progressively begin to open, with modifications, within the next three weeks, per the State’s Industry Guidelines. If the County’s COVID-19 metrics worsen, the County would be directed to revert to a more restrictive tier as soon as two weeks from today. Per state regulations, K-12 schools can reopen to classroom-based learning with COVID-19 modifications after two weeks of the County in Tier 2, providing there is no new surge in COVID-19 infections.

FREE COVID-19 TESTING FOR ANYONE IN SOLANO COUNTY

As more businesses begin to reopen, remember that you can be tested for COVID-19 for free, regardless of symptoms. Same-day appointments are available. Sign up at www.Lhi.Care/CovidTesting and/or by calling (888) 634-1123.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To find the status of activities in the County, visit https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.
For more information about COVID-19 in Solano County, visit www.SolanoCounty.com/COVID19 or call the Coronavirus Warmline at (707) 784-8988, email COVID19@SolanoCounty.com and on Public Health’s Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/SolanoCountyPH (@SolanoCountyPH).

SOLANO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH

675 Texas St., Suite 6500, Fairfield, CA 94533
fax (707) 784-7975   *   www.solanocounty.com

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COVID-19 testing for Vallejo homeless – agencies don’t include Solano County Public Health?

[Editor – I am impressed and heartened to read in today’s Vallejo Times-Herald that the City of Vallejo, Touro University and other local agencies are teaming up with Solano County Behavioral Health department to test and house the city’s homeless.  I have been raising alarms about the poor number of COVID-19 tests being reported daily by the Solano County Public Health department.  Why is our Public Health department missing from this report?  Surely the spread of coronavirus among the homeless isn’t simply a mental health problem.  Was Behavioral Health working with Public Health to supply and administer tests on this project?  – R.S.]

Vallejo, Touro University, others partnering to help homeless get tested for coronavirus

La Clinica administering the tests, while Avellino Labs processing results

Vallejo Times Herald, by Thomas Gase, April 30, 2020 at 11:29 a.m.
A homeless man pulls his carts in front of the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Sereno Drive. The new Project Room Key will focus on testing and recovery for homeless who possibly have COVID-19 in Vallejo. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)

Vallejo is doing its best to make sure anyone who needs testing for COVID-19 gets it, and that includes the homeless population.

The City of Vallejo has combined with Touro University, Solano County Behavioral Health, Solano Resource Connect, Meals on Wheels and Fighting Back Partnership to help the homeless get tested as part of Project Roomkey.

Project Roomkey is a first-in-the-nation initiative to secure hotel and motel rooms to protect homeless individuals from COVID-19. The initiative has secured Federal Emergency Management Agency approval for 75 percent federal cost-share for this mission. Its initial goal is to secure up to 15,000 rooms for this purpose — with county partners moving 869 homeless individuals most vulnerable to COVID-19 off the street, out of shelters, and into isolation.

La Clinica will administer the testing, while Avellino Labs out of Menlo Park will process the results. On Tuesday the Vallejo City Council approved 3,334 tests that cost $250,000. Vallejo expects to get a reimbursement eventually from FEMA for the tests.

Housing and Community Development Division Manager Judy Shepard-Hall will be leading the cause in the city. She has had plenty of help from Homeless Services Coordinator Racheal Frederick-Vijay.

“Not long after the state announced the shelter-in-place, efforts were made to find out what we were doing with the homeless,” Vallejo assistant city manager Anne Cardwell said. “Judy and Rachael have been very busy with this and have hit the ground running. You have to give them a lot of credit for what they’ve done.”

Cardwell said that when La Clinica administers the tests they will be looking for one of three priorities.

“The first is people that test positive,” Cardwell said. “The second is people who believe that have been exposed and have symptoms and last but not least the third priority will be the vulnerable, such as people over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions.”

As early as March 16, Shepard-Hall said homeless were contacted through a database that had their last cell phone numbers. Shepard-Hall said between 700 and 800 people have replied to the calls and were in the stage of being vulnerable.

“Yes, it’s a little surprising how many homeless people still have a cell phone,” Shepard-Hall said. “But it’s more than just phone outreach. Eventually we well have to go out into the field and try to find some of the individuals, wherever they were known to be sleeping last.”

Early testing was done by La Clinica on Saturday to essential employees at the Cal Maritime Anchor Center on Georgia Street. Touro University is scheduled to begin outreach and wellness checks on Monday to those who responded by cellphone.

“The outreach teams will be deciding soon what areas to hit and as quickly as possible,” Cardwell said. “Whether the tests are administered on the site of the homeless camps or somewhere else still hasn’t been decided.”

Cardwell and Vallejo Public Information Officer Christina Lee said if a homeless person agreed to be tested, they would then be sheltered at Vallejo’s Hampton Inn and Rodeway Inn. Many homeless people, however, won’t leave without their belongings — something the many groups have taken into consideration.

“Occupants are allowed to bring their pets, which we’re guessing will mostly be dogs,” Cardwell said. “We have crates for them as well as food. The occupants can keep some personal belongings with them in the room, but not a huge amount. The rest of their items will be stored on site at the hotels.”

Cardwell and Lee said the testing results, done by Avellino Labs, could take five to six hours, but will likely be a once-a-day routine due to the labs being located in Menlo Park.

While occupants are at the hotel, Touro University would then get involved. Volunteer students would contribute by giving wellness checks and helping with food distribution.

“When COVID-19 started we had a lot of requests to partner with our student volunteers,” said Lisa Norton, Touro’s Dean of College of Education & Health Sciences. “Michele Bunker-Alberts, an assistant professor at Touro, is leading this team. She does a lot of street medicine projects and runs One Love, a nonprofit in Oakland.”

A meeting was then held with an oversight committee last Friday. Norton said there are approximately 200 student volunteers, but all may not want to help.

“We just posted it on campus and we’ve targeted 30, but have 12 volunteers so far,” Norton said on Monday. “The results, once we posted them, were mixed. Some of our 200 volunteers we have for a variety of issues said they preferred to work from home and in safer conditions. Some in the college of medicine are just chomping at the bit to get out there and help people. Of course, we’re also accessing for risk. If these volunteers are living with someone that is elderly and have any kind of health care concerns, we’re asking for them to stay at home.”

Norton said that the students are being promised the best Personal Protective Equipment, but most of the wellness checks would be non-touch. She said that she’s gotten a lot of community requests to help out, but this project is strictly for the nursing students.

Still, she’s proud Touro is involved.

“I’m part of Vallejo Together, and I think a lot of people who live here, want to help out,” Norton said. “Touro is all about play space and social justice and really helping out the community you’ve been placed in. A lot of people come to Touro because of their huge passion in that area and it’s incredible to see here. It really shows off our mission and what we as a faculty and staff are involved in. Personally, I think it’s the right thing to do to help out the unhoused and make sure they are doing OK.”

Shepard-Hall said the most difficult part of the process has been funding, but there are also rewarding parts of the project.

“Funding is always an issue, because we’re not San Francisco County or Los Angeles County,” Shepard-Hall said. “So we’ve had to pull together with all our resources and I think we’ve done a good job at that. The most rewarding thing is the possibility, although it hasn’t happened yet, of having the homeless go back to wherever they were living and removing fear for them and getting them healthy.”

At least 18 infected at nursing facility in Vallejo

Health care workers are potentially in danger as well

Vallejo Times-Herald, By John Glidden, April 29, 2020
A healthcare worker takes a moment to get some fresh air at the Windsor Vallejo Care Center where at least 18residents have tested positive for COVID-19. CHRIS RILEY — TIMES-HERALD

Eighteen residents at the Windsor Vallejo Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the California Department of Health.

The skilled nursing facility also reported that health care workers at the facility have been infected as well.

Vallejo spokeswoman Christina Lee said on Tuesday that the Solano County Public Health Department and the county’s epidemiology team are overseeing operations at the facility after being notified of the infections last Friday.

“At that time, the confirmed number of cases was 12 residents with positive tests and four staff members with positive tests,” Lee wrote. “It’s not known how the virus reached this facility.”

That number increased to 18 residents infected on Monday in what officials are calling a cluster outbreak.

Solano County Public Health Administrator Jayleen Richards said Tuesday that the county is taking the cluster outbreak very seriously.

“We’ve been testing the staff and residents there,” she said. “We will be checking in with the facility each day.”

Richards said this is the county’s first cluster outbreak of COVID- 19.

Josh Sable, general counsel for Windsor Healthcare, told the Times-Herald Tuesday that there have been no deaths associated with the cluster outbreak at the care facility.

Sable didn’t respond to requests from this newspaper to provide the number of total infected residents and health care workers at the Vallejo facility.

“Windsor Vallejo Care Center has experienced a slight increase in the number of residents diagnosed with COVID-19, but a decrease in the number of infected employees,” he wrote in a prepared statement to this newspaper. “Rest assured, since the onset of this pandemic, Windsor’s clinical team has been collaborating closely with local, state and federal authorities, as well as the facility’s medical director. Nothing is more important to us than providing a safe environment for our residents and team members.”

Lee said the facility has created an isolation wing for residents who have been confirmed positive.

“They are placed in a specific wing of the facility to receive care from nurses/staff that do not provide care to patients in the other wings of the facility to help slow the spread,” she explained.

Sable said employees are screened at the start of each shift for symptoms of COVID-19, “including daily temperature checks and completion of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-compliant screening questionnaire. Employees who show signs of illness are asked to leave immediately and isolate at home.”

He also stated that visits to the facility have been restricted, while staff have increased sanitation “of frequently-touched surfaces.”

“We have ample supplies of personal protective equipment,” Sable said.

According to the state, eight other Solano County care facilities have reported no COVID-19 infections of residents or staff members.

Contact reporter John Glidden at 707-553-6832.