Category Archives: Solano County Health Officer Bela Matyas

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 report: Halloween parties contributed to COVID surge

1st reports from Halloween parties cause Solano Covid-19 case surge

City of Fairfield IT Department employee Steph Bunch delivers candy from a distance to Michael Graham during the Parks and Recreation Department’s Halloween event in the parking lot at the Civic Center downtown, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic file)
Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd R. Hansen, November 10, 2020

FAIRFIELD — Solano County averaged nearly 80 new cases over the past three days as the first reports of Halloween-related transmissions were reported to Public Health.

“But not big events,” Dr. Bela Matyas, the county public health officer, said in a phone interview Monday. “These are in the range of 15 to 20 people.”

He said the conclusion was that these early reports are from private events and not larger, organized parties. It also appears it is mostly younger people, so unlike July when deaths and hospitalizations surged along with the cases, that is not the case now.

“But it doesn’t help the county with its cases,” Matyas said, a reference to the state’s metrics when deciding whether Solano County could be returned to more-restrictive shutdowns if it cannot get the numbers down in the next two weeks.

The county reported 234 new cases since Friday’s update – an average of 78 cases each day. Friday’s jump was even worse at 132 new cases.

“We had a bad weekend . . . and Friday was bad,” Matyas said.

The number of deaths attributed at least in part to Covid-19 stayed at 79, with one more case being reviewed but not yet confirmed. That case also is related to a Vacaville memory care center where the past three deaths occurred.

Hospitalizations rose to 31 from 24.

Matyas said the number of active cases also has been climbing, now up to 577. That metric reflects the number of positive tests within a person’s 10-day infectious period.

The seven-day positivity testing rate, which along with the case rate is what the state looks at to determine the county’s status, was reported Monday at 11.4%. The threshold between “red” and “purple” is 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.

The total number of completed tests is 111,092, up from 109,683 in Friday’s update. The number of tests has helped the county with the state and is likely keeping it from regressing into purple status starting Tuesday.

Fairfield added 72 new cases to bring its total to 2,646. Vallejo added 80 cases for a Monday count of 2,697. Vacaville added 56 cases, bringing its tally to 1,572.

Suisun City (598) added 12 cases; Dixon (547) was up eight cases; Benicia (215) added five; and Rio Vista’s one new case took its total to 64.

The unincorporated area of the county had 27 cases reported, the same as Friday. The number was wrongly reported at 28.

[continued…]

Solano County does not have reliable information on each day’s new COVID hospitalizations

Dr. Matyas responds to my request for daily updates on TOTAL hospitalizations since the pandemic began

By Roger Straw, September 28, 2020
Background
Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

On September 24, I wrote to Dr. Bela Matyas, asking him to restore a TOTAL count of COVID hospitalizations since the pandemic began:

Please consider this request:  From the earliest days of the pandemic and through July 10, the County’s COVID dashboard showed Total Hospitalizations.

Beginning on July 13, the dashboard only shows Current Hospitalizations.  The daily change in Current Hospitalizations must be the difference between admissions and discharges, plus or minus, which is important to know.

However, the public needs to also know how many NEW admissions on a daily basis in order to accurately understand spread.  This can easily be seen in the daily update of Total Hospitalizations.

Please consider restoring Total Hospitalizations to the COVID dashboard.

Dr. Matyas sent the following reply on September 27:
Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano County Public Health Officer

“The daily change in total hospitalizations does not faithfully represent new hospitalizations; the majority of added hospitalizations day over day is from reconciliation of previously hospitalized cases that we learn about in arrears. It is likely to be a substantially under-reported number.

Hospitalization is not a reportable condition on an individual level; hospital capacity is the condition that we are monitoring, and total hospitalizations per day is the relevant metric. Reporting total hospitalizations to date on a daily basis would be a misleading indicator for tracking new hospitalizations both because of the timing of reports and the under-reporting of hospitalizations.”

My response today:

Dr. Matyas – Thank you for your response to my email. With respect, I think I disagree. Regardless whether a daily update of TOTAL hospitalizations since the outbreak began includes ONLY new hospitalizations TODAY or both new TODAY and “newly learned in arrears” hospitalizations, the metric of total hospitalizations (and a 7 or 14 day average graph showing the curve of that metric) would be of great significance in understanding the overall spread of the most serious cases.

This daily increase, whether learned in arrears or not, is important for the public’s awareness. MOST IMPORTANTLY, reporting on hospitalizations in this way might help in cautioning the public to take seriously the continuing need for masks, social distancing, hand washing, etc. As our public health officer, I’d hope you might stop and think about this again. Seems it wouldn’t hurt the cause at all to add this metric to the County’s COVID dashboard, and shouldn’t be too hard to calculate the data as I have been doing, working from the AGE GROUP data.

I will continue to add together the newly reported daily reported increase of hospitalizations in the AGE GROUP data in order to determine the daily increase in TOTAL hospitalizations. And I will continue to let the public know.

Roger Straw
Benicia

Click the image for Solano County COVID-19 Updates and Resources

Solano County COVID numbers going in wrong direction

Guest dine inside at Johnny Carino’s in the Gateway shopping area in Fairfield, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. Restaurants in Solano County got the go-ahead for limited in-restaurant dining, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. (Glen Faison/Daily Republic)

Solano case numbers climb; total deaths up to 63

Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd R. Hansen, September 25, 2020

FAIRFIELD — Solano County is going in the wrong direction – and so are the immediate hopes of moving to an even less restrictive Covid-19 tier.

The county reported Thursday that cases increased by 46, taking the total to 6,278.

Solano County’s daily case average needs to be around 18 in order to graduate from the red tier to the orange tier.

The seven-day testing positivity rate, listed Thursday at 3.9%, remains within the range to advance to the next tier, which requires the rate to be below 4.9%.

Solano County’s public health officer Dr. Bela Matyas addresses the Board of Supervisors about the novel coronavirus pandemic, 3/24/20. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Dr. Bela Matyas, the county public health officer, said two of the three new deaths reported Thursday were past cases, but one is new – an elderly resident who died at home, and like many other Covid-related fatalities, the person had underlying health issues.

The death total is now at 63.

The number of current hospitalizations is at 21, down one from Wednesday, while active cases climbed from 244 to 276, the county reported.

Fairfield added 16 cases to bring its count to 2,051, while Vallejo, now at 2,071, added 11 cases. Vacaville added nine, bringing its total to 1,052.

Suisun City (458) added five cases; Dixon (413) added three; Benicia (165) and Rio Vista (48) each added one. There were no new cases reported in the unincorporated area of the county, which has 22 cases.

The number of completed tests was reported by the county at 86,198, and increase of 513 over Wednesday’s update.

Solano County graduated Tuesday from the most-restrictive purple tier in the state’s color-coded Covid-19 monitoring system to the red tier, which allows limited business reopenings and opens the door for local school districts to soon begin some level of in-person classroom instruction.

A group of friends play cards in the Solano Town Center food court, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Food courts like the one in the Solano Town Center could open to 25% capacity, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

The purple tier represents widespread transmission of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The red tier represents substantial transmission of the virus, while the orange tier represents moderate spread of the virus and the yellow tier indicates minimal transmission.  [continued]