Category Archives: Solano County Health Officer Bela Matyas

Dr. Matyas shares details on child’s COVID death

The child actually died a month ago, had been ill for a month before that, and had no underling health conditions

Solano health officer calls ‘tragic’ the death of infant to Covid-19

Fairfield Daily Republic, by Todd R. Hansen, December 21, 2021

FAIRFIELD — Solano County has reported the first death of a child due to Covid-19.

The infant, younger than 1 year old, died about a month ago and had been ill for about a month prior to that, Dr. Bela Matyas, the county public health officer, said in a phone interview Monday.

“It’s tragic,” he said.

It takes the total of Covid-related deaths to 342, the county reported.

The child “did not appear to have any underlying health conditions . . . and, of course, the child was not vaccinated,” Matyas said.

Children that young are not allowed to be immunized.

Matyas said the infant contracted the virus almost certainly by being exposed to someone with the disease, probably a family member or friend, and, he added, it was far more likely from someone who had not been vaccinated.

That is especially true if the person who transmitted the disease was asymptomatic and did not know he or she was infected.

While the Public Health Division is investigating in hopes of learning how the child was exposed, Matyas said a clear answer may not be possible.

“We may never know,” Matyas said.

The county reported 128 new coronavirus cases, 112 of which were from the past three days. It takes the total to 47,892.

The number of residents who were hospitalized Monday with the disease was 19, with six in intensive care units. That compares to 22 hospitalized Friday and five in the ICU, the county reported.

The 10-day daily case average was 37.7, up slightly from Friday’s report of 36.9.

Vaccination rates held steady at 66% of residents 5 or older being fully vaccinated and 77% of that population receiving at least one shot. There have been 84,334 booster shots administered, up from Friday’s total of 81,294, the county reported.

The report stated 18.7% of 5- to 11-year-olds have received a vaccination shot.

Fairfield added 36 new cases to take its total to 12,803. Vallejo added 33 for a new count of 13,950. Vacaville had 12,651 cases after 38 additions, the county reported.

Suisun City (3,390) added four new cases; Dixon (2,643) added nine; Benicia (1,660) added seven; Rio Vista (644) added one; and there were no new cases in the unincorporated area of the county (151), the report states.

The seven-day positivity testing rate was 5.4%, up from 5% Friday.

County public health officials do not post case updates on Tuesdays. The next update is scheduled late Wednesday afternoon.

10 Reasons to Extend Benicia’s Face Mask Mandate

By Benicia author Stephen Golub, November 16, 2021
Open letter to Benicia City Council, considering amendments to the mandate TONIGHT, Tues. Nov. 16.  (See Council Agenda: Instructions for Public Comments are on p. 6.  Items 20.E. and 21.A. are on p. 9.)

Dear Mayor Young, Vice Mayor Campbell, and Council Members Strawbridge, Largaespada and Macenski:

Benicia Author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country

I am a Benicia resident writing to urge that, at tonight’s meeting, the City Council extend indefinitely (and probably until at least March 2022) Resolution No. 21-88, which requires that “face coverings be worn in all indoor public settings in the City.”

I am not a public health expert. But it is clear that the evidence demonstrating that masks limit the spread of Covid is overwhelming. It includes a 350,000-person randomized controlled trial, summarized below, that was completed in August. But before diving a bit into such data, the following list of reasons for extending the mandate starts with one very basic consideration:

  1. Common Sense. Winter is coming, and with it the very strong likelihood of a significant rise in Covid cases and resulting deaths due to more people being indoors and holiday gatherings. We’ve seen this movie before – last winter, to be exact. And we’ve seen other Covid waves caused or exacerbated by relaxing precautions prematurely, even after vaccines were made available. Let’s not repeat such mistakes by weakening or eliminating our mask mandate.
  2. Europe’s Record-high Cases a Harbinger for California. As recently reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Europe, including highly vaccinated Western European nations, are seeing skyrocketing cases: According to the director general of the World Health Organization, two million cases last week, which was the highest figure at any point in the pandemic, along with a 10 percent mortality increase.
    As Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease and public health expert warns us, “Throughout the pandemic, Europe has been a harbinger of things to come to the US, including California and the Bay Area,” he wrote in an email to the Chronicle. “If this pattern holds true (and I suspect it will), we should be very worried. The colder weather (more people inside) and the holidays already make the upcoming winter a precarious time.”
  3. Look Toward the Future, Not the Past. If, in the final days leading up to the October 24 storm that pummeled the Bay Area, someone had suggested that it would be a good day for a picnic since the past week had been pleasant, we’d look at them askance (to put it mildly). Yet that is somewhat akin to the policy the Council adopted with the best of intentions in August, relying on the past 30 days of transmission rates to determine whether to drop or modify the mask mandate.
    I am not suggesting that such a criterion be dropped. It is in fact useful and relevant. However, I urge that it be supplemented by consideration of likely trends and other data. As I’ve noted, such trends point toward a very possible storm of Covid cases, which in turn points toward leaving the mandate in place. Even if this means the Council makes a somewhat subjective assessment of whether or when to modify the mandate, that is what you’ve been elected to do: take account of recent data, yes, but also exercise your good judgment regarding what the future holds. This probably means holding off on revising the mandate until at least March, when winter is behind us, and only if the data and trends suggest doing so.
  4. Evidence from Across America. As pointed out by Dr. Richard Fleming, who called in to your August meeting, a comparative study in Kansas found that masks help limit Covid’s spread. More specifically, “counties that chose to enforce [a statewide mask] mandate saw their cases decrease. Counties that chose to opt out saw their cases continue to rise…. the findings were consistent with declines in coronavirus cases observed in 15 states and the District of Columbia where masks were mandated, compared with states that didn’t require the face coverings.”
  5. “Gold Standard” Evidence from Abroad. For the 18 months ending in August 2021, a Stanford/Yale-led team conducted in Bangladesh the largest and most rigorous study of whether masks make a difference in people catching Covid. Involving roughly 350,000 people in 600 villages, it featured research comparing results between carefully selected, demographically similar populations. Some, in the “intervention villages” were encouraged to wear masks and were supplied with them; others – the “control villages” – were not.
    The upshot? Despite the fact that fewer than 50 percent of intervention villagers wore masks in public places, Covid infections were 11 percent lower in the intervention areas for the population as a whole and 35 percent lower for those over 60. “We now have evidence from a randomized, controlled trial that mask promotion increases the use of face coverings and prevents the spread of COVID-19,” said Stephen Luby, MD, professor of medicine at Stanford. “This is the gold standard for evaluating public health interventions.”
  6. Yet More Evidence for Mask Efficacy. I am only scratching the surface of the research indicating that masks prevent Covid. Two of the numerous compilations of relevant data can be found here and here.
  7. Heed Benicia’s and America’s Health Authorities. As pointed out by the aforementioned Dr. Richard Fleming in a letter to the Times-Herald, Solano County Health Officer and Deputy Director Dr. Bela Matyas has been wrong on face masks in key respects, including his claim that “Our data clearly shows that indoor public spaces are not where the disease spreads.” As Dr. Fleming notes, “[Dr. Matyas] said spread results from private gatherings, so a mask mandate would not help. Yet he has published no data to support that statement.”
    Indeed, regarding the mask mandate and other Covid-related matters, Dr. Matyas has been at odds with other Bay Area counties, the State, the CDC, the Napa-Solano Medical Society, numerous other public health authorities and the roughly half-dozen Benicia-based medical and public health personnel who called in to your August meeting in support of the mandate. Going forward, the Council should heed that broad consensus of data-based opinion rather than Dr. Matyas.
  8. Protect Benicia’s Businesses and Workers. The face mask mandate benefits Benicians by making workplaces and workers safer. In the process, it makes good business sense. One reason the country saw a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September is because of Covid safety concerns, according to this Washington Post piece: “There are likely some delta-induced quits here,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at Glassdoor, in reference to the coronavirus variant. “Workers are fed up with working conditions and feel unsafe…Quits are high in leisure and hospitality, health services and education,” Zhao noted. “Those are all industries where an increase in covid can make work less safe.”
    While masks are by no means the sole solution, the absence of a mandate can be part of the problem.
  9. Freedom. It’s unfortunate that this bears repeating nearly two years into the pandemic, but I’ll repeat it anyway: Face masks protect not just or mainly the persons wearing them, but the persons with whom they come into contact. In voting to maintain the mandate, the Council will be doing what it can to advance freedom from disease and death. That’s a freedom far more important than from having to wear a simple facial covering.
  10. In sum, I ask that the Council extend the mandate because common sense, a plethora of data and Benicia’s and the nation’s public health authorities have concluded this:
    • Face masks help prevent Covid’s spread.
    • Face masks help prevent illness.
    • Face masks save lives.

Sincerely,

Stephen Golub

My blog: A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country

Dr. Matyas shares details on Solano’s 7 new COVID deaths: all recent, 3 vaxxed, 4 unvaxxed, 5 seniors

[BenIndy Editor: the number of deaths listed by age in this article adds up to 6 rather than 7 deaths.  In my report last night, using the County’s “Deaths by Age Groups” chart, I identified 2 age 50-64 and 5 age 65+]

Solano passes 45,000 cases, adds 7 Covid-related deaths

Nathan Walker receives his Covid-19 vaccination booster shot at a mass vaccination clinic at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd R. Hansen, October 14, 2010

FAIRFIELD — Seven more Solano County residents have died due in part to Covid-19, taking the pandemic total to 312, while the case numbers climbed past 45,000, the county Public Health Division reported Wednesday.

All seven deaths are the result of this latest surge that started shortly after July 4, taking that total to 55, of which 42 individuals were unvaccinated, the county reported.

Three of the latest seven victims were vaccinated, including a man over 65 who lived in a long-term care facility. The other six all lived at home. There were three women and one man older than 65, and one man and one woman who were between 50 and 65.  [Error here – see correction above…]

The county added 207 cases to the pandemic total… (continued at Fairfield Daily Republic)

SF Chronicle: Eyes on Solano County’s COVID rates

The Chronicle has published two excellent reviews this week contrasting Solano County with our Bay Area neighbors.  The first  below profiles Solano with stats and detailed interviews with  Solano leaders and residents.

In Solano County, the Bay Area’s COVID outlier, masks are anything but universal

SF Chronicle, by Kellie Hwang, Danielle Echeverria, Sep. 19, 2021
A man walks along Main Street in Vacaville. Solano County, has had the Bay Area's poorest record on coronavirus cases and vaccinations
A man walks along Main Street in Vacaville. Solano County, has had the Bay Area’s poorest record on coronavirus cases and vaccinations [Photos by Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle]
Paulie Spacco believes anyone infected with the coronavirus should just “let the body do its thing” and build antibodies, even though an 18-month pandemic and the deaths of 1 in 500 Americans point to the dangers of following such a strategy.

Spacco, a Vacaville resident and small-business owner in his 60s, and his friend Gregorio Serrao, in his 70s, both say they have no intention of getting vaccinated and oppose restricting people’s activities to try to control the spread of COVID-19. Over sandwiches recently at La Borgata Italian Deli on Vacaville’s Main Street, the two dismissed evidence proving that masks work to help block transmission of virus-laden droplets.

“At this point, if you get sick, that’s on you,” Serrao said. And it’s just inevitable, they agreed, that “you’re going to lose some people.”

Their views, which are at odds with national health advice about the coronavirus, are not hard to find in Solano County, a Bay Area outlier when it comes to the pandemic almost from the start.

Paulie Spacco (left) and Gregorio Serrao stop in La Borgata Deli in Vacaville. Both are opposed to vaccines and preventive measures such as masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Paulie Spacco (left) and Gregorio Serrao stop in La Borgata Deli in Vacaville. Both are opposed to vaccines and preventive measures such as masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.  Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

The inland expanse dotted with suburbs and medium-size cities is the least vaccinated of the Bay Area’s nine counties. Just 54% of its 450,000 residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 67% in Napa and Sonoma, the counties with the next-lowest rate. It has a high daily infection rate — currently 18.6 cases per 100,000 people, the highest of any Bay Area county except Napa according to state data — and a hospitalization rate two to three times higher than that of other local counties.

And while the county’s case numbers, like those throughout the Bay Area, have shown improvement lately, the approach of local leaders — who have been less willing to restrict residents’ activities and impose mandates — has consistently set Solano apart.

It is the only Bay Area county that doesn’t require universal masking in indoor public settings, although two of its cities — Vallejo and Benicia — have imposed mandates. Solano lagged behind several other Bay Area counties in imposing stay-home orders last year, waiting until the state required it. Tuesday, Solano supervisors voted down a proposal requiring that county employees be vaccinated, saying it should be a personal choice.

Currently only unvaccinated people are required to wear masks in indoor public settings in Solano County, in line with state policies.

Many residents and officials say they want the county to act more aggressively. Supervisor Monica Brown, for instance, whose district covers Benicia and part of Vallejo, supports a broader mask mandate.

“Our health care workers are still being inundated with COVID-19 cases,” she said at a contentious board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday, noting that it’s impossible to know whether a maskless person is vaccinated.

A woman walks by outdoor seating in a plaza along Main Street in Vacaville, Calif., on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Solano County, has had the Bay Area's poorest record on coronavirus cases and vaccinations
A woman walks by outdoor seating in a plaza along Main Street in Vacaville, Calif., on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Solano County, has had the Bay Area’s poorest record on coronavirus cases and vaccinationsCarlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

Supervisor Mitch Mashburn said that with young children and immunocompromised people in his house, he wears a mask to be safe. Still, he doesn’t think it’s the role of the board to force people to be vaccinated or mask up.