COVID-19 data from Solano County and the State show large discrepancy in deaths
The Benicia Herald, by Galen Kusic, Editor, October 17, 2021
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As it appears a fourth wave of COVID-19 has begun to dissipate throughout the country, numbers remain alarmingly high in Solano County compared to the greater Bay Area.
The current 5.4 percent positivity rate is the best in months, but there are still 40 patients hospitalized and only 13 percent of ICU beds are available. The most alarming trend is the uptick in deaths, with 312 – an increase of 22 since Sept. 24, an average of one per day.
Yet what may be even more alarming is the discrepancy of deaths reported from the state and the county. As of Fri. Oct. 15, the state of Calif. reports that Solano County has a total of 334 deaths since the pandemic began – a difference of 22 deaths. The state also reports that the positivity rate is only 2.4 percent, half of what Solano County currently reports.
The first round of mass vaccination clinics recently started at the Solano County Fairgrounds for Pfizer booster shots or for those that have still not received the vaccine.
“78 percent of those testing positive in Solano County are unvaccinated,” said Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown. “Getting vaccinated protects you, protects your family, protects your community, protects our businesses, protects everyone.”
In Benicia, cases have slowed, but stayed steady. With 84.7 percent of the population vaccinated, only Rio Vista has a higher vaccination rate in the County at 89.3 percent. Vallejo (83.1) and Dixon (80.2) are not far behind. Since Sept. 24, Benicia has recorded 84 new cases, an average of four cases per day, a slight uptick from three weeks ago for a total of 1,496 since the pandemic began.
The City of Benicia on Mon. implemented a vaccine mandate for City employees. As of three weeks ago, only 62 percent of the Benicia Fire Department had been vaccinated.
“Those not vaccinated will be required to be tested weekly and wear a mask while indoors at City facilities,” said City Manager Erik Upson in his weekly update. “We did not step into this lightly, but felt it was needed to help protect the safety of our staff and our community.”
We are still in a pandemic. Our hospitals are overwhelmed, our residents are catching this virus, and we are seeing consumers pull back on activities because of the continuing pandemic. It is devastating to see the impacts on our community.
However, as I have said many times and as we have heard from many people, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. According to the most recent data, 77.5% of those in Solano County testing positive for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Data has also shown that those who are vaccinated are much less likely to have symptoms, even less likely to have a severe illness, and to have a statistically small chance of dying. You have a 17x higher chance of being hospitalized if you are unvaccinated. Vaccines work and they are the key to beating this pandemic.
I plead with our entire community to get vaccinated. This is the easiest and most effective way to keep all of us safe. It is also protecting our most vulnerable residents, children under 12 and those who are immunocompromised, from the disease. Please get vaccinated if you have not already. If you have been vaccinated, please encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated. We are all in this together and we will only success together.
Solano County has many opportunities for you to get vaccinated. The county is offering all three COVID-19 vaccinations at the Solano Mall (1350 Travis Blvd in Fairfield on the second floor across from the Applebee’s) and rapid COVID-19 testing every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 10am-7pm. No appointment is necessary, but you may make an appointment by calling 707-784-8655.
At this past Tuesday’s Board meeting, the subject of a mask mandate and a vaccine mandate was brought forward. While I wanted both, there was not enough support on the Board for either. The Board did mandate that if a local jurisdiction in the county has a mask mandate, then any county buildings in that jurisdiction must follow it. The two jurisdictions in Solano County with mask mandates are Benicia and Vallejo. I sent a letter to the Governor asking him to implement a statewide mask mandate. Please wear your masks. This pandemic is not over.
I want to thank Dr. Bonnie Hamilton from the Napa Solano Medical Society for speaking in support of a mask mandate. The Napa Solano Medical Society represents over 1,200 physicians in the Napa Solano area. I also want to thank Dr. Seth Kaufman, who is the chief medical officer for NorthBay Healthcare, for speaking in support of a mask mandate. Their testimony, along with the guidelines from the Center for Disease Control, make it abundantly clear that the science supports mandating masks.
The California Department of Public Health is looking for partner organizations to set up on-site rapid testing for employees, guests and/or community members. The state will provide test kits, training, and other support. This is free to organizations. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solano County Supervisor, District 2
First elected in 2016, Monica represents District 2 on the Solano County Board of Supervisors. District 2 encompasses the city of Benicia, the portion of Vallejo south of Georgia Street, Mare Island, Cordelia, Green Valley and a portion of Fairfield.
On September 22nd, 2020, the Solano County Board of Supervisors listened to our county’s employees as they described how Solano County’s hiring and promotions system was bogged down by institutional racism. After much discussion, the Board, on a 5-0 vote, created a Subcommittee on Diversity and Equity. On a 3-2 vote, the Board approved funding of $150,000 to support the work of the Subcommittee.
The members of the Subcommittee on Diversity and Equity, including chair Erin Hannigan and Board Chair John Vasquez, have most likely met a few times since last year. I imagine the Subcommittee has hired an equity consultant, as planned, to assist with the process of focusing on internal human resources operations and delivering equitable services to the County’s residents.
As a constituent I am pleased to see that when an important issue like institutional racism in the County’s hiring practices must be addressed, the Board is capable of coming together as a team.
The Board of Supervisors now has another opportunity, via Assembly Bill 1185, to create a Citizens’ Oversight Board for the Sheriff’s Office.
Civilian oversight benefits the public AND benefits police and sheriff’s departments, by …
Improving community relations through more open communication between the Sheriff’s Office and the public;
Reassuring the community that misconduct is investigated, and that appropriate discipline and training will occur;
Increasing the public’s understanding of law enforcement policies and procedures;
Improving those policies and procedures; and
Assessing liability management, thereby reducing the likelihood and cost of litigation.
Please, Supervisor Brown, I hope you will once again raise the motion to agendize the proposal of discussing a Civilian Oversight Board. I hope one of the two members of the Diversity and Equity Subcommittee will be a good team member and second Supervisor Brown’s motion.
[BenIndy editor: reaching for “balanced coverage” and controversy, this Times-Herald article allows a right-wing conspiratorialist too much latitude in framing the discussion. Benicia Black Lives Matter members’ substantive Tuesday comments are covered only briefly in one paragraph (#10). The article then gives 5 paragraphs to the Sheriff’s defenders, including an outrageous and unsubstantiated attack on BBLM. The article then concludes with 4 paragraphs highlighting two BBLM members’ responses to the wild and crazy off-topic charges. The discussion at Solano BOS is a serious one, and our coverage should focus primarily if not exclusively on real issues. – R.S.]
Solano County Supervisors hear opposition, support for sheriff oversight
In the wake of revelations that members of the Solano County Sheriff’s Department has shown support for far-right ideologies, several county residents called in the supervisors meeting on Tuesday.
Some expressed their opposition and others voiced their support for agendizing a discussion about creating an oversight board to monitor the sheriff’s office.
In an internal email obtained by the Times-Herald, the Solano County Republican Central Committee organized its members to call into the meeting with talking points in support of the sheriff’s office. Members were told not to identify themselves as Republicans, but several callers expressed the points covered in the email.
According to an investigation by the nonprofit newsroom Open Vallejo, a deputy and two sergeants of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office promoted a far-right militia “for years” that is linked to terrorist plots and the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol in Washington D.C.
After Open Vallejo’s story, which featured far-right Three Percenter symbols taken from public social media accounts and other online sources belonging to members of the sheriff’s office, Benicia Black Lives Matter wrote a letter to the supervisors asking for a “full investigation both at the county level and at the city level” to make sure that “policies and procedures — including those focused on recruitment and disciplinary actions — are in place to actively expel these extremists from the ranks of law enforcement.”
The letter was also sent to Solano County Sheriff Thomas Ferrara.
The Three Percenters have been dubbed a “radical anti-government group” by organizations such as the SPLC and the FBI. The FBI also claims that many members of these groups are in law enforcement, according to CBS News.
In February, BBLM asked the board of supervisors to condemn right-wing extremism and conduct a full investigation into Open Vallejo’s allegations. They also asked the board to consider creating an independent oversight committee, citing a new law that went into effect in September of last year.
Assembly Bill 1185 makes it easier for supervisors or voters to establish independent oversight boards to oversee activities within the sheriff’s department. Such boards would also have subpoena powers — something that many independent police oversight boards do not.
On Tuesday, several members of BBLM called in to support the creation of an oversight board, or the very least have a discussion about it. One member said that learning that there were people who supported Three Percenter ideology in the sheriff’s department “caused alarm for me” and said this was a public safety issue. Another caller said there is now fear and suspicion about the sheriff’s office and therefore civilian oversight is warranted.
Callers who opposed agendizing any discussion of oversight said it would create more government bureaucracy.
“Since when has government solved anything?” asked one caller.
Two callers referred to BBLM as “left wing anarchists and Marxists.” A man who identified himself as ex-law enforcement, said that “out-of-town forces are trying to bring their dysfunction to Solano County and to disrupt the peace that we’ve had here.”
Another caller named Steve said that the mass media makes it “almost impossible” to get all the facts.
“We have seen cops everywhere get charged with violations of protocol… Some cops are incompetent and get removed. Most of the time the accusations are inaccurate,” he said.
According to Bay City News and confirmed by the Times-Herald, Benicia Black Lives Matter received a response from Sheriff Ferrara. In the letter, Ferrara said he was “sickened” as he watched the Jan. 6 attack and that he can confirm that none of his employees were present on that day.
However, the sheriff’s letter did admit that the far-right images posted on social media by his officers were “disappointing” but were “not in themselves a crime…or in violation of (then current) policy.”
Further, Sheriff Ferrara said he had arranged for extremist ideology training for all of his staff, including himself.
Ferrara also told BBLM that he consulted with the FBI, which he claims, “confirmed none of my employees are members of any extremist organizations.”
When Open Vallejo attempted to verify this, the FBI instead called Ferrara’s statement into question. In a statement, spokesperson Gina Swankie told the newsroom that “a group which may espouse domestic extremist ideology is not illegal in and of itself, no matter how offensive their views may be, and membership in any group is neither tracked nor is sufficient basis for an FBI investigation.”
Former special agent for the FBI in San Francisco John Bennett told Open Vallejo that it is possible that the FBI would inform the head of an agency that there was an inquiry into their organization, and that “a disciplined and honorable leader of an agency would not make a public statement contrary to what they know is the truth about the status of an FBI inquiry.” He also added that “if the Bureau comes out later with contrary statements, that department and its leadership will lose credibility.”
Supervisor Monica Brown made a motion at a previous meeting to agendize discussion of oversight of the sheriff’s department but no one seconded it. Brown could not be reached for comment at press time.
BBLM members dispute the idea that they are “Marxists” or far left radicals. One caller from the organization said that she is “not a Marxist, I am a mother of two” and said she called in because of her children.
“I’m confused why we are not having a conversation (about this),” she said, adding that they are just asking for a discussion to be raised about oversight.
BBLM member Brandon Greene, a civil rights attorney, told the Times-Herald that he too is concerned about public safety and security for residents and he is not an “out-of-town Marxist.”