Dr. Matyas: ‘The numbers remain too high’

As state’s major cities progress, Solano County wallows in red tier with COVID

Dr. Bela Matyas, Public Health Officer, Solano County Health and Social Services. (File photo-Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter)

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Richard Freedman, May 6, 2021

It’s said that “close” is good in horseshoes and hand grenades. Not so good if a county is stuck in a restrictive COVID-19 tier.

Enter Solano County, seemingly cemented to the “red tier” while every other county in the Bay Area is either orange or, in the case of San Francisco, the much less-restrictive yellow tier.

Solano County is inching ever so close, but again, it matters not unless the mandatory limit of positive COVID-19 cases is achieved.

Daily case counts have been averaging about 35 to 45 for several weeks, and they need to get below 27, according to Dr. Bela Matyas, Health Officer for Solano County Public Health.

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“Our daily case numbers remain too high on average for us to be able to move to the orange tier. Given that we are in the red tier this week, it would be at least two weeks before we could move down,” Matyas added.

Seven of the state’s 58 counties — including Los Angeles County, the one-time epicenter of rampant COVID-19 cases — are now in the so-called yellow tier, which is the final stage of a phased reopening plan. The five other counties are all remote areas of Northern California.

“The assignment to a tier is based not on total numbers but on the rate of numbers, which takes into account the large differences in county sizes,” Matyas continued. “That said, L.A. County is seeing less transmission of disease on a per-person basis than we are. I think it has to do largely with different behaviors being practiced in the two counties — more instances of family/social gatherings without social distancing here in Solano than in L.A.”

A longtime proponent of masking up and social distancing pre-COVID to prevent the seasonal flu and common cold, Matyas believes “the best path is to increase community vaccination levels, which will both protect the vaccinated individuals themselves and reduce the ability of the virus to circulate in the community. Obviously, adhering to social distancing recommendations is essential as well.”

The tier system governs crowd sizes — with and without proof of vaccination — allowed at both indoor and outdoor venue events, such as sporting events and live performances.

Whatever tier Solano County reaches is presumably moot in four weeks, as the governor declared that California re-open June 15.

“It doesn’t matter what tier we are in on that date. Solano County will re-open with the rest of the state,” Matyas said.

Though the economy would essentially fully re-open, mask mandates would remain in place.

Close to 13 million Californians are now fully vaccinated with either one shot of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine or two shots of either Pfizer or Moderna. More than 6.1 million others are partially vaccinated with a first dose of Pfizer or Moderna, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The reduced demand eliminates the need for the huge sites like the Solano County Fairgrounds, notes Benjamin Gammon, Emergency Medical Services Coordinator for Solano County.

Gammon said by phone Thursday that “the clinics are not filling up” and he doesn’t see a return to the fairgrounds “unless Pfizer goes 12 (years old) and up.”

Gammon said that 2,500 doses were available at a recent clinic at Vacaville High School and 1,300 doses were administered.

Again, he said, “we’re just not seeing the push anymore.”

The next scheduled Vallejo mass vaccination availability is next Thursday, 2 to 7 p.m., at the Filipino Community Center, 611 Amador St. Ages 18 and older are eligible. Vaccinations are no-cost and available regardless of health insurance or immigration status. Either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first of the two-dose Moderna vaccine (with a June 6 return for a second dose) are available.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit facebook.com/filipinocommunityofsolanocounty/