Solano holdout: only Bay Area county with no mask recommendation despite surge in numbers

[BenIndy editor: Solano County Public Health officer Dr. Bela Matyas needs to wake up.  We are in another surge, and the consequences are plain.  Everyone please return to wearing masks in stores, restaurants, churches, and any crowded indoors areas.  Before shaking hands or sharing hugs, don’t be afraid to ask: “Are you vaccinated?”  Encourage anyone you know who is not vaccinated, to get the shot.  – R.S.]

Despite increase in COVID-19 cases, Solano County not changing stance

Health officials strongly urge getting vaccinated

Capital City Pharmacist Arthur Metu prepares to give Marc Doyg his first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine inside the former Artizen building in March in downtown Vallejo. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)
Vallejo Times-Herald, by Thomas Gase, July 21, 2021

When many people think of the Fourth of July, they think of the colors red, white and blue. Thankfully, they won’t also be seeing purple.

Despite the number of COVID-19 cases doubling since July 4, the Solano County Health Department said no rules are being changed yet on whether or not one should wear a mask for indoor events. This comes as a relief to some, as the county would be in the least restrictive purple tier if it was still following the old tier system used before the state reopened in early June.

As of Wednesday afternoon the county has had 34,761 cases, and its death toll has remained at 245 for about two weeks. However, the 7-day positivity rate has climbed to 11.9 this week. It was at 10.2 a week ago and 13.2 two weeks ago.

While some nearby counties like Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Santa Clara have recommended wearing masks more indoors due to the Delta Variant, Solano County Health officials like Jayleen Richards said the cause for the spike in cases doesn’t come from the variant, but instead the recent July 4th holiday.

“Solano Public Health will continue to follow the guidance of the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Richards said. “At this time, both agencies are not recommending a tier system or asking vaccinated people to wear masks indoors. We will continue to follow the guidance provided by these agencies.”

Solano was seeing 15 tp 20 cases per day prior to the July 4th holiday, according to Richards. Between July 7 and July 20, the average daily cases increased to 46 per day. Most of these cases are attributed to the holiday.

“The number of cases in Solano County and across the state and country is disproportionately impacting those who are not vaccinated,” Richards said. “In Solano County, the unvaccinated tends to be a younger population. In Solano County, more than 85 percent of residents 65-74 years of age are vaccinated and nearly 84 percent of residents older than 75 years of age are vaccinated. Older populations are the most at risk for hospitalizations and death due to COVID-19. We are concerned that the number of cases is increasing in Solano County, and we are pleased that the hospital systems are not being stretched thin, due to the increases in the number of cases, as we saw earlier this year.”

With these stats, Solano isn’t recommending yet that it should wear masks inside, but it strongly is recommending for people to get the vaccination.

“Public Health officials and providers urge everyone eligible to get a vaccine,” Richards said. “A person who receives a vaccine is protecting themselves and their loved ones from the disease. Among people who are vaccinated about 10 percent remain susceptible to the virus because they haven’t formed immunity. These people are as susceptible as those who are unvaccinated. Both of these groups being impacted by the Delta Variant of the virus in increasing numbers. The virus has many variants among which the Delta Variant is most easily transmitted. If people continue to wear masks and socially distance their chance of getting COVID is significantly reduced. The likelihood of severe illness seems to be similar for all of the variants.”

California lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions in June as part of a grand reopening in which the state ended physical distancing, capacity limits and mask requirements for those who are vaccinated. Many people at stores like Costco in Gateway Plaza chose to wear masks as they shopped. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)

The California Department of Public Health developed a variant tracking page that explains how, which, and why variants are tracked. At the bottom of the webpage, the state provides information on known variants and what proportion of variants have changed over time. The link to the site is

A table on that site says the numbers of specimens that Solano County is aware of. Of the people in Solano County that have the virus, 78 percent of them have the Alpha version, according to that table’s study. Another 14.29 come from the Delta Variant, while 5.84 percent comes from the Gamma and 1.30 percent comes from the Beta.

While Richards and the Solano County Public Health Department are closely monitoring what California Gov. Gavin Newsom says, Solano Public Health has worked closely with the state to provide 16 vaccine clinics at McDonald’s restaurant locations across the county. Two hundred and five people have been vaccinated at these clinics, according to Richards. Solano held the most events at the McDonald’s locations than any other county in the state.

Nationally, many health experts have called on the federal government to change its guidance that the vaccinated don’t need to wear masks again indoors.

But talk of vaccine passports has all but vanished in the months since vaccinations became widely available and infection rates began to plummet as a result. And with Newsom facing a recall election in September driven largely by critics of his handling of the pandemic, there is little appetite for renewed statewide restrictions on businesses and schools.

“We’re very mindful of the Delta Variant,” Newsom said Wednesday, calling a statewide mask order or vaccine passport unnecessary. “The most important thing we can do to get this pandemic behind us is to get vaccinated.”

Last week Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell urged people to continue wearing masks and asked citizens why they would want to take a chance.

“What’s reality with the statistics is that you’re not likely to contact the variant if vaccinated, but there is still a chance you can,” McConnell said. “If you get it, then possible long-term effects could have an impact on your bodies and your breathing. You don’t want to be that one person. Why increase the chance of being that person? It’s a losing bet.”

— Bay Area News Group reporters John Wolfolk and Rachel Oh contributed to this report.