Tag Archives: Solano County Health Officer Bela Matyas

Dr. Richard Fleming: Reflecting on Solano County’s huge ‘correction’ in COVID numbers

The importance of accurate COVID-19 numbers in Solano and Benicia

By Richard Fleming, M.D., March 12, 2022
[BACKGROUND: Solano Public Health corrects COVID numbers
AND Solano Public Health Director explains.]
Richard Fleming, M.D., Benicia, CA

Having accurate numbers on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, mortality rates, and long-covid rates is very important.

I’m glad Solano County has decided to include positive antigen tests in their case numbers. False positive antigen tests are uncommon, so a positive antigen test almost always means a true infection.

The antigen test is the rapid test done with the at-home kits. Many of these positive antigen test results are not being reported to the county or state, so total covid-19 cases are increasingly being under-counted. Nonetheless, it is appropriate for Solano County to do what other counties have been doing, which is to count positive antigen tests as covid-19 infections.

It is a little surprising the county has decided to start excluding positive serological test results. A positive serological (or antibody) test for COVID-19 is almost always due to a prior COVID-19 infection. I am not sure what the rationale is for deciding to take these cases off the count of covid-19 infections.

One of the biggest data gaps is how many people are facing long-covid problems. In assessing the impact of the virus, this is an important aspect to understand. Sadly, there are currently no county-level, statewide, or even national numbers on how many people are dealing with this condition.

Looking at the big picture, Solano County will, in all likelihood, continue to see better numbers, in parallel with the improvement in the state’s and the country’s numbers.

As we celebrate our progress locally, it is important to look at the fact that neither Benicia nor Solano County is an island, and much of what happens with the pandemic here is impacted by the situation in surrounding areas. There is little doubt that we in Benicia and Solano County have benefitted, and continue to benefit, from the actions of other Bay Area counties, which have much better numbers than we do. These better numbers are no doubt due to the fact these other counties have much higher vaccination rates and have had more stringent public health safeguards in place than has been the case in Solano County and in Benicia.

And, because we are not an island, there is also little doubt that Solano County has made things slightly worse for the other Bay Area counties.

The question which will be hard to answer is whether we (Benicia and Solano County) could have seen fewer hospitalizations, fewer deaths, and fewer cases of long covid had we followed the same public health measures as the rest of the Bay Area, including more masking requirements, more vaccine mandates, and more vaccinations. Actually, the question is not whether we would have had fewer, but how many fewer, in each category.

This is not just an historical question. It is a question which should concern all of us today. How many of the 80 Benicians who acquired covid-19 this past week may have avoided this infection if our city had waited a couple of weeks longer to lift its mask mandate? How about those who will become infected next week? It would be nice if there was some way to quantify that, but it may never be known.

Richard Fleming, M.D.
Benicia, CA

Solano Public Health Director explains this week’s huge increase in COVID cases

By Roger Straw, Friday, March 11, 2022

Dr. Bela Matyas, Public Health Director with the Solano Public Health Department (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

In the March 6 Fairfield Daily Republic, reporter Todd Hansen wrote about his phone interview with Solano Public Health Director Bela Matyas: “Solano County expects to receive a significant report of previously unreported cases that were identified through a different testing procedure.”

Sure enough, in the County’s March 7 COVID Dashboard update, Public Health reported a whopping 4,115 previously unreported cases in Solano County, and 71 previously unreported cases in Benicia, unprecedented increases and huge numbers by any measure.

I wrote to Public Health Director Dr. Bela Matyas asking for clarification:

Dr. Matyas –

Please explain the meaning of reporter Hansen’s “different testing procedure.”  What accounts for these dramatic increases?

I agree that the numbers show cases declining. But what these revelations clearly do show is that previous updates were vastly under-reported. Are you going back and updating the dates where these new cases were discovered, showing a higher curve?

How is the public to understand in detail what WAS our experience with COVID over the period when these cases were not being uncovered and reported?

Dr. Matyas gave me permission to share his email explanation:

Hi Roger,

The State’s COVID-19 database, CalREDIE, collects several types of laboratory data for COVID-19, including pcr results, rapid antigen test results and serology results.

According to the State, only the pcr results are counted as confirmed cases, and the State’s total of cases for each county represents these confirmed (i.e. pcr-posititve) cases.

For most of the duration of the pandemic, we have noted that the State’s reported case count for Solano is different from our own count.

In continuing to investigate the reason(s) for this, we recently learned that

      • the State’s count of confirmed cases for Solano included several hundred persons whose only laboratory evidence of disease was a serology for COVID-19 (serology is not approved by the FDA for diagnosis, except for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children [MIS-C]),
      • and it included several hundred persons whose laboratory result was a positive rapid antigen test.

Among those with serology results only were 33 residents who had been hospitalized in out-of-county hospitals (e.g. John Muir), and the diagnoses based only on serology were nearly all from mid-2020 through 2021.

As for the cases with positive rapid antigen tests only, it is difficult to discern a pattern to identify which of these were counted as confirmed cases and which were counted as probable cases (and not, therefore, included in the case count for the county). It is noteworthy, however, that over the last several months, use of rapid antigen tests to diagnose COVID-19 cases rather than use of pcr tests has become increasingly prevalent; in fact, in a growing number of circumstances, the rapid antigen test has become the preferred test for diagnosis and is the test recommended by the State.

Based on this, we decided to remove from our county case count those persons whose diagnosis was based on a serology test only, and this included 33 hospitalized individuals.

By contrast, we decided to include in our county case count those residents whose diagnosis was based on a rapid antigen test only.

The resulting math was to:

      1.  Delete 409 serology-only cases (including 33 hospitalized);
      2.  Add 4410 rapid antigen-only cases; and
      3.  Add 114 cases diagnosed over the prior three days (including 3 hospitalized).

The net result, therefore, was an increase of 4115 cases and a decrease of 30 hospitalizations.

With respect to your specific questions below, yes, the previous updates were significantly under-reported (particularly for January and early February). We do go back and update each of the line curves with date-appropriate data every time we post a new update to the dashboard.

I think it’s difficult for the public to understand in detail what we are experiencing when there are significant issues with data accuracy; we still have significant under-reporting of positive rapid antigen tests from long-term care facilities, from home testing and from pharmacy testing.

I hope to publish a local reflection on Dr. Matyas’ rather complicated explanation.  Stay tuned.  – R. S.

>Reference the Solano County COVID-19 Dashboard where you can hover a mouse or click on an item for additional information.  Note the tabs at top for “Summary, Demographics” and “Vaccines.”  Click here to go to today’s Solano County Dashboard.

See also my BENINDY ARCHIVE of daily Solano COVID updates (an excel spreadsheet).  I have also archived the hundreds of full CORONAVIRUS REPORTS posted here almost daily on the Benicia Independent since April 2020.


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.

Prison inmate among 3 new Covid-related deaths added in Solano County

Six new deaths this week…

Pedestrians walk in Fairfield while wearing their face masks, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)
Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd Hansen, November 19, 2021

FAIRFIELD — Solano County health officials, for the second straight day, announced Friday three more Covid-related deaths, taking the pandemic total to 321.

All three were men. One was a state prisoner at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. He was 72. The other two, one in his 40s and the other in his 50s, lived at home. None of the men were vaccinated.

The fatalities take the total number of deaths from the most recent surge to 64, 51 of whom were not vaccinated, the county reported. That means about 20.4% of those who have died in the latest surge were vaccinated, which follows the county trend of 21% to 22% since vaccinations started, Dr. Bela Matyas, the public health officer, said in a phone interview.

[CONTINUED at The Daily Republic…]