After initially keeping the coronavirus at bay, the number of new cases in Alameda County has skyrocketed to more than 11,000 over the past two months, and it may get worse, according to the county’s interim public health officer.
Local health officials had previously predicted a surge in new cases sometime in August. The surge, however, appears to have arrived earlier than expected, said Nicholas Moss, the Alameda County interim public health officer.
“It is fair to say that it could be worse in the fall and winter,” Moss told the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon.
While the number of new cases has increased dramatically in places like Oakland, Hayward, Livermore and the unincorporated areas of Alameda County, the number of hospitalizations has remained manageable.
“We haven’t seen cases like New York City, where hospitals were overrun by Covid-19 patients,” Moss said. However, the concern remains that a surge of Covid-19 cases and patients who have similar maladies during the winter season could inundate local hospitals.
Although there appears to be anecdotal evidence that Alameda County residents are wearing masks and face coverings when in public spaces, Moss said the public health department bears some blame for a lack of public outreach.
“As a health department, we have not done a good enough job to explain the benefits [of wearing a mask],” Moss said. “Some of it is our own fault. We were slow to go to masks and that was probably a mistake. We didn’t have the evidence to tell people to adopt it.”
Some of the damage may have also been inflicted on the national level by President Trump and his opposition to wearing a mask and its benefits for public health, he said.
While the cost of lives lost due to the virus cannot be quantified, the financial cost of dealing with its effects in Alameda County has now topped $450 million, County Administrator Susan Muranishi reported on Tuesday.
The county, however, expects to recoup in excess of $300 million of its coronavirus-related expenses from the state and federal governments, she said. The remainder of the county’s expenditures could be reimbursed by additional aid from the state and FEMA.