Coronavirus Journal

Private labs step up, Trump increased rate of uninsured, and supervisor to inspect conditions at Santa Rita.

Alameda County’s roughly 300 Community-Based Organization are teetering on the verge of collapse at the moment when their various social services are needed the most.

Non-profits that deliver many of the county’s safety net services already operate on razor-thin margins. The coronavirus outbreak recently led the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to advance payments to its CBOs through the end of April.

“These CBOs are the extension of our county family,” Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said on Tuesday. “It is fundamentally important in order to continue governmental operations as effectively as possible during this crisis.”

The resolution was intended as a stop gap until county staff can bring a longer-term solution to the Board of Supervisors, perhaps in two weeks, Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi said. “Our goal is to be sure that we take care of community-based providers.”

Nonprofits operate under different types of contracting models. Some are monthly for service and some on a flat-fee basis. Several representatives of the groups told supervisors that the services they provide are seriously suffering as result of the pandemic and may not survive much longer with additional aid.

Private Labs Must Report Data

When Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department released information last week on how many COVID-19 tests it conducted, the data was incomplete. The 647 nasal and throat swabs done in a county of nearly 2 million people didn’t account for tests handled by private labs like Verily, Quest or Stanford.

But in response to prodding from this news organization, the counties of Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo and the city of Berkeley subsequently announced an order that requires private companies to disclose comprehensive testing data — not just the positive results.

As of last week, the seven Bay Area counties reported more than half the state’s entire tally of COVID-19 cases. But those numbers don’t account for the many asymptomatic people, those who were unable to get a test or individuals tested by private labs.

County public health labs currently can only use testing kits supplied by the CDC, leaving them with only 500 tests per jurisdiction. But a private lab creates its own tests, giving them the ability to scale at a much higher rate. Complete data from those companies will give public health officers a more comprehensive look at just how fast the highly contagious virus is spreading.

Trump’s Uninsured

Although Oakland has a relatively low rate of uninsured residents, a new study shows that an alarming number of the city’s 429,114 residents have no healthcare coverage. According to credit-building company Self Financial, about 27,435 have no health insurance.

“Efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 depend on the nation’s ability to provide testing and treatment for all Americans, even the 28.5 million who lack health insurance,” a summary of the study reads.

Yet the coronavirus pandemic comes after a two-year decline in coverage in the U.S. After a seven-year increase in coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate began ticking up again in 2018 after the repeal of the individual mandate penalty.

Not surprisingly, the cities topping the list with the highest rates of uninsured residents are in so-called red states: Dallas, Houston, El Paso, Fort Worth, Arlington, and San Antonio in Texas; Miami in Florida; Tulsa and Oklahoma City in Oklahoma; and Memphis in Tennessee. The same is the case among almost all the mid-size and small cities with the highest rates of uninsured.

Health at Santa Rita Jail

Allegations of poor sanitary conditions and a lack of soap at Dublin’s Santa Rita Jail have been made in recent weeks. Activists worry the conditions at the county jail, which houses roughly 2,200 inmates, could exacerbate the possibility of a virus outbreak within the jail.

In response, Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle said Tuesday that he would tour Santa Rita and report back to the board on its condition.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has been criticized for a lack of transparency for how it plans to react to an outbreak in the jail. Activists for prisoners have accused the sheriff’s department of not testing inmates in an effort to cover up a potential outbreak.

Dr. Erica Pan, the interim Alameda County public health officer, refuted the latter charge, telling county supervisors that inmates have indeed been tested. None of the tests had come back positive as of last Tuesday, she said, but a nurse at Santa Rita has contracted the virus, it was reported on Thursday.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Commander Tom Madigan said suggestions that prisoners at the jail lack even a simple bar of soap are false, and that a protocol for responding to the coronavirus crisis is already in place. Furthermore, deputies, employees at the jail, and visitors are checked for their temperature, and prisoners are screened for symptoms of the virus.

Jobless Claims Soar

Demand for unemployment insurance skyrocketed to a record-smashing 3.3 million claims this week as the businesses shut down to slow the spread of the pandemic. From March 15 to 21, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) processed 186,809 claims — a huge spike from the week prior, when it fielded just 57,606.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom waived the usual one-week waiting period to sign up while California Labor Secretary Julie Su ordered EDD to streamline claims processing and beef up staffing so they could keep things moving around the clock.

Because of the historic influx of demand, the EDD will post updates online every Thursday, when the DOL releases new claims data.

One in Four Positive in Hayward

Hayward’s much-lauded free COVID-19 testing clinic on Huntwood Avenue began releasing statistics on the number of positive results. The first day of testing last Monday brought roughly 700 residents to the site. After a screening process, 207 patients were administered the test. Among them 54 tested positive, a rate of 26 percent.

On Friday, Hayward city officials announced that while the clinic will continue to offer free testing to anyone regardless of whether they live in the city, and without a doctor’s recommendation, they set some new parameters. Patients with temperatures of more than 100 degrees, who are also showing symptoms of the coronavirus, will only be tested, the city said.

In Other Virus News …

The California Secretary of Health and Human Services said cases of the coronavirus across the state are increasing quicker than expected, SFGate reported. … Alameda County, and six other Bay Area counties, extended school closures to May 4. … BART, amid a 92 percent drop in ridership, is considering the suspension of Sunday train service, the San Francisco Examiner reported. …

The sports calendar is devoid of events in the Bay Area, except in one place, Golden Gate Fields in Albany. While bets on thoroughbreds continue across the state, racetracks are facing criticism for putting employees at risk, the Associated Press reported. … Last week would have been Opening Day at the Coliseum, if not for the postponement of the baseball season. But Strat-O-Matic, the timeless dice and probability board game, is producing simulations of each day’s games. Good news! The A’s topped the Twins, 5-3, on the backs of a five-run second inning.


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