Health Officer Warns of August Case Surge

As counties reopen, Covid-19 cases expected to peak in a few months

As models suggest relaxing Alameda County’s shelter-in-place order will result in increased spread of Covid-19, the county’s interim public health officer said a surge in new cases could peak sometime in August.

“As we loosen we’re going to see more cases and that’s what we need to prepare for,” Dr. Erica Pan told the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Health Committee last week. Modeling results can vary from day-to-day, Pan said, and relaxing restrictions will bring additional variability to the county’s projections.

Alameda County has so far avoided the types of surges that have overrun hospital emergency rooms in other areas of the state and country. As of Monday, Alameda County has reported almost 2,500 cases of Covid-19 and 85 deaths.

As of Pan’s testimony, just 6 percent of Alameda County’s total hospital beds were filled with patients being treated for Covid-19 or suspected of having the infection. And 15 percent of all intensive-care unit beds were being used for Covid-19 patients and those believed to have the infection. A rate of around 50 percent would indicate great potential stress on the county’s hospitals, Pan said.

Meanwhile, testing for the virus continues to be lacking in Alameda County, as opposed to places like Contra Costa County, where testing is universal, Supervisor Wilma Chan said.

“When I look at other places, they seem to be going faster in terms of doing more testing,” Chan told Pan, who did not directly answer the question.

The county health department is aiming to conduct up to 3,100 tests a day, but is not close to achieving its goal. But when it comes to tracking Covid-19 patients and who they may have potentially infected, Pan said the county has successfully conducted contact tracing on 90 percent of its cases.

Chan, however, pressed on with her line of inquiry on the need for more testing to include the state’s response.

“I don’t know what the problem is, but it seems like our testing is slow,” she said.

This time, Pan agreed with the statement before cutting herself off. “Yeah, I would agree, she said. “I think we’re … yeah.”

Supes Approve
Funding for Sheriff

Alameda County supervisors approved a $106 million request by the sheriff’s department to fund the hiring of up to 265 new deputies during a lengthy meeting last week. The narrow 3-2 decision was decided by Supervisor Richard Valle, whose vote stunned progressives and police-accountability activists. On major issues concerning the sheriff’s department, Valle has often cast opposing votes.

Valle offered few words behind his reasoning other than to read from a consultant’s report that recommended increased staffing at the sheriff’s department in order to offer better services to inmates suffering from mental illness. Valle pushed to add a clause to direct the department to reduce the number of mentally ill inmates at Santa Rita Jail over three years.

Supervisors Wilma Chan and Keith Carson both opposed the expenditure. Chan was vehement in her stance against the expense, which comes at a time when the county is looking at huge budget shortfall for the next fiscal year. “The $105 million doesn’t exist,” Chan said.

While Supervisors Nate Miley’s and Scott Haggerty’s votes to fund additional deputies were not surprising—each of them is viewed as supportive of Sheriff Gregory Ahern—Valle’s support appeared greatly informed by comments made Tuesday by county counsel Donna Ziegler.

Ahern’s request to hire 265 new deputies, 84 non-sworn employees and 107 behavioral health care workers at Santa Rita follows a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department alleging inadequate handling of inmates with mental and behavioral issues. Ziegler advised the board that plaintiffs could use supes’ opposition to staffing up against them, and possibly seek an injunction against the county.

Supervisors are now tasked with finding funding at a time when Covid-19 threatens to precipitate devastating cuts to social safety-net services and programs for Alameda County’s less fortunate.

“Where are we going to get this money from?” Chan asked.

In Other News …

Bay Area businesses have issued plans for up to 114,000 layoffs since the pandemic started, the largest being Tesla’s furlough of 11,500 employees, the East Bay Times reported. Alameda County officials allowed Tesla to resume manufacturing electric vehicles after plant officials started to reopen without permission. …

Alameda County will allow retail stores to reopen with curbside pickup on Friday, the Times reported. The county and several other counties in the Bay Area waited a few weeks while other parts of the state entered Stage 2 of the economy’s reopening. Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state, in general, is nearing Stage 3 sometime in June, SFGate reported. That implies the possibility that sports franchises can begin returning to the field sans spectators, in addition to gyms, barber shops and salons reopening with new social distancing protocols. …

On June 2, Berkeley will consider a proposal to turn sidewalks, streets and parking lots into outdoor dining venues, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. … Due to large, unsafe gatherings at Lake Merritt, food trucks and vendors will not be allowed there, parking lots near there will be closed, and street parking will not be allowed on Fridays through Sundays, KTVU reported. …

An audit by the state’s attorney general found Oakland has almost 1,200 untested rape kits, the second-highest number in the state, the Chron reported. Most of the kits are from cases before 2016. … Alameda County deputies shot and killed a man whom they said shot at them from the balcony of a motel near San Leandro, the Times reported.

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