Contra Costa County coronavirus cases ‘not rising as fast as the worst case scenario’

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Contra Costa coronavirus cases 'not rising as fast as the worst case scenario'
Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County, speaks at a news conference on March 23, 2020.

By Kathy Chouteau

Contra Costa County currently has 442 cases of COVID-19, with 29 of those people receiving critical care in the ICU and seven deaths. The County is also investigating another 25 people suspected of having the virus; 10 of those individuals are in the ICU now.

“Our numbers are rising…which we expected, but they’re also not rising as fast as the worst case scenario,” said Anna Roth, Contra Costa County Health Services Director.

Today during a telephone town hall with roughly 380 participants, Roth joined California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, and the County’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano to provide updates, answer community questions and ultimately to urge the community to follow the shelter-at-home order and social distancing guidelines.

“The purpose to the mitigation and the stay-at-home order is to flatten the curve or flatten the surge that’s coming of people needing health care all at once,” Roth said.

Roth noted that there are currently 1,171 hospital beds in the County, with the potential to expand to 2,200 beds in a maximum surge situation by using locations such as the Craneway Pavilion.

Other County efforts include focusing on telephonic or virtual health care, working to improve turn-around times on testing and protecting the workforce so that there are enough workers to respond to the expected surge, Roth said. To date, the County has run over 5,800 COVID-19 tests, with a focus on symptomatic people and those in high risk environments. 

Dr. Farnitano credited good social distancing with helping delay the surge in COVID-19 cases and slowing down the spread, but also cautioned that we won’t be able to circumvent a rise completely.

“What we’re trying to do is delay that surge, lower the peak of people getting sick at one time, buy us some time,” so that health officials can acquire what is needed on the front lines, he said.

Dr. Farnitano recommended that people cover their faces with a cloth mask or bandana if they do go out.

“The best weapon that we have to fight this is to stay at home as much as possible, to social distance as much as possible, to only have the very most necessary essential businesses in operation so that we can limit and slow the spread of this virus,” he said.

Roth referred people to the County website for info about getting tested via drive-through and walk-up locations. “The first step if you have symptoms is to call your health care provider,” advised Dr. Farnitano.

Supervisor Gioia recognized the community for stepping up, following the guidance of health officers and also helping one another.

“We all believe that what we are doing together here is key to slowing the spread of the virus, flattening the curve and really helping prevent an overload of our healthcare system here in Contra Costa County,” he said.

Assemblymember Wicks said she’s been working from home with a “three-year-old wrapped around my leg half the time.”

“So I understand many of the challenges that you are facing in terms of child care,” said Wicks.

She added that her office has been focused on advocating Governor Newsom’s office on a variety of resources, i.e., more personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers; connecting with local elected officials and city managers to keep abreast of community needs (along with Senator Skinner); and allocating her staff to help constituents secure unemployment benefits, navigate the SBA and other requests.

To keep up on the County’s latest COVID-19 news, visit Contra Costa Health Services here.

Correction: The story has been updated to correct the participant attendance figure for the town hall.

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