Contra Costa Health strives for ‘Path to Zero’ COVID-19 deaths

New COVID ‘test to treat’ site opening this week in San Pablo
COVID-19 via Unsplash

By Kathy Chouteau

Contra Costa Health (CCH) has launched Path to Zero, an initiative that refocuses Contra Costa County’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic on eliminating preventable deaths, according to a statement.

Path to Zero aims to “increase use of underutilized COVID-19 protections in the county, particularly prescription of medications and home testing resources,” with a distinct focus on areas where infection and death rates are highest in the County. 

Among the initiative’s strategies is use of the Contra Costa Health Plan advice nurse line, which is now open to county residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 (PCR/lab or home test), per CCH. Via the service, callers are screened by advice nurses, who schedule free telehealth appointments and prescriptions for treatment as needed. 

Community members age 12 and older can receive a prescription for antiviral medication that reduces the risk of serious illness or death; CCH said it works best within 48 hours of a positive test result. Those with positive tests should call 1-877-661-6230 to set up an appointment for a free same-day consultation. 

As part of its efforts, CCH urged community medical providers “to ensure that all county residents who test positive for COVID-19 have timely access to medicine if appropriate for the patient’s health background.”

Other efforts by CCH to reduce preventable deaths will be unveiled in the near future and will be aimed at “[reducing] spread of the virus in the community, [saving] lives through early testing and treatment, and [addressing] social inequities that place many residents at higher risk of dying from COVID-19,” per the statement.

CCH Health Director Anna Roth said, “No one should die from COVID-19 when free testing, vaccines and effective medication are all readily available in our community,” adding that “preventable COVID-19 deaths in our county are unacceptable.” She further remarked that it’s time to “think differently” about the virus and to examine the “why” behind community deaths from it and look “to remove any barriers to treatment that may have contributed to that death.” 

CCH Chief Equity Officer Gilbert Salinas said that there are “stark differences in COVID mortality rates between our wealthiest, healthiest neighborhoods and those with significant challenges to community health,” adding that “Path to Zero helps us to sharpen our focus on our most vulnerable communities.” 

A mortality review team of medical experts will analyze the county’s COVID-19 deaths to improve understanding of possible missed opportunities to access care and treatment and to prevent deaths more effectively, per CCH, which said this analysis would inform the Path to Zero campaign.

Contra Costa’s Health Officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli said that they know many of the steps needed to reduce preventable deaths in the county and that this approach “allows us to fine-tune our efforts to ensure we provide maximum benefit where it is needed the most.” 

Learn more about the county’s resources for COVID 19 here.