‘Our system is not being strapped at the moment,’ says Alameda County health care official

Highland Hospital in Oakland, Alameda County's main safety net hospital.

-Coronavirus news briefs from Alameda County:
>>Influx of patients has not yet materialized.
>>ALCO Sheriff’s deputies not issuing citations.
>>Hayward testing site could be model for others.

Alameda County has only 112 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but the numbers are expected to significantly rise as early as this week, county health officials suggested during an Alameda County Board of Supervisors health committee meeting on Monday morning.

At this point in time, the county’s hospitals are yet feeling the expected stress to the system that is expected in the coming days and weeks. The number of hospital beds and Emergency Room availability is “stable,” said Colleen Chawla, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency director.

“Our system is not being strapped at the moment and has capacity for any health care needs we may have,” Chawla told Supervisors Wilma Chan and Nate Miley.

Exactly how many of the 112 cases have resulted in hospitalization is not yet known, Chawla said. An estimated figure of how many Alameda County residents are likely to be infected by the coronavirus is expected soon, she added.

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While law enforcement in other Bay Area counties have begun handing out citations to people seemingly flouting the governor’s shelter in place order, Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies are refraining from doing so. Alameda County Undersheriff Richard Lucia said deputies are not seeing many large gatherings.

Not only are they refraining from writing citations for non-compliance to the order, but because of adherence to social distancing protocols, deputies have been told to limit the issuance of citations of any kind unless the violation is egregious, Lucia said on Monday. “We’re not taking a real aggressive enforcement approach,” he said.

However, there have been a few cases of non-essential local businesses failing to comply with shelter in place, Lucia said. “In the unincorporated areas, we had a couple of businesses that, I’ll just say, misinterpreted the rules, and we’ve talked to them.”

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The free coronavirus testing site in Hayward is being watched as a possible blueprint by several other local entities and jurisdictions in Alameda County. The site is located at the Hayward Fire Department’s Station 7 at 28270 Huntwood Avenue. Anybody can be tested and without a doctor’s referral. Someone who is not readily showing any symptoms of the coronavirus can also be tested.

Patients are swabbed in a tent at the site, not in their car. Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras said the swabbing of patients, an uncomfortable procedure, is better suited in a more comfortable setting. Up to 370 tests can be administered each day. Results are given in 7-9 hours, he said.

The site is located near a depressed area of Hayward, which was part of the impetus for the testing site. Contreras said he was upset at the prevailing advice given to people that they consult with their doctor if they are concerned they may have contracted the virus. But many in the area rely on health clinics for medical care or receive no care at all. “A lot of people don’t have a physician. They don’t have a primary physician, which has been the advice they have been given since the beginning of the COVID virus,” Contreras said.

Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle said his office has received queries about the modeling for the Hayward testing site. Contreras said once a reliable testing lab was found, it took 10 days to prepare the site, and it was seeded with $500,000. Another $500,000 is expected to be allocated to expand to other sites, Contreras said. He did not elaborate on the funding source.