Covid-19 is hitting unincorporated Alameda County hard and local MACs haven’t met since pandemic started

Intersection of Meekland Avenue and Hampton Road in unincorporated Alameda County.

Residents in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County often describe a sense of being an afterthought for county leaders. The resentment was furthered this month when some in unincorporated areas called for Alameda County health officials to provide detailed information about the number of confirmed covid-19 cases and deaths in their areas.

Alameda County beatWithout specific information, unincorporated residents were growing worried about where the rising number of total cases were emanating. Was there an outbreak in one part of region not readily noticed? Was a small scale outbreak earlier this month at a nursing home in Castro Valley boosting the numbers?

The number of confirmed cases in all of the unincorporated areas is rivaled only by Oakland and Hayward. More than 100,000 people live in unincorporated areas, a size that tops many cities in Alameda County.

Then, last week, Alameda County health officials acquiesced to the concerns and began providing a daily breakdown of covid-19 cases in the unincorporated areas.

The numbers show more than half of the current cases coming from what the county describes as the “Eden Area,” the unincorporated hamlets of San Lorenzo, Cherryland, Ashland, and Hayward Acres. Not unsurprising, since the area comprises some of the lowest-income locations in Alameda County, in addition, to higher rates of uninsured residents. Two general indicators for a potential uptick in covid-19 cases.

ALCO PH map

The cluster of area codes that include the Eden Area, Castro Valley, and Hayward (area codes marked in dark red above) have the highest rates of covid-19 cases in the county. East Oakland is another area struggling with disproportionate numbers of covid-19.

The rates per 100,000 residents of covid-19 cases for each area make up the top three in the county. Hayward tops the list at 204.9 cases per 100,000 residents, followed by the Eden Area at 188.0, and Castro Valley with 125.6, as of May 1.

COVID-19 CASES BY CITY*
OAKLAND            469  +5    107.3***
HAYWARD           330  +10  204.9
EDEN AREA**     130  +3    188.0
FREMONT            103  +2      43.9
SAN LEANDRO     96  +2    105.8
CASTRO VALLEY 82  +1    125.6

UNION CITY          74  +4      97.8
NEWARK                56          113.8

PLEASANTON       50            61.5
BERKELEY             54  +2      43.4
LIVERMORE          37            40.2
ALAMEDA             36            44.9
DUBLIN                  25            38.3
PIEDMONT            10            86.7
ALBANY               <10
EMERYVILLE      <10

FAIRVIEW            <10
SUNOL                  <10
OTHERS                  57+

*As of Friday, May 1.
**Eden Area includes unincorporated Ashland, Cherryland, Hayward Acres, San Lorenzo.
***Rate per 100,000 residents

But while Castro Valley, Fairview, and Sunol residents in southern Alameda County have concrete numbers, Eden Area residents remain dissatisfied with being cobbled together in a single group.

Meanwhile, while a bonafide health crisis is emerging in the unincorporated areas, residents have been frustrated by an inability to officially voice their concerns to county leaders.

The lack of an elected government in the unincorporated areas has long been a major gripe for some of its residents. Municipal Advisory Councils (MAC) appointed by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley in Castro Valley, Fairview and the Eden areas act as de facto local governments. But now, not even those bodies are meeting.

Local MACs have not convened since the covid-19 pandemic led to a county and state shelter in place order back in mid-March.

Castro Valley resident Michael Kusiak told the Board of Supervisors last week the lack of public interactions with county officials is leaving residents in the unincorporated areas without an outlet to voice their concerns during the pandemic.

“It’s important for us not to forget our civic engagement at this time and our MACs can be a really great tool to leverage that,” Kusiak said.

He encourage the Board of Supervisor to use virtual forums such as Zoom to broadcast and allow the public to weigh-in on local matters and “have conversations as communities about what we need to we can elevate it to the county.”