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.
Without 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.
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
*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.”