San Quentin covid-19 outbreak is impacting Alameda County

Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that new cases of covid-19 are increasing at a rate, along with the number of hospitalizations.

A massive outbreak of covid-19 at the San Quentin State Prison is beginning to bring a rise in cases and hospitalizations to Alameda County, a county health official said on Tuesday.

Alameda County beatMore than 1,000 cases of covid-19 have spread at San Quentin in recent weeks and alarmed Bay Area public health officials who believe the outbreak is beginning to leak out into the general public.

Over the past week, Alameda County has seen a rapid increase in both new covid-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the infection, said Colleen Chawla, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.

“We do not believe it is prudent to move further ahead,” Chawla said, while noting the county’s reopening is not moving backward. “Everything is staying as is.”

The department’s 1-5 scale for monitoring various indicators for the spread of the infection in Alameda County is at risk of dropping from three to two following the surge in cases over more than a week, Chawla said. Others indicators such a hospital capacity in the event of a surge, containment of the infection, and availability of personal protective equipment remains stable.

The disconcerting data is forcing county health officials to lengthen the time frame for further reopening the local economy from 2-4 weeks to 4-6 weeks, Chawla added.

Fears about the sharp rise in covid-19 at San Quentin come as local health officials pulled back on the already slow pace of reopening the county for business and activities.

The increase in new cases, however, is also expected, Chawla said, anytime after restrictions are loosened. But with San Quentin cases spiking, along with those in the county, “It is too much risk to take,” Chawla said, when asked about further steps in loosening shelter in place orders.

Yet, even with the disconcerting data, Chawla told county supervisors, the state would likely accept an application from the county to accelerate to another phase for reopening. But, she added, “We do not believe that is the correct path at this moment.”

As of Thursday, 6,384 has been reported in Alameda County, along with 138 deaths since March. Five of the seven highest one-day totals of new cases have occurred since June 27. Over the past week, hospitalizations for covid-19 in Alameda County has skyrocketed to 116, as of June 30, while those in Intensive Care Units remain stable.

The county’s goal of administering 3,100 covid-19 tests a day is coming closer to fruition. Currently 2,800 tests are given each day in the county with help for additional capacity in more cities on the way. The county hopes to absorb the costs of tests and supplies for cities interested in establishing their own testing sites using state and federal emergency funds, Chawla said. Cities, though, would be responsible for staffing costs.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Dr. Nick Moss was introduced to the public as the county’s new interim public health officer. He replaces Dr. Erica Pan, who is leaving the county to become the state’s top epidemiologist. Moss had served as deputy health officer under Pan.