Contra Costa County is working on setting up a temporary "remote hospital" location, possibly at the former Los Medanos Community Hospital building in Pittsburg, to expand the county's medical treatment capability in expectation of a surge of new COVID-19 coronavirus cases, health officials said Tuesday.
Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County's health officer, told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that plans are in the works to set up a remote hospital facility for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Contra Costa County Health Services spokesman Karl Fischer built upon that, saying in a subsequent interview that current plans would see the new remote center hosting COVID-19 patients who couldn't otherwise isolate -- homeless patients, those who live in places where isolation is impractical or impossible -- but who don't require ICU-level care.
These plans, Fischer said, have not yet been finalized, and there are several potential sites other than the old Pittsburg hospital. The timing for opening that center isn't certain.
Los Medanos Community Hospital closed in 1994, and part of the building now hosts Contra Costa County Health's Pittsburg Health Center.
"We're looking at every possible solution," Farnitano told the supervisors Tuesday.
Anna Roth, the county's health director, told the supervisors Tuesday that, as of Monday, Contra Costa had 71 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with one death. Health officials are awaiting test results for 22 other people now hospitalized, she said.
COVID-19 testing has increased markedly in recent days, Farnitano said. Most getting tested, he said, are suspected patients already in the hospital or otherwise sick, and first-line health care providers.
There also are plans for a drive-up testing area, accessed by appointment, at a site not yet finalized, Fischer said.
"We want to do a lot more testing than we're doing now," Farnitano told the supervisors Tuesday.
The county is asking state and federal officials for help in increasing the local COVID-19 response, including more test kits, masks, gloves and aprons as well as ventilators and other equipment.
Similarly, Contra Costa County health officials are asking businesses and individuals to donate supplies -- goggles/face shields, antibacterial and disinfectant wipes (unopened), N-95 and surgical masks (unopened) and medical gowns (new disposable gowns, and cloth surgical and hospital gowns in good condition).
There are three donation centers, each open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
- West County -- 151 Linus Pauling Drive in Hercules
- Central County -- 1750 Oak Park Blvd. in Pleasant Hill
- East County -- 4545 Delta Fair Blvd. in Antioch
Farnitano said it could take another two weeks to know whether the 6-foot "social distancing" efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been effective. But he stressed the importance of adhering to them strictly in any public setting.
"It's really important to both stay apart and come together during this critical time," he said.
Lavonna Martin, Contra Costa County's director of health, housing and homeless services, told the supervisors Tuesday she's asked the county Sheriff's Office to not break up homeless encampments for the time being. Keeping the encampments intact, she said, better contains the spread of coronavirus.
"Moving people around is not a great idea at this time," Martin said.
Though some properly distanced county staff was in the supervisors' chambers in downtown Martinez, none of the five supervisors was there in person.
All took part in the meeting via video. Having elected officials take part in this way is now possible because Gov. Gavin Newsom recently suspended certain parts of the Ralph M. Brown open-meeting act that required formal notice about any location from which any distant participant was taking part.
The technology worked well most of the time, but supervisors Federal Glover and Karen Mitchoff both lost contact with the meeting at various times during Tuesday's two-plus-hour meeting, and Mitchoff called for tech improvements for the next meeting, now scheduled for March 31.