Contra Costa County health officials said Tuesday that "alternative care sites" to provide medical treatment ahead of an anticipated surge in COVID-19 coronavirus cases will open next week in Antioch and Richmond, joining already announced sites in Martinez and Pittsburg.
Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county's health officer, said the Contra Costa County fairgrounds in Antioch and the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond are being set up to handle relatively "uncomplicated" treatments as space in area hospitals is being set aside for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients sometime between mid-April and mid-May.
Contra Costa Health Services officials had previously said that part of the former Los Medanos Community Hospital building in Pittsburg and part of Alhambra High School in Martinez will be made into similar alternative care sites.
That COVID-19 surge in Contra Costa County, Farnitano said, could be brutal -- a possible 2,000 to 14,000 deaths in the county over the "next several months," based on various models factoring in different rates of infection and treatment capabilities.
Anna Roth, Contra Costa County's health director, said that as of Tuesday morning there were 212 confirmed coronavirus patients in the county, up from 175 cases as of Monday morning. Twenty-three were hospitalized as of Tuesday, 11 of them in intensive care, Roth said. Three people have died so far.
Social distancing, Farnitano said, appears to be helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, and he hopes people staying home and keeping their distance in public will keep surge casualties to a minimum, and significantly reduce the odds of a prospective New York City or Italy situation in the Bay Area.
"This scenario could still happen in the Bay Area if we relax our social distancing," Farnitano said. "This is no time to relax."
Farnitano said county officials also are working on ways to keep reducing the county jail population, both through releases and delayed incarcerations. The inmate populations at the Martinez and Richmond jails is down about half from two months ago, he said, and with the courts closed, new jail bookings have been down about 85 percent during that same period.
The loss of jobs related to the coronavirus pandemic has put more pressure on the county's social services operations. Kathy Gallagher, the county's employment and human services director, told the supervisors Tuesday that applications for virtually all county "safety net" social services -- with the exception of child care service - have risen dramatically in recent
County tax officials told the supervisors Tuesday that property taxpayers who can prove economic hardship caused specifically by the consequences of COVID-19 (job loss, fewer hours) can pay late and avoid penalties. That could lead to an economic domino effect on cities that depend on county tax payments.
"If our collections are significantly impacted, it's a pretty significant cash impact on local jurisdictions, and that will impact their ability to provide public service," Bob Campbell, the county's auditor-controller, told the supervisors.
More than 75 public comments, submitted by email, implored the supervisors to provide more personal protective equipment for county workers, and to help county residents by passing a formal moratorium on evictions, setting up a fund to help people and small businesses pay rent and bills and to release jail inmates serving time for relatively low-level crimes, all to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Comments were made by residents, caregivers, service providers, attorneys and others.
Even though the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office has said it will not take part in any evictions while the shelter-in-place order is in effect, the supervisors have not passed a formal eviction moratorium. Also, several of Tuesday's public comments noted that a deputy serving at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond tested positive last week for the COVID-19 coronavirus, making it crucial to rescue the jail population.
Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said other Bay Area cities and counties have taken steps to put a temporary stop to evictions based on COVID-19-related economic duress, including job losses or reduced hours, and to prohibit rent or mortgage increases and offer other rent/mortgage relief while the pandemic's effects continue. He and others asked the county counsel's office to research the legal possibilities, and to come back at the supervisors' planned April 14 meeting to discuss those possibilities.