Multiple COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in county spark Supervisors to declare state of emergency

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors proclaimed March as American Red Cross Month in Contra Costa County at their meeting on Tuesday. Known as the world’s largest humanitarian organization, the Contra Costa American Red Cross volunteers last year helped 168 people affected by 110 home fires in 2019. American Red Cross volunteers in the county collected 15,491 units of lifesaving blood, taught skills that save lives to 10,747 community members and provided international humanitarian aid. Attending the presentation were from left District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover, Board Chair Candace Andersen, District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, American Red Cross Bay Area CEO Jennifer Adrio, American Red Cross Contra Costa Leadership Council Co-Chair Stan Massie, Board Vice Chair Diane Burgis, and American Red Cross Contra Costa County Vice Chair Briana Taylor. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

By Daniel Borsuk

The rising COVID 19 or coronavirus outbreak with 10 reported cases in Contra Costa County hospitals as of Tuesday, compelled the Board of Supervisors to unanimously adopt a resolution proclaiming a state of emergency in the county with guidance on how to deal with the threatening respiratory flu.

On March 3 there were 43 COVID 19 cases in California with 26 of these cases in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The supervisors’ action will result in an undetermined amount of state aid, said Anna Roth, Contra Costa County Health Director.

The Supervisors’ declaration will help the county with the delivery of badly needed COVID 19 test kits, face masks, protective gear and other resources. The county had 1,000 kits on the day of the Supervisors’ meeting, Contra Costa Health Department Director of Public Health Dan Peddycord said, but more kits will be needed to meet demand as health officials expect more patients will come down with COVID 19 symptoms and will seek medical attention.

The supervisors’ declaration states:

“On March 10, 2020 this Board found that due to the introduction of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons and property did exist in the County of Contra Costa commencing on or about March 3, 2020, and therefore the Board proclaimed the existence of a local emergency throughout this county (Resolution No. 2020/92).

  • These conditions, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely, to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of this county, and will require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat.
  • These conditions fit the circumstances described in Government Code section 8558.
  • Now, Therefore IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED that this Board REQUESTS the GOVERNOR of the State of California to proclaim the County to be in a state of emergency.”

“The new coronavirus or COVID-19 presents our community with a challenge,” said Board Chair Candace Andersen. “While I urge you to be prepared, it is certainly not a time to panic. Following our health officials’ guidelines will help prevent the spread of disease.

The county and the Contra Costa Health Services will continue to offer guidance and resources. Meanwhile, there is much each and everyone one of us can do to keep our families and communities well. It will take all of working together.”

Dan Peddycord, Contra Costa Health Department Director of Public Health, told Supervisors the county now has 1,000 COVID test kits. “Our ability to test is meeting the demand,” he said.

There are increasing concerns that the county’s ability to test the most vulnerable including senior citizens, the homeless, and county jail prisoners might be hampered by the shortage of trained health personnel and test kits as the number of COVID 19 cases increases.

Dr. Ori Tzieli, acting Contra Costa Health Services Health Officer, said that the county is taking other preemptive steps to stop the spread of COVID 19 including calling for the cancelation of all “mass gatherings of 50 or more.” This order means religious services drawing congregants of 50 or more for Saturday or Sunday services will be not be allowed to conduct these services  due to the epidemic. Sports, entertainment and other events will be impacted by the mass gathering edict. The regional economy will be impacted.

This topic of banning meetings or places that draw audiences of 50 or more will also apply to other entities ranging from seniors eating in the dining rooms of their senior living facilities to the Board of Supervisors conducting business in their chambers at 651 Pine St. in Martinez.

So far, the closure of schools has not yet been put on the table, said Dr. Tzieli.

District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond and Chair Andersen of Danville discussed the possibility of canceling or postponing the supervisors annual Cesar Chavez Birthday Celebration at its March 31 Board Meeting because of potential health concerns stemming from the COVD 19 epidemic. No decision was made at Tuesday’s meeting about the fate of the Cesar Chavez Birthday Celebration.

Approve Closure of Pleasant Hill Library for Oak Park Properties Development

Over the protests of several Pleasant Hill residents wanting to keep the old Pleasant Hill Public Library with its 80,000 volumes open until the new state-of-the-art library is completed and ready for use in 2022, supervisors unanimously approved the sale of the county property at 1750 Oak Park Blvd. to the City of Pleasant Hill, thereby paving the way for the library’s demolition and commencement of construction of the mixed use development on the 15-acre site.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill has defended the proposal to demolish the old library because it needs $2.2 million of roof, electrical and ventilation and heating repairs and that expenditure is not worthwhile when the new modern library that will have a view of Grayson Creek and will house 72,000 volumes. The old library has about 80,000 volumes.

The new state-of-the-art library will be completed in 2022.

Developers of the Oak Park Properties project plan to construct 34 two-story homes, each 2,800 square feet to 3,400 square feet. There will be open space, bocce courts, and trails.

Jim Dexter urged supervisors to reject the project. “There is nothing about this project that’s been publicly vetted,” he claimed. “Why was this sale was not examined?”

When it came to the supervisors’ vote, Mitchoff beckoned fellow supervisors to approve closure of the old county library, Mitchoff telling her colleagues the new state-of-the-art library with a view of Grayson Creek will be “a county asset.”

In other business, supervisors:

  • Approved an agreement between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Contra Costa County Director of Airports Keith Freitas to execute a master administrative agreement to establish a partnership where Buchanan Field and Byron airports will be included in the Pan Pacific UAS Test Range Complex. The agreement makes the two airports available for use by third parties for UAS-related testing, research and educational purposes in coordination with the University of Alaska. The university is expected to use various electronic and printed media to promote the partnership.
  • Approved a $16.3 million contract with Hensel Phelps Construction Co. for the design and construction for mental health treatment facilities and associated Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades at Module M in the Martinez Detention Facility.
  • Approved to pay up to $163,585 to the consortium of eight northern California counties to study the feasibility of developing a regional mental health correctional facility. The total cost for the first phase of the study is $603,895 that will be shared by the eight counties including Contra Costa, Sacramento, Solano, El Dorado, Nevada, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba counties.

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