Contra Costa health data show COVID cases were on decline before new health orders issued

7-Day Rolling Average Number of New Cases in Contra Costa County April 1-Sept. 19, 2021. Source: CCC Health Services

“Case Rates for unvaccinated people in the county…peaked on Sept. 13, one day before the new health orders were issued.”

“…we are a long way from the levels of community transmission we experienced in spring…” – Contra Costa Health Services spokesman

By Allen Payton

The statistics on the Contra Costa Health Services Coronavirus Dashboard show COVID hospitalizations and cases in the county were already declining before the new health orders by county health officer, Dr. Chris Farnitano, issued them on Sept. 14. While the data trails the report by seven days, as the dashboard states, “data from the last 7 days is still being reported”, all the COVID-related stats continued to decline before the orders went into effect last Wednesday, Sept. 22.

The press release from CCHS on Sept. 15 read, “While the peak of the surge seems to have passed.” But the statistics showed it had passed. (See related article)

Total Contra Costa County Hospitalizations of COVID patients and percentage of all patients Aug. 28-Sept. 26, 2021. Source: CCHS

Hospital Bed Utilization

The 7-Day Average COVID-19 Inpatient Bed Utilization in the county decreased from 11.5% on Sept. 8 to 9.9% by the time the orders were issued on the Sept. 15. That continued to decrease to 8.1% on Sept. 22. They have continued to decrease through Sunday to 7.3% and were on the decrease since Aug. 28 when the percentages were first included in the stats, from 13.6%.

The statistics also show the percentage of COVID inpatient beds to Contra Costa Total Hospitalizations has decreased from a high of 19.4% on Sept. 6 to 10.7% on Sunday, Sept. 26.

In addition, of all the inpatient ICU beds in the county, about one-third have been filled by COVID patients has decreased from a high of 46% to 29% between Aug. 28 and Sept. 26.

New Cases

The Seven Day Rolling Average number of new COVID cases in the county peaked on Sept. 10 at 217.3, almost two weeks before the new health orders went into effect on Wed., Sept. 22.

Contra Costa County Case Rates per 100,000 vaccinated vs unvaccinated April 1 – Sept. 19, 2021. Source: CC Health Services

Case Rates

The Case Rates for unvaccinated people in the county at 40 per 100,000 population and fully vaccinated people at 8.7 peaked on Sept. 13, one day before the new health orders were issued. Both continued to decline through Sept. 19 to 29.6 and 7.4 respectively, three days before the orders went into effect.

Questions for Farnitano & CCHS Staff

In light of that information, Farnitano and health services staff were asked the following questions via email Monday evening: “Why are the latest orders still in place? Are you willing to lift them, now? If not, what else must occur for that to happen?”

Response From CCHS Staff

Karl Fischer, Contra Costa Health Services spokesman responded, “For the past few weeks Contra Costa County’s COVID-19 transmission data have been trending in the right direction after a severe, sudden spike in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths earlier this summer.  

It’s also true that county data remain elevated since that spike, far above where they were when California relaxed its health orders in mid-June. As the press release you quoted correctly points out, our average daily case rate is similar to what we were recording in February, on the downslope of another severe spike. That information is also available on the dashboard 

It is no accident that our county is now trending in the right direction.  

COVID-related public health measures, including recent health orders requiring people to wear masks when visiting indoor public spaces and show proof of vaccination or a recent, negative test result to enter the indoor parts of some high-risk public establishments, are helping to reduce transmission of the virus in our county.  

For example, on Aug. 3, the day our indoor masking health order took effect, the 7-day average number of daily new COVID-19 cases reported in our county was 412. One month later, on Sept. 3, that number had dropped to 245.9.

We hope to see similar improvement in coming weeks from the most recent health order, which took effect just last week. But, as I mentioned, we are a long way from the levels of community transmission we experienced in spring, when the state briefly seemed to be emerging from the pandemic.  

With winter approaching, a season where the spread of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 is common, we are doing everything we can to prevent another severe surge, most importantly working to increase vaccination rates across our community – to save lives, keep our schools and businesses open, and our hospitals functioning.”

However, as the Dashboard shows, Contra Costa County was already trending in the right direction” two weeks before the new health orders went into effect.

Additional Questions

An additional question was sent late Wednesday afternoon, asking, “since Contra Costa was already significantly trending in the right direction through not just Sept. 3 but it continued through Sept. 22, with just the indoor mask-wearing order, why the need for the additional proof of vaccination or testing mandate? Is it an effort to pressure the unvaccinated to get vaccinated by taking away more of their freedoms?”

09/30/21 UPDATE: CCHS spokesman, Karl Fischer responded, “Contra Costa has made significant progress in lowering the number of new reported cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. But, as I mentioned in my last response, our transmission data are still substantially far above the levels considered safe by the State of California when it lifted its health order on June 15.

I know you are aware of this information, as it is available on our public dashboard, but our 7-day rolling average number of daily new COVID-19 cases was 152.9 on Sept. 22, compared to 45.3 on June 15. Per capita, on June 15 we averaged 1.5 daily new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 for unvaccinated people, compared to 5.5 on Sept. 22. Contra Costa has a long way to go before it reaches the transmission levels the state considered just safe enough to reopen, just three months ago.

Contra Costa is committed to doing everything in its power to reduce COVID-19 transmission as quickly and effectively as possible – lives depend on it. That is why the county this month added a new, temporary requirement for patrons using the indoor areas of certain establishments where the virus is at high risk of spreading to show proof of vaccination at the door, or a recent, negative test result.

We believe this health order will help our community continue its progress reducing COVID-19 transmission, perhaps even accelerate it, and it may also help to head off another massive holiday surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, like the one we experienced last winter.

We encourage anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. Our transmission data are now slowing down thanks to the 80%+ of county residents who have already chosen to get vaccinated, and the willingness of the majority to temporarily endure inconvenience so we all may eventually enjoy living in a community where there is no elevated risk of contracting a deadly but highly preventable disease.

Why No Recovery Documentation Option in Contra Costa?

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) on Wednesday, introduced the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, a bill that would require all passengers on domestic airline flights to either be fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative for COVID-19 or have fully recovered from COVID-19. According to her office’s press release, “the legislation builds on a current CDC requirement that all air passengers traveling to the United States from a foreign country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19.”

In response, the additional questions were sent to CCHS staff: “Why isn’t that last option, recovery documentation, being offered to people in Contra Costa to comply with the latest health orders if it’s allowed to be used for people traveling into our country? They aren’t even required to provide proof of vaccination. But we Americans do to participate in something that takes much less time than an international flight. Their plane trips are much longer than an hour which is usually the length of time it takes to have an indoor, sitdown meal. If that’s the science the federal government is following, why isn’t the CCHS also following it?”

Fischer replied, “Contra Costa Health Services did not include a provision for proof of prior infection in the Sept. 14 health order because, in our analysis of available research, we determined that the science remains unsettled around the efficacy or duration of natural immunity following a COVID-19 infection. We do have a better understanding of immunity provided by the available COVID-19 vaccines, thanks to the extensive clinical trials performed to ensure their safety and efficacy before they were made available to the public, and their performance in protecting millions of people worldwide this year.

While it’s true that someone who has COVID-19 must wait 90 days after their infection ends before testing again, they can receive COVID-19 vaccine as soon as their isolation period ends. So, in no case are patrons left without options for using the indoor portions of establishments affected by this order.”

Those who choose not to get the vaccine for one reason, or another will have to take a test and prove negative within three days each time they want to dine indoors at a restaurant, go to the gym, a bar, to the movies or another entertainment venue, such as a bowling alley.

the attachments to this post:

CCC Case Rates per 100,000 vax vs unvax 0401-091921

CCC Hospitalizations 0828-2621

CCC 7-Day Rolling Avg # of New Cases 0401-091921

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