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Walnut Creek Magazine

COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive in Contra Costa County

Dec 16, 2020 04:22PM ● By Harper Klein

Almost ten months to the day that the first Covid-19 shelter in place order was issued, the first 9000 vaccines arrived in Contra Costa County on December 15 to immunize frontline healthcare workers and emergency responders. Anna Roth, the county’s Health Services Director, said the first phases of distribution will go to hospitals, followed by residents and staff at long-term care facilities in accordance with state guidelines. The Pfizer vaccine—the first one to be distributed—requires two doses per person, spaced three weeks apart, to be as effective as possible.

Vaccines are expected to be administered to other community members over the coming months, but it remains unclear who gets priority. In response to the urgent need for children to return to in-person classroom learning, during its monthly board meeting Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution urging the State of California to prioritize public and private school educators for phase one Covid-19 vaccines.

This initial round of doses comes at the most dangerous time in the pandemic when several hundred new cases are being reported daily in the county. “This is the worst community spread we’ve seen since March. Despite regional stay at home orders, 42,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in California on Monday,” said County Public Health Officer Chris Farnitano, MD. “Overall ICU capacity in Bay Area hospitals has been running 15-17 percent. We have never seen anything like this before. Hospitals are looking across the state to find critical patient resources. This is unprecedented and it’s not even close to the peak.”

Health officials have warned the steep increase in infections could push Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in all corners of the state into surge capacity, especially with the looming threat of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. “The same activities we were doing a few months ago are twelve times riskier today. Large gatherings are riskier than small gatherings. The amount of time you spend with other people is also a factor when considering activities that put you at risk—any interaction with a person outside of your household for over 15 minutes is highly discouraged,” said Farnitano.

This far into the pandemic, a lot more is at stake for businesses, and especially restaurants, who were forced to close outdoor dining. Federal assistance has run out, big investments were made to comply with safety regulations, and takeout is not a feasible solution for everyone. Nationwide, 10,000 restaurants have closed in the past three months alone. 

When asked by Supervisor Karen Mitchoff why the county shut down outdoor dining, Farnitano responded, “Anytime you are taking your mask off for eating, drinking, and talking which happens at restaurants, even outside, the risk of contracting the virus dramatically increases. Our data on where a person contracts the virus is incomplete."

"Reports across the state and country from contact tracing suggest outbreaks do occur at gyms and restaurants, but it’s hard to pinpoint. If you get COVID-19 and have been on the treadmill at the gym, or in line at a restaurant, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly where it happened," he said. "But we do know that when you are breathing heavily at the gym or eating and drinking at a restaurant with your mask off, you can be spreading and getting COVID-19. In making shutdown decisions we must rely on how this virus is spread since it is everywhere in the community. If we all do our part and stay home as much as possible, we can stop the spread again.”


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