News

County health officer says COVID-19 restrictions will loosen carefully, deliberately

'We're going to let the data drive our changes'

Contra Costa Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano, with County Supervisor Candace Andersen in the background, addressing reporters at an April 3 news conference in Martinez. (Photo by Sam Richards/Bay City News Service)

Dr. Chris Farnitano said he knows Bay Area residents are getting frustrated with what feels like a glacial pace in reopening area businesses, recreation, schools and society in general amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That restlessness was also clear from reading the running public commentary on Farnitano's live Contra Costa Health Services Facebook discussion Wednesday afternoon.

But during the 40-minute discussion and question-answer session, Farnitano -- Contra Costa County's health officer -- was steadfast in saying he and his fellow Bay Area health officers will let data and science drive their decisions as to when the next phase of "phased reopening" is appropriate.

"We're looking at the data on a daily basis," Farnitano said about the Bay Area counties' health officers. "We're going to let the data drive our changes."

The data on new Bay Area COVID-19 cases, he said, has been good, with a "flattened curve" of new cases and area hospitals not nearly overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. He credits the Bay Area's early move to issue shelter-in-place orders with helping make that happen.

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He also said he's concerned about how fast some places in California are moving toward reopening. COVID-19 cases statewide are on an upward swing, Farnitano said, and the death rate is flat. He reiterated that he and his health official colleagues will continue with a careful, cautious approach to reopening.

"It's going to be a lot harder to pull back than it is to move forward," Farnitano said.

The overall state health order, Farnitano said, as of Wednesday, still doesn't allow public gatherings (except in very specialized settings, like summer camps and houses of worship, both with restrictions), and he said no county health order can be more permissive than the state order. That said, he reinforced the reality that the Bay Area has been, and will continue to be, slower to emerge from shelter-in-place shutdowns. That's largely a function of more densely populated counties, which are at higher risk for coronavirus spread.

As for when Contra Costa and other counties will announce the next step, moving farther into "Phase II" and its changes like indoor sit-down eating and shopping (with masks and other limitations), Farnitano on Wednesday offered no specific time frames. The coronavirus, he said, isn't on any particular schedule.

The most recent update to the counties' health order was May 18, to allow some industries to resume operations and retail businesses to offer storefront pickup.

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Helping things move more quickly, he said, will be more testing.

The testing rate in Contra Costa County has doubled in the past few weeks to about 800 people per day, but he wants to see that go to 2,200 a day as soon as possible. He encouraged any Contra Costa resident to be tested; the more tested, the easier it will be to do "targeted" shelter-in-place of positive, asymptomatic people who cause most of the spread and, in turn, allow others to more readily resume "normal" life. For information about getting tested in Contra Costa County, go to www.coronavirus.cchealth.org/get-tested.

The effects of the sustained shelter-in-place on the collective mental health, Farnitano said, need to be charted. Doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek said last week that hospital has experienced more suicide deaths than coronavirus deaths since the shelter-in-place order was enacted, but Farnitano said Wednesday he has not seen hard data showing any increase in suicides or what prompted them.

But he said he understands what would drive such numbers.

"We know it's been hard on a lot of people," with job losses, businesses closing and people missing social connections, Farnitano said. "But we've seen it around the world, how small (infection) numbers can turn into big numbers."

— Bay City News Service

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County health officer says COVID-19 restrictions will loosen carefully, deliberately

'We're going to let the data drive our changes'

Uploaded: Wed, May 27, 2020, 8:24 pm

Dr. Chris Farnitano said he knows Bay Area residents are getting frustrated with what feels like a glacial pace in reopening area businesses, recreation, schools and society in general amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That restlessness was also clear from reading the running public commentary on Farnitano's live Contra Costa Health Services Facebook discussion Wednesday afternoon.

But during the 40-minute discussion and question-answer session, Farnitano -- Contra Costa County's health officer -- was steadfast in saying he and his fellow Bay Area health officers will let data and science drive their decisions as to when the next phase of "phased reopening" is appropriate.

"We're looking at the data on a daily basis," Farnitano said about the Bay Area counties' health officers. "We're going to let the data drive our changes."

The data on new Bay Area COVID-19 cases, he said, has been good, with a "flattened curve" of new cases and area hospitals not nearly overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. He credits the Bay Area's early move to issue shelter-in-place orders with helping make that happen.

He also said he's concerned about how fast some places in California are moving toward reopening. COVID-19 cases statewide are on an upward swing, Farnitano said, and the death rate is flat. He reiterated that he and his health official colleagues will continue with a careful, cautious approach to reopening.

"It's going to be a lot harder to pull back than it is to move forward," Farnitano said.

The overall state health order, Farnitano said, as of Wednesday, still doesn't allow public gatherings (except in very specialized settings, like summer camps and houses of worship, both with restrictions), and he said no county health order can be more permissive than the state order. That said, he reinforced the reality that the Bay Area has been, and will continue to be, slower to emerge from shelter-in-place shutdowns. That's largely a function of more densely populated counties, which are at higher risk for coronavirus spread.

As for when Contra Costa and other counties will announce the next step, moving farther into "Phase II" and its changes like indoor sit-down eating and shopping (with masks and other limitations), Farnitano on Wednesday offered no specific time frames. The coronavirus, he said, isn't on any particular schedule.

The most recent update to the counties' health order was May 18, to allow some industries to resume operations and retail businesses to offer storefront pickup.

Helping things move more quickly, he said, will be more testing.

The testing rate in Contra Costa County has doubled in the past few weeks to about 800 people per day, but he wants to see that go to 2,200 a day as soon as possible. He encouraged any Contra Costa resident to be tested; the more tested, the easier it will be to do "targeted" shelter-in-place of positive, asymptomatic people who cause most of the spread and, in turn, allow others to more readily resume "normal" life. For information about getting tested in Contra Costa County, go to www.coronavirus.cchealth.org/get-tested.

The effects of the sustained shelter-in-place on the collective mental health, Farnitano said, need to be charted. Doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek said last week that hospital has experienced more suicide deaths than coronavirus deaths since the shelter-in-place order was enacted, but Farnitano said Wednesday he has not seen hard data showing any increase in suicides or what prompted them.

But he said he understands what would drive such numbers.

"We know it's been hard on a lot of people," with job losses, businesses closing and people missing social connections, Farnitano said. "But we've seen it around the world, how small (infection) numbers can turn into big numbers."

— Bay City News Service

Comments

Mark
another community
on May 27, 2020 at 9:44 pm
Mark, another community
on May 27, 2020 at 9:44 pm
22 people like this

By this logic, none of us should ever again be allowed to operate a moving vehicle. The point of curve flattening was to prevent an overwhelming of the health care system, which never came close to occurring. This well-intentioned doctor believes that every life must be saved no matter the cost—depression, suicides, loss of income, retirement savings or even housing—and our local politicians have abdicated their responsibility for balancing these risks.


What?
San Ramon
on May 28, 2020 at 7:11 am
What?, San Ramon
on May 28, 2020 at 7:11 am
18 people like this

We did everything asked of us... It is now time to open up our town! Completely! Use good judgment, distance, wash hands! Live on!


Long Term Resident
Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 7:36 am
Long Term Resident, Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 7:36 am
14 people like this

I listened into the webinar and came away unimpressed. He talked about using science and data to drive decisions, but did not provide any examples. Instead he used vague terms like “increased”, “larger number of cars”, etc. Interestingly, he encouraged us all to go get the free test and even do it multiple times. They seem to be driving towards arbitrary numbers/targets and won’t take action till they get there. These are not the folks who should be making the decision to shut down our economy.


Rick
Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 8:06 am
Rick, Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 8:06 am
13 people like this

One man's (or Dr's) data is another man's (Dr's) improbable, unconvincing and implausible hair ball. That's all we hear - "DATA" - but when John Muir Dr's "experienced more suicide deaths than coronavirus [sic] deaths since the shelter-in-place order was enacted" and the CoCoCo Health Officer says "he has not seen hard data" - how hard is it to get accurate data from the largest hospital/Dr. staff in the county - unless you don't want it? Power, in the wrong hands, like CA (Gov Gav) and CoCoCo has, and will continue to be, proven to be unwarranted and very dangerous to the long term physical, mental and economic health of our county, state and nation.


Ralph Kramden
Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 9:07 am
Ralph Kramden, Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 9:07 am
12 people like this

This is the guy who said CoCoCo would have 2,000-14,000 DEATHS from Covid. So far? THIRTY SEVEN - in a county of 1,150,000+. That's .00003. He has zero credibility.


Bob
Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 7:46 pm
Bob, Danville
on May 28, 2020 at 7:46 pm
7 people like this

I wanted to like Mark's comment but system won't let me? Is this censorship? If we agree with Mark its time to end this overreaction of a shutdown, seems we can't voice our opinion. Totally agree with Mark.


Malcolm Hex
San Ramon
on May 29, 2020 at 1:21 am
Malcolm Hex, San Ramon
on May 29, 2020 at 1:21 am
8 people like this

Hey Ralph, don’t stop there. You’re governor said the following on March 18, 2020 in a letter to President Trump:

“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period,” Newsom wrote in a letter sent to President Donald Trump.

Web Link

Newsom is nothing but an ass.


Dickita P
Alamo
on May 29, 2020 at 12:56 pm
Dickita P, Alamo
on May 29, 2020 at 12:56 pm
2 people like this

Glad to see that 2 months of quiet alone time has only increased the bloodcurdling psychopathy of these message boards. Can't wait to see what the winter is like on here:

"HA! Newsom said the hospitals would be overflowing - but the line for the ER was BARELY out the door when I arrived, and I can still see some daylight from my cot on the floor! What a moron!"


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