Contra Costa Health Services officials are actively evaluating whether the county should postpone its current reopening timeline, after citing recent data showing a sharp increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region.
Citing significant increases in both the overall number of reported cases and hospitalizations (CCHS on Friday documented a 42% increase in coronavirus related hospitalizations over the previous seven days), county officials said they may need to push out the July 1 timeline for reopening businesses and activities such as indoor dining, bars, gyms, hotels and some personal care services, including nail salons and tattoo parlors.
That move would need to be done in order to flatten the climbing number of cases and alleviate stresses felt by hospitals, according to CCHS officials.
Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday recommended Contra Costa County and seven others keep bars closed in their jurisdictions due to high increases of COVID-19. The governor also ordered all bars to close in seven other counties, including Los Angeles and Imperial, due a "rising spread" of cases.
"There is concern that these increases may lead to a surge in very ill people that could overwhelm the local health care system," CCHS officials said on Friday.
"We realize many people are eager to resume normal activities. However, if we adjust the reopening timeline, it will be because we have a chance to prevent the pandemic from getting out of control in the county," they said.
"Contra Costa’s data are consistent with increases in COVID-19 activity now being experienced in communities across the state and the nation," they added.
County officials have documented a rise in the seven-day average number of newly identified COVID-19 cases, which has grown from 39 per day to 68 per day. This has also been accompanied by an increase in the rate at which COVID-19 cases come back positive, which county officials say suggest that the increases are not simply due to more testing but indicates "a true increase in community spread."
They encouraged all residents to get tested, as increased testing is a critical part of the community's efforts to both slow the local spread of the virus and continue to reopen local businesses.
The overall rate of young people testing positive is also increasing, according to county officials, who reported that June so far has seen 55% of new cases in people 40 years old and under -- compared to 38% for that age group in April.
"It’s a sign that younger people are playing a major role in driving the increase in new cases and potentially infecting vulnerable individuals. This highlights why it’s important for everyone to avoid social gatherings, observe physical distancing and wear masks or face coverings when around others," county officials said.
The main concern that these increases bring for health care professionals throughout the county is that it may lead to a surge in very ill people that the local health care system would be unable to handle.
As of Friday, a total of 2,676 confirmed coronavirus cases and 73 related deaths have been recorded in Contra Costa County -- based on 67,423 tests.
According to county health officials, June 19 saw the single largest day for reported cases of coronavirus, with a record-breaking 101 new cases documented -- the previous highest day was recorded on June 8 when 67 cases were reported. This record was nearly broken on Thursday when 99 cases were reported.
In the San Ramon Valley, Alamo documented 36 positive cases of coronavirus, Danville had 41 and San Ramon had 57, as of Friday. Richmond has documented the largest number of cases in the county with 636 reported.
With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, CCHS officials reminded residents that the healthiest and safest option is to observe a physical social distance of at least six feet from each other -- and to wear face coverings whenever venturing outside of their home.
Residents are also advised to wash their hands frequently, and anyone who is feeling sick should stay home.