Contra Costa County District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen meet with residents virtually for her annual State of the County address on Thursday, during which time she also briefly covered the various accomplishments and setbacks that occurred in her district over the past year.
Hosted online by the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce, Andersen's address largely focused on the local response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and reviewed how District 2 (which includes San Ramon, Danville and Alamo) has fared against the virus.
While topics mostly related to COVID-19 issues, addressing health tips, trouble areas, health order violation fines and homeless care, later in the address Andersen also covered some non-pandemic related issues such as the census and upcoming election.
"Hopefully you are all out there wearing your masks or you have it with you so that when you are within six feet of someone you're going to pop your mask on," Andersen said during the roughly hour-long speech.
Andersen started her address with some facts and figures on the virus, which showed that the entire region is still very much in the throes of the pandemic.
As of Friday, a total of 7,670 coronavirus cases and 119 related deaths have been documented in Contra Costa County. (Andersen's figures showed figures the day before however the most up-to-date information is available from [www.coronavirus.cchealth.org Contra Costa Health Services.)
The seven-day average of new infections has dipped slightly in recent days, with the average number hitting 125 cases a day compared to the high of 203 daily cases reported on Sunday.
Of the total number of cases, according to CCHS, 66 have occurred in Alamo, 136 in Danville and 170 in San Ramon. Two COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the San Ramon Valley, with one occurring in Danville and one in San Ramon.
The increasing rate at which tests are coming up positive is also a particular area of concern according to Andersen, a rate that has steadily risen since the pandemic began.
"Anytime (the percent positive rate) is above 5% we are concerned, just a month ago we were down in the 3-4% range. Now as of yesterday we are at 8.2%," she said -- as of Friday according to CCHS that number hit 8.7%.
The key to bringing these numbers down and keeping the county healthy going forward is quick and accurate testing, Andersen said -- adding that while the county is doing well in terms of the overall number of tests it administers, the current time in which some testing sites take to run them is less than ideal.
"When you have tests that don't come back to you for 12-14 days, it's really, really ineffective. For our health officer, the No. 1 priority is getting the tests turned around so we can have effective tracking," she said, adding that some facilities do have the capacity to run tests within two to three days.
Batch testing is one option the county is looking at to increase the speed of testing, according to Andersen, which is effectively a way to run one test on a group of individuals.
Hospitalization rates have also steadily increased according to Andersen, who noted that in June the average number of hospitalizations fluctuated between 35-40 people, while today's numbers have shot up to 110.
Further delving into how the virus affects certain demographics, Andersen highlighted that 41% of all cases affect Latinx residents despite this group only making up 26% of the population.
"In our Latinx population we are seeing a disproportionate number of cases and it's something we are working on both with our county outreach being bilingual but also increasing our testing centers in those communities where there is a higher population," she said.
Breaking down infection rates by age, Andersen noted that while younger residents account for the majority of cases, it is often older people who suffer the most severe outcomes.
Pointing out one trouble area in particular, Andersen added that countywide 70% of deaths have occurred in long term living facilities, however these facilities currently make up less than 7% of total cases.
"Initially there was a thought that younger people don't even really get this virus (and) they don't have to worry. Sadly that is not the case. Post-Memorial Day you can see that it is the 19-30-year-olds that are commuting down with COVID most rapidly," Andersen said.
"And of course it's not just them that get it they can easily spread it to their parents, their grandparents, people who are more vulnerable," she said.
Addressing another vulnerable population, Andersen said the county's efforts to house the homeless during the pandemic has gone well. Through its participation in California's Project Roomkey Contra Costa County currently has 568 homeless individuals housed in motel rooms throughout the county. She added that to date there have been no coronavirus related deaths in county homeless shelters.
Administrative fines for health order violations are another county effort to enforce health standards, according to Andersen, who said that while the move may have been controversial, it's a more effective way to enforce health orders.
"This is controversial," Andersen acknowledged. "(However) it was not something where I honestly believe that any of our cities, and certainly I believe the city of San Ramon, (are) planning to drive up and down the streets looking for mask violators and issuing tickets."
While issues surrounding the coronavirus dwarfed other issues during Thursday's address, Andersen did take the time to cover some other topics of interest to the community, including the Board of Supervisors new half-cent sales tax measure.
Andersen was the only supervisor to vote against putting the tax measure on the ballot, vehemently opposing the measure due to the current economic crisis brought about by the pandemic.
"I do not think in the middle of a pandemic, with so many families reeling because of the economic impact of this virus, that we should be putting another half-cent sales tax burden upon families. It is one of the most regressive forms of taxation," she said.
Staying on the topic of taxes, Andersen also briefly addressed San Ramon's proposed CityWalk Master Plan -- which includes include the development of up to 4,500 multi-family dwelling units in the heart of the Bishop Ranch property -- saying she is reviewing whether or not the county will need to "readjust as we have previously our tax-share agreement to acknowledge that these are in fact residential units."
The U.S. census is currently underway and Andersen also took some time to briefly address the vital importance of the undertaking.
Not only does the census allocate the number of representatives each state is allowed in Congress, but it also decides how much funding each region receives from state and federal sources.
"This happens every 10 years and is critical in the money we get back in our county," she said, adding that every resident who doesn't get counted will equate to $2,000 in lost revenue for the county.
Andersen also mentioned a protest for defunding the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office that was held outside of her home last week, stating that she believes in combating racism and improving local policing, however defunding is not the best course of action to achieve these ends.
"The majority of us on the Board of Supervisors recognize that to achieve the issue of addressing racism to create better community policing you don't necessarily have to defund the sheriff," she said.
Adding that she and the board support Black Lives Matter, Andersen said that she is particularly proud of the county's Racial Justice Oversight Body, which strives to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
The county is also about to begin the process of reviewing its roughly $4 billion budget, which is expected to see approximately $32 million in cuts resulting from the pandemic. Of the total funds approximately 16%, or $656 million, goes toward "public protection," Andersen said.