Contra Costa County will likely remain in the state's orange tier of COVID-19 restrictions until June 15, when California will lift restrictions statewide, health officials told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Adjusted overall case rates are about twice as high as what's necessary to get into the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state's reopening criteria. County health officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said hospitalizations have gone up recently among two notable groups.
"It's almost exclusively among unvaccinated, or partially-vaccinated, persons," Farnitano said. "In the final weeks of April, we were running about 20 to 30 patients hospitalized each day, on average, in our local hospitals. In the last two weeks it's climbed over 30 into the mid-30s."
Farnitano said the county is still averaging one death per day in hospitals among the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
"This is just a really clear reminder of how important it is to get vaccinated and protect yourself," he said.
Farnitano also said every "variant of concern" has appeared in Contra Costa, including the new variant from India. The U.K. strain, which spreads easier and causes more severe illness, is rapidly becoming the most common strain in California.
But he said the good news is all of the vaccines are effective in fighting other variants.
"The bad news is that, if you're not vaccinated, COVID is becoming more dangerous and more deadly as time goes on," Farnitano said. "And children are still at risk."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting this week to formally sign off on recommendations. Farnitano said the county could open vaccines to that age group at all county sites by Thursday or Friday.
Contra Costa County will also open 18 new school-based clinics, with details to be announced soon. The first clinic will open by May 18 and be available to the entire community at local middle and high school sites for eight weeks.
"Mom and Dad, don't put it off," Farnitano said. "Every day counts."
All sites in the county are now taking walk-ins, though people can still make appointments at CCHealth.org or by calling the vaccination help center at 833-829-2626.