Stanislaus County continues to improve in lowering the incidence of coronavirus cases, county supervisors learned last week.
At its meeting on Feb. 2, supervisors received an update on the status of cases, vaccinations and hospitalizations. The county has been seeing a decrease in cases and hospitalizations in the last few weeks, reported Chelsea Donnell, an epidemiologist with Health Services Agency gave recent trends of the COVID-19.
“Perhaps we’re trending in the right direction,” she said.
She reported that the highest incidence is still in the Hispanic ethnic group. The county reached its peak among COVID cases in the 25- to 34-year-old category. She said the problem has been driven by that age group because of work and gathering habits.
Stanislaus County remains in the purple tier, based on case and hospitalization rates and other factors. During the week of Jan. 24-30, the county saw 14.2 percent positive rate of those tested. The state also factors in testing volume compared to the state median. She said testing remains important for those who believe they were exposed to persons with the virus or anyone exhibiting symptoms. Those testing numbers have a direct impact on how quickly the state can relax the county into a lesser tier.
Richard Murdoch, assistant director of the Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services (OES), gave a progress report on the county’s quest to vaccinate residents. During the week of Jan. 25, 5,500 vaccinations were delivered for first and second doses. So far, the Stanislaus County public health department has received 41,200 vaccination doses, with 19,660 distributed to community partners and the remainder offered through public health clinics.
As of Feb. 2, the county had immunized 16,140 persons. Murdoch noted there has been a decline in the number of persons being tested. The county is stressing that appointments are not necessary and the importance of early detection through testing. Results are turned around in less than three days. County testing sites are in Modesto, Turlock and the west side. Vaccinations are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Murdoch said the MyTurn app is where persons can schedule vaccination appointments. County officials are waiting to hear from the state about possible changes to the county’s tier, which is currently purple, the most restrictive tier. Murdoch noted that the state is working to contract with Blue Shield to track and administer statewide vaccinations. The county is waiting for news.
County CEO Jody Hayes told supervisors that the county received word that it is eligible for $26 million from the state to help in the vaccination effort but did not receive word on how it may be spent.
“We will put it to excellent use, continuing the strategy of trying to vaccinate this community as quickly as possible given the supplies that we have,” said Hayes.
Chief Eric Klevmyer gave an update on the county’s vaccination clinics. First doses are being administered at CSUS Stanislaus in Turlock on Wednesdays, the Gladys Lemmons Senior Center in Oakdale on Thursdays and Creekside Middle School in Patterson on Fridays. Second doses are being given Fridays at the Modesto Centre Plaza. Second doses are administered at least 28 days after the first shot. The county has created a mobile vaccination pilot program which started this week at the King-Kennedy Center in Modesto. Klevmyer said the mobile clinic is intended to reach those who don’t have a primary care doctor and who can’t readily travel to immunization sites.
Donnell reported on the county’s schools transmission data base reporting system started in the school system in October. The county has seen 1,978 COVID cases in the school system with 52 percent among staff members. Cases in schools went up with the community’s rise. Of all the school cases, 21 percent resulted in quarantines, while 31 percent of staff cases and 19 percent of student cases went to school while they were symptomatic. Schools were shut down 31 times because of exposure. The data base revealed that 1.3 percent of school cases were exposed at school.
Health Services Agency Director Mary Ann Lilly touched on the state’s new guidelines for reopening schools. Most districts in the county now offer in-person classrooms two days a week after submitting an acceptable reopening plan. Junior and senior high schools will not be reopening until the county reaches the red tier.
“We’re moving in the right direction. It’s great that we’re now beginning the big vaccine initiative but we are not out of this,” said Lilly. “It’s really important that the community continues to practice the cautions that we’ve been talking about for so many months now.”
Supervisor Terry Withrow expressed concern that many school districts did not submit a reopening plan when the county was last lowered to the red tier.
“We had that opportunity at one point,” said Withrow. “All the schools had that opportunity and could still be open if they would have had a plan in place when we hit the red tier. I talked about that a lot.”
He said his blood boiled reading an article about the governor’s $2 billion grant for schools with some local district officials saying the money wouldn’t be enough money to cover testing for students.
“There is no reason for schools, for cost, to not open their schools,” said Withrow. “If that is the main reason if that’s what they’re going to hang their hat on – that they don’t have enough funding to open their schools for testing – I know that this board will in a heartbeat jump up to do whatever the schools need, if it’s just a dollar amount that they’re short that they can’t open. It’s just very discouraging to see quotes in the paper by school officials saying, well, we’re not sure that there will be enough to cover our costs so we can’t open our schools.”
He urged them to come to the supervisors for assistance.
“We’ll fill the gap somehow,” said Withrow.