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Officials urge residents to help prevent another holiday spread of COVID-19
COVID graphic

The state health department and local officials are urging residents to keep their Labor Day celebrations small and safe as they hope to avoid another surge of COVID-19 cases.

Stanislaus County recorded significant increases of COVID-19 cases after the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays and are hoping to avoid another repeat. By Memorial Day weekend Stanislaus County had recorded 116 COVID-19 cases. In the first week after Memorial Day, Stanislaus County recorded 161 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 277. A week after that brought another 169 cases, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. From there, the number of cases continued to grow rapidly upward. On July 4, the county had recorded 1,400 cases. In the week after the Fourth of July, the county had 1,818 COVID-19 cases.

"This is Labor Day weekend when we get to celebrate America's workforce," said Stanislaus County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Kristin Olsen. "But it is so important that we in Stanislaus County do this safely and smartly. We've been working so hard to be able to re-open our schools and businesses and move out of that purple tier and into the red tier, so that we can do more of that.

"After Memorial Day we had over a 200 percent increase in COVID-19 cases," Olsen said. "Over a 40 percent increase after the Fourth of July. We simply can't afford to have that happen again after this Labor Day weekend. So, celebrate, enjoy your families, but do so responsibly. Don't gather in large, mass gatherings, practice social distance and wear your masks."

As of Friday, Stanislaus County has reported 15,162 positive COVID-19 cases and 282 deaths. Of the total cases, 778 are presumed active, according to the SCHSA.

The California Department of Public Health launched a bilingual public awareness campaign on the dangers of spreading COVID-19 in social gatherings, especially during the Labor Day weekend.

The campaign introduces sinister characters, “El Covid” and “The Rona,” who sneak into parties and family gatherings where they spread COVID-19.

“We are all tempted to get together with family and friends for cookouts and Labor Day celebrations, but caving into that temptation could turn deadly, especially for our parents, grandparents and friends who might be more susceptible to the virus,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Acting State Public Health Officer. “El Covid and The Rona are the evil twins who could surprisingly wreck our lives – but only if we let them have the power. The safest thing to do this holiday weekend is to celebrate with people who live with you, but if you do gather, wear a mask, keep physical distance and keep gatherings small and brief to reduce your risk.”

“El Covid” and “The Rona” use edgy, dark humor to grab the attention of Latinos and African Americans between the ages of 20 and 50 – two groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The campaign includes English and Spanish TV, radio, social medial and digital platform ads. It will be followed by print ads later this month. The campaign focuses on areas with higher COVID-19 cases among Latinos and African Americans, including Southern California, the Central Valley, the Sacramento Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast and the Bay Area.

Latinos and African Americans are disproportionately represented among Californians who contract COVID-19 and die from the disease. They are at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19 due to the increased prevalence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other underlying conditions. Social determinants of health, factors related to housing, economic stability and occupation, are likely contributing to these disproportionate rates. In the Latino population, the rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths among adults has escalated in the last two months. Latinos make up about 40 percent of the California population, but nearly 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases and 48 percent of deaths.

“Families want to be together on the weekends and share their homes and food – but getting close is exactly how El Covid spreads,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, an infectious disease epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health. “This is a stark reminder that saving a life could be as easy as wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and washing your hands.”

The new campaign is made possible with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funds totaling $5 million. The concept was designed by Gallegos United, a Latino advertising agency in Huntington Beach, which partnered with Burrell Communications for outreach to the African American community.