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Stanislaus County has the state's highest increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations
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Stanislaus County officials are concerned that if the community doesn't do something to stop the growing spread of COVID-19 cases businesses may be force to close again.

Stanislaus County is one of the counties the state is now monitoring because of concerns about the growing number of cases, testing positive rate and the number of individuals hospitalized.

"Stanislaus County, as we sit here today and receive this update, is one of the hot spots for coronavirus in the entire state of California," said Stanislaus County CEO Jody Hayes at Tuesday's Board of Supervisor's meeting. "It's here and that requires us to act. That requires us to be very mindful of how we continue to roll out opening our local economy and so forth. We've opened up significant numbers of businesses and so forth and what you're going to continue to hear from us is that our goal is to keep them open."

From June 19 to Friday, Stanislaus County has seen the number of COVID-19 cases grow by 467, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency.

"We've known for well over a week now that we've had significantly increasing numbers," Hayes said. "Just a steady trend of increased spread of coronavirus in Stanislaus County. And so, we have been working hard to understand what that means, where it comes from and what policy issues may need to be considered in Stanislaus County to adequately respond to that."

Stanislaus County Public Health Director Dr. Julie Vaishampayan said the area has been seeing increases in cases since re-opening of businesses began on May 20, but that the alarming growth rate really has started since June 12, when the county was granted a variance to open more businesses.

The California Department of Public Health has issued guidelines for when local jurisdictions can re-open various parts of the economy. To qualify, counties must attest that hospitalization and test positivity rates are stable or declining; that they have a significant level of preparedness with testing, contact tracing, PPE and hospital surge; and that they have adequate plans related to county-wide containment.

This includes stable hospitalizations on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5%; or no more than 20 hospitalizations on any single day over the past 14 days. Counties also need to show a 14-day cumulative positive incidence of less than 25 cases per 100,000 residents; or testing positivity over the past 7 days of less than 8%.  

Currently, Stanislaus County has a rate of 107.6 cases per 100,000 residents and a 7-day average test positivity rate of 10.1 percent, which is the second highest in the state, said Dr. Vaishampayan. Stanislaus County has the state's highest increase in hospitalizations with a three-day average rate of 28.2.

"This is not good and we are going in the wrong direction," Dr. Vaishampayan said. "If we cannot change our trend in any way, we may lose our variance."

A loss of the variance could mean that businesses allowed to re-open on June 12 would be forced to close again. This includes campgrounds, RV parks and outdoor recreation; hotels for tourism; cardrooms, satellite wagering sites and racetracks; family entertainment centers; restaurants, bars, and wineries; fitness facilities; and museums, galleries, zoos and aquariums.

Dr. Vaishampayan said the easiest ways for the community to help slow the spread of coronavirus is for people to avoid gathering individuals not in their household, social distance at least six feet when out in public and wear a face covering when out in public.

"This is the way we are going to turn the curve without slowing businesses," she said.

As of Friday, Stanislaus County has tested 27,370 people, with 1,940 testing positive and 25,430 testing negative. The overall testing positivity rate is at 7.1 percent.

Of the 1,940 cases, 446 are presumed active and of those, 114 are currently hospitalized. Thirty-five of those individuals in the hospital are in ICU units. To date, Stanislaus County has seen 38 people die from COVID-19.

The availability of hospital beds has dropped to 44 percent and ICU bed availability has fallen to 41 percent. Stanislaus County has 80 percent of the ventilators available for use.

The age groups with the highest rate of infections are those under 50 years. Those under 20 years old make up 14 percent of the county's cases. Those people between the ages of 21 to 30 years make up 20 percent of the cases and those 31 to 40 years account for 19 percent of the infections. Those people between the ages of 41 to 50 years represent 17 percent of the cases. Those 51 to 60 years account for 14 percent of the cases and those between 61 to 70 years represent 7 percent of the cases. People between the ages of 71 to 80 years and 81 to 90 years each represent 4 percent of the cases. People 91 years and older account for 2 percent of the cases.