Updated 6:21 p.m.
Sacramento County officials are closing down some indoor businesses for the next three weeks to combat a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations. They’re also grappling with a break in the supply chain for test kits and a lack of multilingual health workers.
The county released a new order Thursday, following an announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom that any county on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list for three consecutive days would have to shut these businesses down. Sacramento is one of 19 counties on the list. While not on the list, Yolo County is voluntarily following the new rules.
As of Thursday, Sacramento County had confirmed 3,559 COVID-19 cases and 69 deaths. About half of those deaths were linked to congregate care facilities, such as a nursing home or a psychiatric treatment center.
There were 109 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on Thursday — a more than seven-fold increase since June 1, when there were only 14 hospitalizations. The percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the virus is also on the rise.
Lack Of COVID-19 Resources For Spanish Speakers
In a press conference Thursday, Sacramento County health services director Dr. Peter Beilenson, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and several leaders from Sacramento’s Latinx community expressed concern about the high rates of COVID-19 in communities of color. Hispanic people make up just under a quarter of Sacramento County’s population but 34% of current cases.
“They’re not getting COVID because they’re having backyard parties, they’re getting COVID because they’re our essential workers,” said Rachel Rios, executive director of La Familia Counseling Center.
There’s been a lack of COVID-19 information and testing for people who primarily speak Spanish, she said. The counseling center recently started offering tests once a week.
“They want to be tested, they want to make sure they aren’t infecting other people,” she said. “It has to be a community effort, by all of us.”
She also pointed out the lack of Spanish speakers doing contact tracing, or tracking down anyone who might have been exposed to someone who tests positive.
“Those contact tracers need to be able to talk to people, so when they get the results they can also give them instructions about what to do, and to stay home,” she said. “Without that, we’re not able to stop the spread.”
The county has teamed up with the Sierra Health Foundation to recruit multilingual residents who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19 to do contact tracing, Beilenson said 30 workers are being trained, and another 30 will soon be hired.
He said testing capacity has expanded across the board, from 100 a week at the start of the pandemic to 16,000 a week now. But it’s slowed down significantly, due to a break in the supply chain.
“The liquid used to transport the virus tests to the lab is not available, and that’s keeping us from doing as many tests as we would like,” he said. “We’re actually stymied now. We’d love to be at La Familia more than one day a week, obviously.”
He’s still encouraging anyone who wants to get a test to do so.
Younger People Linked To New Cases
County officials throughout the state are linking the spike in cases to people not complying with public health guidelines, such as wearing a face covering and staying six feet away from others.
The rise in hospitalizations began about a week after Sacramento County moved into phase two of reopening on May 22, which included dine-in at restaurants, small business shopping, public transportation and outdoor museums and theatres.
On June 12, Sacramento County gave the green light to bars, wineries, movie theatres and fitness centers, among other businesses.
Beilenson has said many of the cases originated at birthday parties, graduation celebrations and other at-home gatherings. He also said there’s been a “huge sea change” in the last few weeks in terms of younger people getting sick.
“About 70% of the new cases are related to 20 to 50 year olds,” he said. “Compared to what it was before, in the last three or four weeks, it’s a gigantic increase.”
Over 1,300 cases in Sacramento County are among people between the ages of 20 and 39. While younger, healthier people are less likely to become sick from coronavirus, they can spread it to older, more vulnerable people.
Many Sacramentans have voiced concern about people gathering in close proximity at bars. Beilenson said the county is relying on teams of reopening navigators to educate business owners on safe practices, rather than calling in police.
Randall Selland, executive chef and owner of Selland Family Restaurants, said he’d like to see more enforcement from the county, especially toward bars that are not requiring face coverings and social distancing.
“So there’s us that follow the rules, and those that don’t,” he said. “Basically bars can get away with a lot of stuff, but we get lumped into whatever happens with them. This new shutdown is going to be interesting. We’re trying to survive right now.”
Some county health officials have cautioned against reopening bars and restaurants at all, as that might give people the impression that they can gather in large groups at home.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.