Sacramento County officials are hoping that the recent move to close indoor dining, bars and other social hubs will lead to a decline in COVID-19 cases soon.
But for now, they’re trying to stem the rising numbers. Over the past seven days Sacramento has reported an average of 247 new cases, compared to 88 over the same time period a month ago. That includes 400 new cases reported Tuesday, a new single-day high.
“I think it takes time,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye. “It’s just been two or three weeks now since we implemented the re-closures. There is some early indication that maybe there is a reduction in the cases, but it’s too early to tell.”
For now, she said officials are watching the trends closely and working with hospitals, businesses and community groups to get the numbers in line with state standards. Hitting those marks will allow Sacramento to consider reopening schools and some sectors of the economy again.
Sacramento County is failing three of the state’s six measures: transmission, positivity rate and intensive care unit capacity.
Kasirye says the county is issuing guidance to hospitals and businesses to try to get people to take precautions. CapRadio talked to her about some of those efforts:
On what the state’s metrics tell us
I think it's important for us to be able to follow them as well, because these are indicators, along with what we're following up on our dashboard, of how we're doing in the community. And as was stated recently, we have to be off of the monitoring list before we will be allowed to have in-person schools open.
When you look at our case rate, we are getting quite a number of new cases on a daily basis … At the beginning of this whole process, we were getting maybe 10 cases a day. And now it’s up to 200 a day. So we still have a lot of work to do. If we can get that down, then I think we will be able to also get below the thresholds.
On where cases are being traced to
We're seeing clusters in different places. Some of them are offices, some of them grocery stores. We're also seeing clusters again in long-term care facilities now that it is spreading more in the community. So it is all kinds of places.
In some of the workplaces where it's very difficult to maintain the social distancing … one of the things we are working on is making sure that we have guidance documents available to these workplaces, and working with them to make sure that they're actually following their protocols, both for their employees and if they have clients, that they're able to do it for their clients as well.
The other thing we're doing is general education, again, to remind people about things that they can do to protect themselves and also to remind people that if they have symptoms, even if they're mild symptoms, that they need to stay away from others. Because often that's what we're finding, is somebody had some mild symptoms and felt that they still needed to go to work. So that puts others at risk.
On how people can stay safe
It's very important that all of us realize that each of us needs to play our part. And the message again, of things that people need to do when they are leaving their homes, is the social distancing, using the face coverings and hand sanitizing. And we're emphasizing it wherever we can. We're working with community-based agencies to help us put that message out. And also working with businesses because they can help us in enforcing this with clients who come to their businesses, to make sure that people are following the same guidelines.
We are still hearing about people who had Fourth of July parties, so I think that's a message that we still need to emphasize. We still hear about people going, especially on the weekends, to the lake and getting together in rafts. And I think we just need to continue emphasizing, because the group that is being impacted the most are the young adults, and those are the ones that we're seeing out on the river, are the ones who are going out and having these parties.
On hospital capacity
So the hospitals each have a plan in place for being able to surge. And so they are implementing that plan. And basically that means that beds or spaces that they didn't normally use as ICU beds are now being converted into ICU beds. And they're also making sure that they have adequate staffing.
It's hovered around 13, 14% for quite a while now. I am concerned because I think it is one of the indications that we have a lot of disease, a lot of transmission occurring in the community, and we need to get a handle on this. We need to reduce the numbers, because if they stay at this rate, then that means that people who are vulnerable are more at risk. And now actually we are beginning to see people, more people who are less than age 65 who don't have underlying conditions who are getting very sick and also ending up dying.
Anybody can get it and we're all at risk. So we need to take measures to protect ourselves. It's not just the very old. Now, anybody can actually get sick. And so it's important that we protect everybody.
On the testing supply chain
So our testing is definitely still prioritizing those that have symptoms, but we are still making available testing for anybody, especially those who have been exposed or people who feel that the being may be at risk and need to get tested.
We actually remind people that gatherings are not really encouraged at this time. So probably if you are doing it because you want to visit your friends or relatives, we suggest that you put that off. But especially for situations that are work-related or if you feel like you have been exposed or have been informed that you have been exposed, this would be the highest priority. But we are still making the tests available, especially in the community for others as well who might want to get the test.
On preventing spread in communities disproportionately impacted by coronavirus
So that that's been a bit of a challenge, especially if there is a language barrier. So one of the things we're working with right now is working with community-based agencies to be able to get the message out and also to find out what the needs are. Because sometimes we might find out that the reason that somebody is not able to isolate is maybe they have two young children in the home that need to be taken care of, or they're concerned that their family might not get the food or whatever else they need. So it's important for us to be able to find out what the needs are and make sure that we're able to meet those needs. And also, if they're not able to isolate at home, look for alternatives for isolation so that they can do it safely.
Right now, it's the Latinx and Hispanic community. And I think part of that might be because they do tend to be in multigenerational households. They also, many of them do work in essential businesses where it might be difficult for them to take time off or it might be difficult for them to be able to social distance at work. So we're working on all of these to, one, get the message out to them, two, to be able to make testing available, and then, three, see what the needs are that are preventing them from being able to appropriately follow the instructions that we're giving them.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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