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COVID-19 dashboards will soon include case data that specifies how many cases area groupings have

In a briefing to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Thursday afternoon Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase outlined new coronavirus case data and updated the supervisors on the current challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As of July 22 at 9:30 p.m., the county reported a total of 2,300 COVID-19 cases, with 1,049 active, 1,229 recovered and 22 deaths. 

Cases by city

Notably, Mase shared information about a COVID-19 case breakdown by zip code, outlining a more specific picture of the case numbers in individual cities, or groupings of cities. Since the start of the pandemic, county residents have been inquiring about a more in-depth look at where virus cases are popping up. While the county health department’s virus portal has divided cases up by broad county areas, like north county (Windsor to Cloverdale), central county (Cotati to Santa Rosa) and so on, the cases are now broken down a bit further.

In north county, Windsor and Healdsburg (ZIP codes 95448 and 95492) have had 154 positive cases. In Geyserville and Cloverdale (ZIP codes 95425 and 95441), there have been 34 positive cases. 

In west county, Sebastopol and west county (ZIP codes 94922, 94923, 95444, 95464, 95472) have had 33 cases, and the Russian River area has had 19 cases. 

Many of the county’s positive cases have been in areas with larger, more dense populations, with Santa Rosa making up 45% of the county’s case count, with 997 cases. Penngrove and Petaluma have 408 cases, Sonoma Valley has 177, Cotati and Rohnert Park have 173. Unspecified areas, designated as ‘Other’ in the information Mase presented, have 22 cases and 197 are under investigation still. 

Mase said that this information, along with additional age categories, expanded information on virus transmission source, expanded clinical and testing information and community health trends will be added to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard

Test results so far

Mase said that the county has seen an uptick in positive virus cases associated with people who have contracted the virus while in groups — specifically while at events related to Father’s Day, Fourth of July and other gatherings, like weddings and funerals. 

In the past two weeks, Mase said that 611 of the 849 new cases have been evaluated for exposure. She said the majority of those evaluated were infected due to close contact.

“Amongst those cases that are due to close contact, 47% had household contact, so still we’re seeing a lot of transmission of COVID in households. Eighteen percent became infected at their workplace — this is significantly greater than what we were seeing before,” Mase said. “Six percent had both workplace and household exposure, 14% were exposed in congregate care, 14% were exposed to COVID-19 at gatherings … that is very important to note because this is a place where we can definitely make an impact by having people not attend gatherings unless they’re your own household members.”

She noted that when people have a gathering with people outside of those who live in their house, they’re then opening themselves up to being exposed to everyone that those people see as well.

Challenges

Mase said that the county is again facing supply and demand issues — with testing availability not meeting public demand, and a delay in getting test results back. She noted that these issues inhibit the county health department from contact tracing as well as they could be, but that they’re largely issues that counties everywhere are seeing. 

“We are doing several things in Sonoma County to try to mitigate these problems — one is to go to 24/7 staffing of our public health lab so that we can run a lot more tests in the 24-hour period. Right now our lab is really only open during the daytime hours … we’re trying to staff the lab so we can be (open 24 hours),” Mase said.

Once the lab staffing capacity increases, the number of tests that can be administered and processed will also increase, she said, and then the county will be able to reopen its Chanate drive-thru testing location. 

“I see that happening in the next two weeks,” Mase said. 

Another step in addressing the county’s challenges relating to COVID-19 is establishing a location for people in skilled nursing facilities to recover from the virus, rather than people staying in their nursing facility and increasing the chances of virus spread.

“Skilled nursing and residential care outbreaks are of great concern right now. COVID-19 cases have included 143 residents and 89 staff in skilled nursing facilities and residential senior care homes since March 1. The majority of these cases have occurred this last month,” Mase said.

Sixteen of the county’s virus deaths have been from people in this setting.

“Our immediate priorities are to designate a COVID-positive facility where we can transfer all individuals who are positive, as soon as they’re positive. Staffing has been a really big issue because, as staff members get ill, they’re no longer able to work in these settings and the facilities are far understaffed as a result,” she said. 

The county is also working to designate a place to house people who they think have been exposed or are expected to have the virus, since everyone is currently being housed together.

Disproportionate cases

When it comes to positive cases in Sonoma County’s Latinx population, Mase referred to the case numbers as a “terrible disproportionate disparity.”

While Latinx people make up 27.2% of the county’s population, they account for 67% of the county’s COVID-19 cases. Mase said that, in an effort to combat the disproportionate spread of the virus, the county is trying to perform targeted pop-up testing with the goal of identifying cases among the Latinx population. 

She noted that while increased testing will likely lead to increased case numbers, it will also help the county perform contact tracing and isolate those who may be exposed to the virus or who may have it and be asymptomatic. 

When asked by Fourth District Supervisor James Gore how she feels about the viewpoint that the county should only be imposing restrictions on people who are more likely to be permanently impacted by COVID-19, like the high-risk and the elderly, Mase said that the goal of the county should be promoting mitigation measures among everyone, since everyone can get and spread the virus. She also noted that, since the coronavirus is so new, very little is known about the lasting impacts that the virus may have on those who get it.

“It’s a novel coronavirus — we’ll know more in the coming few years,” Mase said of the long-term impacts, reiterating that the focus should be on minimizing overall spread of the virus. 

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