Health of­fi­cer: ‘No rea­son’ to be­lieve coro­n­avirus will end soon

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Ses­tanovich ns­es­[email protected]­

As Solano County nears the first full week of its shel­ter-ath­ome or­der in re­sponse to the on­go­ing global coro­n­avirus pan­demic, County Health Of­fi­cer Dr. Bela Matyas de­liv­ered an update on how the county was re­spond­ing at the Board of Su­per­vi­sors’ Tues­day meet­ing.

To com­ply with so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines at the fed­eral, state and county lev­els, the meet­ing op­er­ated dif­fer­ently than it had in the past. It was closed to the pub­lic, the su­per­vi­sors sat far­ther apart than usual and mem­bers of the pub­lic were able to de­liver their com­ments through Cisco’s video­con­fer­enc­ing ap­pli­ca­tion We­bex.

Chair Erin Han­ni­gan re­marked that it was a “very try­ing time” that im­pacted ev­ery­one’s lives, and she did not ex­pect it to let up by April, May or even June. None­the­less, she said ev­ery­one could do their part in end­ing the spread by main­tain­ing the so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines.

“We have to be thought­ful of how we con­duct our­selves,” she said.

Matyas said the re­sponse has uti­lized peo­ple from sev­eral dif­fer­ent de­part­ments. As of Mon­day, Matyas said there had been 21 con­firmed cases of coro­n­avirus in Solano, seven of which had been re­ported that day. Of the 21, nine were ac­tive cases and 12 had fully re­cov­ered. Seven of those nine had been hos­pi­tal­ized.

One is­sue Matyas noted was that the county had “very lim­ited test­ing” but had been in close com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the

health care com­mu­nity since Amer­i­can evac­uees from the Wuhan re­gion were first brought to Travis Air Force Base in Fe­bru­ary.

“We are work­ing with hos­pi­tals to iden­tify those in­di­vid­u­als that should be pri­or­i­tized for test­ing so that we can stay on top of the out­break as it im­pacts our health care in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

Matyas echoed Han­ni­gan’s ear­lier as­ser­tion that the out­break will likely not be re­ced­ing any time soon.

“We are, in all like­li­hood, only at the very be­gin­ning of this out­break,” he said. “We have been deal­ing with the out­break here in our county only for about the past month. There is no rea­son epi­demi­o­log­i­cally to be­lieve it won’t be with us for an­other 4 to 6 months, pos­si­bly longer.”

Matyas said the more suc­cess­ful res­i­dents are with so­cial dis­tanc­ing, the virus may stay longer but be less im­pact­ful over time.

Among the is­sues cited by Matyas were lo­cal health care work­ers’ ac­cess to pro­tec­tive equip­ment like masks, face shields and gloves.

“We don’t have yet what would be de­scribed as short­ages in our county, but we’re all look­ing at the re­al­ity that if the pace of use con­tin­ues at the cur­rent pace, we will run into prob­lems go­ing for­ward,” he said. “We’re go­ing to have to re­con­sider how best to pro­tect our health care work­force from this dis­ease while they need to con­tinue to be avail­able to serve our com­mu­ni­ties.”

How­ever, Matyas was op­ti­mistic that the man­u­fac­tur­ing of such prod­ucts has in­creased and the county has been able to re­lease sup­plies from the state’s stock­pile.

“If that can get us through the gap where man­u­fac­tur­ing can catch up, then we should be OK,” he said.

An­other is­sue Matyas noted was the lim­i­ta­tions in test­ing, al­though he said the ca­pac­ity for test­ing was im­prov­ing.

“Our own lab­o­ra­tory has been able to dou­ble its test­ing ca­pac­ity in the past cou­ple of days,” he said.

How­ever, Matyas


the prob­lem was not tech­nol­ogy but the avail­abil­ity of re­sources to per­form the tests. He said county health work­ers were ask­ing the state ev­ery day for ad­di­tional ac­cess to test­ing equip­ment.

“We are do­ing much bet­ter than we were, but we’re not at a point yet where we can be freely test­ing ev­ery­body who we would like to test, never mind ev­ery­body who would like to be tested,” he said.

Matyas said the county was test­ing ap­prox­i­mately 20 to 25 peo­ple each day, which has in­creased to between 40 and 60, and was work­ing with hos­pi­tals to pro­vide more sam­ples to test more peo­ple on an on­go­ing ba­sis.

The county’s cur­rent fo­cus was to pro­tect health care cen­ters and se­niors.

“Those are, with­out a doubt, the in­di­vid­u­als at great­est risk of a bad out­come,” Matyas said. “It is a re­in­force­ment of what we al­ready know, which is that we have to pro­tect our frag­ile el­derly from ex­po­sure.”

To that end, Matyas said county health of­fi­cials were work­ing with longterm care, as­sisted liv­ing and mem­ory care fa­cil­i­ties to cre­ate a bar­rier between pub­lic work­ers and pa­tients.

Matyas also ad­dressed the county’s ap­proach to is­su­ing a stay-at-home or­der, not­ing that Solano, Napa and Sonoma coun­ties were “blind­sided” when the six other coun­ties is­sued “shel­ter-in-place” or­ders. He said part of the county’s ini­tial hes­i­ta­tion to is­sue such an or­der was partly due to the im­pact on in­di­vid­u­als most likely to be eco­nom­i­cally

harmed by it, in­clud­ing small-busi­ness own­ers and em­ploy­ees of the ser­vice econ­omy.

“Th­ese are also the same peo­ple we strug­gle with, with re­gard to health and eq­uity all the time,” he said. “En­hanc­ing that im­pact on them was not a triv­ial con­sid­er­a­tion, and it had to be part of our de­ci­sion-mak­ing.”

Matyas said he also dis­agreed with ap­ply­ing the ter­mi­nol­ogy of “shel­ter in place,” which is usu­ally re­served for ac­tive shooter in­ci­dents, chem­i­cal spills and other sce­nar­ios where leav­ing home is for­bid­den. Un­der a “shel­ter-at-home” or­der, peo­ple can leave to buy gro­ceries and get ex­er­cise, among other things. The or­der was fi­nally is­sued on March 18.

Dr. Christine Wu, deputy pub­lic health of­fi­cer, said the county was con­tin­u­ing to get guide­lines out to the com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing more links at its coro­n­avirus web­page at solanocoun­­n­avirus.asp. Among th­ese links are a dash­board track­ing the num­ber of cases since the virus was first iden­ti­fied in Solano.

Su­per­vi­sor Skip Thomson said he ap­pre­ci­ated the pre­sen­ta­tion de­spite feel­ing the roll­out of the county or­der took too long.

“How many more peo­ple got in­fected in those three days while we were fig­ur­ing out ‘shel­ter-in-place’ (or) ‘stay-at-home’ poli­cies?” he asked. “I ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­thing that was done, but I think it was too slow in get­ting it out.”

Thomson asked if the goal was to test ev­ery­one or

only those with symp­toms. Matyas said it was de­pen­dent on what was avail­able.

“While we have short­ages, we have to pri­or­i­tize and we have to make sure that we am­ply pro­tect the health care en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

As more test­ing be­came avail­able, Matyas said there would be much fewer lim­i­ta­tions but the county did not cur­rently have the ca­pac­ity to test ev­ery­one in the gen­eral pub­lic.

Su­per­vi­sor Jim Sper­ing asked how the coro­n­avirus dif­fered from past viruses. Matyas said the most chal­leng­ing as­pect was that it was a brand new virus.

“We have no his­tory of ex­po­sure,” he said. “In­fluenza changes ev­ery year, and it’s why you need to be vac­ci­nated against flu ev­ery year, but there is some generic pro­tec­tion against a new string from ex­po­sure to prior strings. There is none of that with this virus. Our bod­ies are gen­er­ally naive to its ex­is­tence.”

Sper­ing also asked how the county would ad­dress po­ten­tial is­sues re­sult­ing from the out­break, in­clud­ing in­creased stress and pos­si­ble cases of sui­cide or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“How are we ad­dress­ing some of th­ese other is­sues that are be­ing cre­ated from this un­em­ploy­ment that we’re cre­at­ing?” he asked.

Matyas said it was a ma­jor con­cern and one that was com­mon dur­ing re­ces­sions.

“How we deal with it is to have our work­force con­tinue to be vig­i­lant and to re­act as quickly as pos­si­ble to try to pre­vent it,” he said. “There is no sil­ver bul­let to how to deal with this…Most of the peo­ple cur­rently af­fected are not peo­ple we typ­i­cally in­ter­act with be­cause they were em­ployed and they were fine. They weren’t com­ing to us for ser­vices.”

Matyas said the county would work to make sure it is pre­pared to ad­dress such a cri­sis.

“We’re try­ing to do what we al­ways do, bet­ter,” he said.

In other busi­ness, the board unan­i­mously voted to ap­point Thomson and John Vasquez to Vacaville’s work­ing com­mit­tee on home­less ser­vices.


With only county staff in at­ten­dance and ad­her­ing to so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines, the Solano County Board of Su­per­vi­sors con­duct their Tues­day meet­ing in the board­room at the Solano County Gov­ern­ment Cen­ter in Fair­field. Mem­bers of the pub­lic were able to de­liver their com­ments through Cisco’s video­con­fer­enc­ing ap­pli­ca­tion We­bex.

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