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Covid-19 update: Massive evacuations raise virus exposure concerns as state battles two crises at once

Several counties around the Bay Area are fighting two crises at once: the Covid-19 pandemic and historic wildfires. Massive evacuations have been ordered, forcing many people from their threatened homes into centers with increased exposure risk. 

Both situations pose serious threats to the state’s health, safety and financial stability. 

Here’s some of the latest on the Covid-19 situation as of Friday night.


  • Confirmed Cases: 5,621,035
  • Deaths: 175,343 

Source: John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center COVID-19 global tracking tool as of Friday at 6:28 p.m.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Friday that voters should feel secure about November election ballots arriving in time, if they mail them back at least seven days in advance. He also repeated the claim that he would not direct further operational changes until after the election. However, he did tell the Senate committee that he has no intention of reversing the removal of mail sorting machines, saying they’re “not needed.”

DeJoy is certain to face a much tougher crowd Monday when he testifies to the Democrat-majority House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Open SFBay USA coronavirus tracker.


  • Confirmed Cases: 658,821
  • Deaths: 11,946

Source: John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center COVID-19 global tracking tool as of Friday at 6:28 p.m.

Dry vegetation is burning throughout the state, largely caused by lightning strikes that hit Saturday and Sunday. About 560 fires have torn through the state in recent days, prompting the evacuation of approximately 119,000 people, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Two wildfires in the Bay Area — the LNU and SCU lightning complexes — are among the 10 largest recorded in state history. 

San Francisco is the only Bay Ara county that has not experienced a wildfire or evacuation orders in the past week. The need for so many people to leave their homes and go to centers during a pandemic is obviously cause for concern in terms of exposure in a state already leading the country for the largest number of positive cases.

Jesse Garnier SFBay Covid-19 dashboard showing the Bay Area’s seven-day average of new cases per day. The average calculated Tuesday, Aug. 18 reflects an average of 1,047.6 new positive test results per day among the nine-county region.
Open SFBay Bay Area coronavirus dashboard in new window.

Alameda County

  • Confirmed Cases: 16,469
  • Deaths: 234

Source: Alameda County Public Health Department as of Friday. 

A new test site opened Tuesday in Oakland’s Chinatown and caters to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, though it is open to all without a need for payment or insurance. Services, partnered with Asian Health Services, will be offered in a dozen different Asian languages and immigration status will not be factored in its operations.

The site began testing Tuesday in Madison Park at 810 Jackson Street and will be open weekly on Tuesdays from noon to 7 p.m., and Thursdays and Fridays between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments can be made online or by calling (510) 735-3222. 

The county health department is reporting 204 confirmed Covid-19 hospitalized patients as of Thursday. More than a third of those hospitalized are in ICU beds.

Nealy 6,700 positive cases have identified in Oakland. 

Contra Costa County

  • Confirmed Cases: 12,362
  • Deaths: 164

Source: Contra Costa Health Services as of Friday at 11:30 a.m.

The county Wednesday began accepting waiver applications for public and private elementary schools hoping to reopen for in-person instruction. Plans for several safety measures need to be established when schools submit applications. Among several other requirements, schools must be able to keep fixed group sizes small and stable, comply with state face covering guidelines, regularly clean and disinfect, limit movement at entrances and recognize criteria for shifting to distance learning.

The county has posted the complete checklist online.  

Contra Costa Health Services Friday reported 221 new cases identified in the prior 24 hours. Three people died Thursday as a result of the illness, one from a long-term care facility and two from the general community. Another four deaths were reported with the addition of Tuesday and Wednesday data.

Unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County were evacuated earlier this week due to the Deer Zone fires, part of the SCU Lightning Complex.

Marin County*

  • Confirmed Cases: 5,879
  • Deaths: 85

Source: Marin Health and Human Services as of Friday. CDCR data as of Friday night.

*Marin County began reporting San Quentin State Prison cases separately, but for the purposes of tracking actual infections and potential impact on the county, we’ve included inmate cases with the county’s cumulative total. Staff member infections and deaths are detailed below but are included in county of residence totals. 

Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis announced Friday that hotels, motels and short-term rentals have been given the okay to reopen for tourism-based service beginning Monday. Since May 29, only first responders, people needing to isolate or quarantine, essential workers, fire evacuees and homeless individuals were permitted to stay in the lodging types listed. 

The Monday order does not allow lodging facilities to open for parties, events or outside vendors.

Parts of Marin County are under evacuation warnings due to the Woodward Fire, which was just 5 percent contained just before 6 p.m. Friday, fire officials said.

San Quentin State Prison 

Of the prison facility’s 35 active Covid-19 cases among inmates, one is reportedly being treated in a Marin County hospital. It is not clear if any others are hospitalized in different counties or at all. San Quentin State Prison has had the largest cumulative outbreak throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabiltation system. A total of 2,236 inmates have tested positive to date and 25 individuals have died as a result. 

The prison’s staff has also seen high infection rates with 275 positive test results — 102 infected staff members have so far recovered and returned to work.   

Napa County

  • Confirmed Cases: 1.307
  • Deaths: 13

Source: Department of Health and Human Services as of Friday.

Napa County was removed from the state’s County Monitoring List Friday, which would make it the first Bay Area county allowed to reopen indoor businesses and dining that were prohibited under the state’s restrictions imposed for those on the list. If the county stays off the watchlist for 14 days, districts can consider reopening schools for in-person instruction. 

Though that news would ordinarily be cause for celebration with forthcoming details about plans to move forward. However, portions of Napa County have been engulfed in fire as part of the LNU Lightning Complex where more than 302,000 acres have burned since lightning strikes sparked flames in drush vegetation over the past weekend.      

San Francisco

  • Confirmed Cases: 8,702
  • Deaths: 72

Source: San Francisco Department of Public Health with data reported through Tuesday – information is updated daily but lags by three days. 

Supervisor Gordon Mar issued a statement Thursday to announce he’d tested positive for Covid-19. Mar explained he discovered he’d contracted the virus due to a routine test and said:

“My family is getting tested immediately. Fortunately, my symptoms are minor.”  

Despite Mar’s regular testing and mask wearing, he said he could have been exposed on a family camping trip to Lake Tahoe last weekend or during his work at community and City Hall meetings. The supervisor said he would serve his constituents remotely.

San Francisco Department of Public Health San Francisco, Calif. hospital bed capacity as of Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.

San Francisco remains on the state County Monitoring List, officials announced Thursday, meaning that indoor dining and gyms, among several other indoor industries remain on pause. Less than 20 percent of the area’s acute care hospital beds remained available, according to health department data provided Wednesday.   

San Mateo County

  • Confirmed Cases: 7,472
  • Deaths: 128

Source: San Mateo County Health Department with data reported through Sunday.

San Mateo County, along with Santa Cruz County, is severely impacted by the 57,000-acre CZU August Lightning Complex wildfire that has forced 77,000 people to evacuate, Cal Fire officials said Friday night. 

Health department data indicates that 80 new Covid-19 cases were identified Thursday, though that number is subject to change over the next five or so days. Forty-six confirmed coronavirus patients were hospitalized according to data through Thursday.    

Santa Clara County

  • Confirmed Cases: 15,496
  • Deaths: 222

Source: Santa Clara County Public Health Department as of Friday. 

Portions of the county are impacted by the SCU Lightning Complex fires — nearly 275,000 acres had burned in three separate fire zones across six counties, according to a Cal Fire update just before 11:30 p.m. Friday. Several Santa Clara County areas have been evacuated within the Calaveras Zone wildfire system, requiring many residents to seek additional resources and information at established centers. 

Santa Clara County, which is quickly catching up to Alameda County in number of cumulative cases, issued a statement Friday reminding residents that despite fires, test facilities operating through Friday of next week, either by appointment or walkup, on varying days in seven different cities. 

Pop-up test sites not requiring appointments are available next week at:

  • San Jose: William C. Overelt High School gymnasium Tuesday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Saturday between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Gilroy: South County Annex (formerly Del Buoneo Elementary) Tuesday through Friday between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.   

Testing by appointment is available in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Morgan Hill, Santa Clara, Saratoga and Palo Alto. Appointments can be scheduled by visiting or Details for each site can be accessed found on the county’s press release.

Solano County

  • Confirmed Cases: 5,048
  • Deaths: 44

Source: Solano Public Health as of Friday at 6 p.m.

Solano County is another area experiencing evacuations due to wildfires, in this case as part of the LNU Lightning Complex discussed further in the Napa County section above.

Though far fewer Covid-19 cases have been identified in the area when compared to Alameda and Santa Clara counties, the case rate per 1,000 residents in Solano is higher than most of the Bay Area. As of Friday, SFBay tracking calculates 11.4 positive test results per 1,000 residents. For context, in Alameda County, the per 1,000 residents case rate is 9.6. 

Fairfield, which until earlier Friday was under widespread evacuation orders, already represents nearly 32 percent of the county’s cumulative case total — just behind Vallejo.     

Sonoma County

  • Confirmed Cases: 4,942
  • Deaths: 70

Source: County of Sonoma with data as of Friday at 8:45 p.m.

Sonoma County has been hit hard by the LNU Lightning Complex fires and evacuation orders. Unfortunately, the area has also been hit with a spike in Covid-19 deaths. Five deaths were reported Thursday and eight more were reported Wednesday, which marked county’s highest one-day death toll.  

Jesse Garnier SFBay Covid-19 dashboard showing Sonoma County deaths by day as of Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.


  • Confirmed Cases: 22,864,873
  • Deaths: 797,787

Source: John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center COVID-19 global tracking tool as of Friday at 6:28 p.m.

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