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Covid-19: National strategy offers needed hope as Bay Area death toll surpasses 3,600

The first case of Covid-19 was detected in the U.S. one year ago Wednesday. Since then, more than 24 million Americans have been infected and in excess of 411,000 have died as a result.

The first large-scale memorial was held Tuesday evening at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honor those who have died. Four hundred lanterns lined the water, each representing more than 1,000 lives — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were joined by their spouses in the somber event on the night before the two were sworn in as the next president and vice president of the U.S. Former President Donald Trump did not attend. 

C-SPAN On Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2020, four hundred lanterns line the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C. in honor of the more than 400,000 lives lost to Covid-19.

In his first full day on the job, President Joe Biden formalized the new Covid-19 task force and signed 10 executive orders related to pandemic response. He stressed that the public will hear more from scientists and experts than from elected officials and that their work will be independent of political influence. The shift in tone was glaring as Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed media Thursday without restrictions in what and how he communicated science-based facts.   

Biden vowed to “level with” the people about the reality surrounding the virus, which he said clearly will get worse before it gets better.

As the nation struggles through the health and economic demise caused by the pandemic, frustrations run high on what’s so far been a chaotic and dysfunctional vaccine rollout. Recent scrutiny of a suspect Moderna lot only exacerbated that collective feeling as its use was temporarily halted Sunday, effectively limiting an already insufficient supply. The vaccine lot in question was thought to result in higher-than-usual allergic reactions. 

California health officials reversed course late Wednesday after further investigation found less than 10 people — isolated to one San Diego clinic — experienced symptoms requiring medical attention. The lot was again approved for immediate use.  

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have pulled few punches in expressing their disappointment of the former administration’s response to the deadly virus. In contrast, the Biden-Harris transition team intensely focused on steps that can be immediately taken to turn the tide. 

A National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness was unveiled and published on the White House site Thursday, coinciding with Biden’s signing of the first 10 related executive orders. The plan outlines seven primary goals to, among other things, rebuild public trust, mount a national vaccination campaign and safely reopen schools. Details supporting each executive action can also be found in the nearly 200-page document.   

The new plan depends on the full force of the Defense Production Act and partnerships with state officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal Biden announced will, if passed, help fund those efforts and provide some additional financial relief for individuals and businesses failing to make ends meet after 10 months of varying shelter orders.

A robust and coordinated response can’t come soon enough as more contagious variants tear through the nation. Two recent studies suggest the mutation first detected in South Africa could pose challenges for vaccines in current formulations.

The California case and death rate continues to climb daily, with the California Department of Public Health reporting a 1.7 percent increase in Covid-19 deaths between Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Thursday that extends validity of medical cannabis identification cards that would have expired on or after March 4, 2020. The emergency order is related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the extension is good until the order is lifted.  

Bay Area

The state-defined Bay Area Region was showing 7 percent of the area’s ICU beds available as of Wednesday’s update. 

Alameda County

According to Thursday reporting, the county — including Berkeley — has confirmed a total of 69,107 cases and 842 deaths, and 26.5 percent of the county’s ICU beds remained staffed and available.  

The county updates its vaccination data each Friday. The last reporting as of Jan. 14 reflected that 85,350 people had been administered vaccination doses: 40,950 Pfizer and 44,400 Moderna. Residents can register for notification when they become eligible for vaccination by entering information here.

By unanimous consent, the Oakland City Council Tuesday approved an extension to the emergency paid sick leave ordinance for some workers who would otherwise go without pay during the pandemic. 

Contra Costa County

The county health department Thursday reported a total of 53,844 cases, 478 deaths and just 2.3 percent of ICU beds available for use. 

Contra Costa Health Services launched an online vaccine dashboard, which reflects that 65,151 doses have been administered — 54,355 first doses have been administered and 10,796 people, or 1.2 percent of the county’s population, have received a second dose. 

Eligible residents can complete an attestation and make vaccination appointments via the county’s website, however, officials warn that appointments could be weeks out due to limited supply.    

Marin County

Thursday’s county health update reported 9,573 total cases and 135 deaths. Specific ICU availability information is not made available on the health department dashboard but 28 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized with nine in ICU beds as of Wednesday.

Health officials issued a statement Thursday to clarify that the vaccine is being prioritized for people aged 75 and older as part of Phase 1B. People can sign up to receive notification when they become eligible by completing the online vaccine interest form.

The county is recruiting for its Covid-19 response team, specifically seeking registered nurses, bilingual contact investigators, service support workers and an office assistant. Interested people can find additional information and apply here

Napa County

County health officials Thursday reported 7,696 total cases and 46 deaths, four of which were added Wednesday. Just .8 percent of the area’s ICU beds remain staffed and available. 

Residents can complete an online vaccine interest form in order to receive notification when they become eligible. The county had administered 13,911 of its 140,000 dose goal as of Thursday’s reporting.

San Francisco

The Department of Public Health reports a total of 29,362 cases and 274 deaths with data through Monday. City health officials reported a remaining 26 percent of ICU beds available as of Tuesday.  

Shannon Badiee/Flickr City College of San Francisco, Calif. Ocean Campus

The city’s first large-scale vaccination site will launch in a soft open Friday at the City College of San Francisco’s campus on Ocean Avenue. The operation is a partnership between the city health department and providers and will be used to firm up logistics as a model for future sites. 

Public health officials told the Board of Supervisors hearing Wednesday that they’ve set a goal to vaccinate 900,000 people who live and work in San Francisco by the end of June. While plans move ahead, limited vaccine supply continues to pose distribution challenges. 

Data through Tuesday indicates that 31,189 people, or 3.6 percent of the population, have received at least one dose and 7,128 have had a second dose administered.

Santa Clara County

Thursday’s health department update reflected a total of 95,936 cases and 1,158 deaths. The standard maximum capacity for ICU beds is at 100 percent. With surge beds included in data, 8 percent of ICU beds are currently staffed and available for use.  

The county’s vaccination dashboard updated Thursday shows that at least 108,109 first doses and 28,340 second doses have been administered — those numbers do not include the Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System or vaccinations given by CVS and Walgreens in collaboration with the federal pharmacy partnership.

Santa Clara County Public Health Santa Clara County vaccine dashboard updated Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

The area’s rising death toll and stress on the hospital systems have some people wondering why the county has not reverted to more strict shutdown orders, as was seen in March. The current guidelines allow for nonessential retail at 20 percent capacity and in-person learning at schools that have received a voucher to operate.      

San Mateo County

Thursday’s update reports a total of 33,468 cases and 340 deaths. Although the county has 88 ICU surge beds available if needed, only 3.5 percent of its standard capacity ICU beds remain available. Of the 82 occupied ICU beds countywide, more than half are filled with Covid-19 patients. 

The county’s health department is taking its time to ensure accuracy of vaccination data before it is shared publicly. Srija Srinivasan, San Mateo County Health Department deputy chief, told the press Wednesday that Covid-19 vaccination figures should be posted on the county’s website at some point next week.

Solano County

The latest information provided by the county at 6 p.m. Thursday reflects a total of 26,191 confirmed cases and 108 deaths since the beginning of the local outbreak. Approximately 20 percent of the area’s ICU beds remain staffed and available, though the hospitalization rate is still relatively high with 156 Covid-19 patients admitted as of Thursday.

Solano Public Health is hosting a virtual town hall meeting Friday afternoon to discuss the county’s vaccine rollout. Moderated by District 1 Supervisor Erin Hannigan, the meeting will be hosted on the health department’s Facebook page at 3:30 p.m.

Sonoma County

A total of 24,469 people have so far been infected with the virus countywide and 245 have died as a result, with data late Thursday night. The health department reports that a little more 21 percent of the area’s standard capacity ICU beds remain available for use. 

Health officials say that at least 23,787 vaccine doses have been administered across the county: 9,206 Moderna and 14,581 Pfizer. As is the case in other counties, vaccine totals do not include doses administered by CVS and Walgreens with the federal pharmacy partnership program.

Eligible people are asked to coordinate vaccination appointments with their individual health providers or primary care physicians.

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