In action at their regular meeting this week, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors received updates and took actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in San Joaquin County.
Dr. Maggie Park, San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, updated the Board at their Aug. 4 session on the number of COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations in San Joaquin County. Dr. Park said there are currently 11,958 total cases and 180 deaths in the county. She remarked that the total positive cases are probably much higher due to a technology issue with the State’s electronic laboratory reporting system (CalREDIE) which is underreporting positive cases. Dr. Park said that there are currently 234 COVID-19 patients in the hospital with 72 in the ICU and 52 on ventilators, noting that the ICU cases have been over 100 percent throughout the past 40 days. She emphasized that those numbers must start decreasing dramatically in order to get ahead of the virus.
Dr. Park also discussed the recent public health order related to schools and distance learning. She explained that multiple counties like San Joaquin, which are currently on the State monitoring list, are mandated to keep all schools closed for the time-being. The State mandate issued on July 17 and subsequent local public health order requires all public, private and charter schools to move to distance learning until COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths decrease significantly. She said San Joaquin County does not qualify for a waiver due to our status on the State monitoring list.
“When you look at the science, there are no guarantees whether kids will contract this deadly virus or act as a vector and pass it on to others which will only increase our numbers. I know parents, kids and teachers are really struggling right now, but this is the right thing to do,” Dr. Park said. “I do not take this lightly and it’s agonizing to balance the needs of our kids and the health and safety of our overall community. If we all band together and follow the rules as an entire community it would be more impactful. The only way we will see schools reopen and keep businesses running is continuing to wash hands, wear face coverings, socially distance and limit gatherings. These simple steps will make all the difference in the world.”
Dr. Park also gave an update on youth sports in the county. She said the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released COVID-19 interim guidelines for youth sports on Aug. 3 which includes school-based, club and recreational programs (https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-youth-sports--en.pdf). Park said that according to CDPH, outdoor and indoor sporting events, assemblies, and other activities that require close contact or that would promote congregating are not permitted at this time. This includes tournaments, events, or competitions, regardless of whether teams are from the same school or from different schools, counties, or states. Dr. Park noted that CDPH says youth sports and physical education are permitted only when physical distancing and a stable group, like a class, can be maintained. Activities should take place outside and students should also avoid sharing equipment unless it can be disinfected between uses.
Supervisors were also provided with an update on the county’s COVID-19 public awareness campaign which launched on July 1 to educate residents about the continued threat of COVID-19 with public service announcements on local radio stations, local TV stations, in local newspapers, in both English and Spanish, as well as 20 billboards which are posted around the county. Dr. Park gave an update on a new COVID-19 public awareness campaign in partnership with United Way and Dignity Health called the “Mask On Campaign” which features photos of San Joaquin County residents and a message of who they are wearing a mask for. The ads will run throughout the county on billboards, buses and other venues.
The Board of Supervisors approved the use of $608,927 in grant funding which was recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to the San Joaquin County Clinics to expand its capacity for coronavirus testing between July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. The funds will be used to purchase, equip, supply, and staff a mobile coronavirus testing vehicle for underserved populations.
The mobile testing program will target migratory and seasonal agricultural workers, the homeless, and other underserved populations and communities in San Joaquin County. The county is working with the agricultural community in developing testing sites for easy access to the farm workers population.
Kathy Miller, Chair of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, said “the Board is placing high priority not only on getting more testing to our residents, but also getting rapid and reliable results. We are looking forward to the mobile testing program getting up and running in our most vulnerable communities to get more people tested, get the results quickly and help people get the support they need if tested positive for COVID-19.”