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COVID-19 Surge Receding in Alameda County, Vaccinations Continue

“Newly reported cases have stabilized in recent days,” Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said.

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The surge in COVID-19 cases in Alameda County is receding, a health official told county lawmakers Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement was made in a weekly update to the Board of Supervisors at their regularly scheduled meeting in Oakland.

The daily number of reported cases in the county dropped dramatically since peaking January 7 at 1,313. On Monday, only 79 cases were reported, according to the county’s data dashboard.

“Newly reported cases have stabilized in recent days,” Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said.

His words come just a day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the state-imposed stay-at-home order, sending Alameda County and the Bay Area, back to the purple tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

The purple tier is the most restrictive tier for economic activity, but it allows more activities than the stay-at-home order the region had been under.

Moss said Tuesday that he’s in agreement that Alameda County should be in the purple tier. He was also optimistic.

“We have the potential to move to the red tier in a matter of weeks,” he said.

Under the purple tier, outdoor dining is permitted and outdoor zoos are allowed to open, as well as hair and nail salons. But many businesses that are not classified as essential must remain closed under the blueprint guidelines.

More than 900 Alameda County residents have died and more than 71,000 people in the county have been infected with the virus, the county’s dashboard shows.

The numbers include the city of Berkeley, which has its own public health department.

Inoculations of people in the county are moving ahead, but perhaps not as fast as many residents would like.

The county is getting about 10,000 first doses of the coronavirus vaccine each week while 145,000 people make up the population of health care workers and those in skilled care facilities who are currently eligible to be vaccinated.

“We have a very large health care workforce here,” Colleen Chawla, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency told supervisors.

She said the number of people in skilled care facilities is also large.

Two vaccination sites are open in the county. St. Rose Hospital and the Alameda County Library in Castro Valley are each vaccinating 1,000 to 2,000 people a day. Inoculations are also being done by health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente.

Health care officials are looking to close the library location and transition to five points of distribution in five neighborhoods in the county. The neighborhoods are East and West Oakland, Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, the unincorporated Ashland and Cherryland area, and South Hayward.

County officials did not say when the library would stop distributing the vaccine or when the five new sites would open.

Chawla said the county may open two mass distribution sites at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, but when that will happen wasn’t disclosed.

The two sites could inoculate many more people per day, provided there is vaccine to distribute. To help smooth out the distribution of vaccine, the state is moving to a centralized system, Chawla said she learned from the governor’s office Tuesday. More details will likely be available in the coming days.

The county has received almost 103,000 doses of the vaccine, of which about 64,000 doses were given to the county’s health care partners, such as hospitals and medical clinics, while about 39,000 stayed with the county.

About 21,000 doses had been administered by the county as of Saturday, county records show.

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Activism

The Updated Booster is Here, Just in Time for the Holiday Season

The facts speak for themselves: vaccines and boosters have undeniable benefits. These tools are what is best for your children as we continue to fight against COVID-19. To prevent severe outcomes, including long COVID, I strongly recommend all parents consider getting their children vaccinated and boosted. If you remain uncertain, don’t hesitate to speak with your child’s doctor and get the facts from someone you trust.

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Wearing a mask in public indoor spaces also helps slow the spread of many different respiratory viruses including RSV, flu and COVID-19.
Wearing a mask in public indoor spaces also helps slow the spread of many different respiratory viruses including RSV, flu and COVID-19. (Photo: Dr. Jerry Abraham, MD, CMQ, MPH)

By Dr. Jerry Abraham, MD, CMQ, MPH

Thanksgiving is next week, and Christmas is around the corner. The holiday season has officially arrived. Now that the updated booster authorized for individuals as young as 5, we’re even closer to ensuring the whole family is protected during fall and winter when the spread of respiratory viruses is at its peak.

The booster has been updated to strengthen protection against the original coronavirus strain while also targeting the dominant Omicron subvariants that have recently spread widely and continue to infect many. We all need to get boosted, and there are groups we need to ensure are protected – children 5 years and older, older adults and those most at risk for serious infection.

As for our older adults, your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 goes up as you age, and COVID-19 booster doses can help lower the risk of severe illness, long-term effects, hospitalization and death. This means less strain on our hospitals, less risk to our most vulnerable populations and less worry for you and your loved ones this holiday season.

recent study found that overall life expectancy for Californians decreased by three years and noted higher-than-average decreases in life expectancy for Hispanic and Black Californians due to their exposure to higher COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death rates. That’s why older adults are encouraged to prioritize vaccination to stay safer from severe outcomes and achieve your highest level of health and well-being.

And for parents, I know many of you are feeling fear and uncertainty around getting your children vaccinated and boosted because you want to be sure you make the best choice for your children’s health and futures. Misinformation that is largely spread online and on social media amplifies apprehension and confusion about vaccines.

But the facts speak for themselves: vaccines and boosters have undeniable benefits. These tools are what is best for your children as we continue to fight against COVID-19. To prevent severe outcomes, including long COVID, I strongly recommend all parents consider getting their children vaccinated and boosted. If you remain uncertain, don’t hesitate to speak with your child’s doctor and get the facts from someone you trust.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get the updated booster at least two months following their last dose, whether that was their primary series or following a booster dose. Getting vaccinated and boosted lowers the risk of contracting, spreading, and getting severely ill from COVID-19.

The updated boosters will help children’s and older adults’ immune systems fight off a wider variety of variants that we most likely will see during the flu season.

The booster is similar to flu vaccines, where the components of the flu vaccine are updated to help protect against the specific flu viruses circulating that year. Similarly, COVID-19 boosters are updated to protect us against the newest variants of COVID-19.

If you are under-vaccinated or unvaccinated, the risk of complications and death increases. Get vaccinated and boosted to protect older loved ones, young children, immunocompromised friends, family and neighbors.

Wearing a mask in public indoor spaces also helps slow the spread of many different respiratory viruses including RSV, flu and COVID-19.

Everyday preventative actions like staying home when you feel sick, frequent handwashing, covering your cough, avoiding close contact with sick people, wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and getting vaccinated or boosted can help protect you and your family, especially as we head into the colder months. To schedule an appointment for a vaccination or a booster, visit MyTurn.ca.gov.

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Advice

What Parents Should Know About RSV, A Respiratory Virus

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, can include symptoms similar to a common cold. However, the virus can develop into something more serious. RSV can infect people of all ages but is most severe for older adults and young children.

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Dr. Frederick Kuo
Dr. Frederick Kuo

By Frederick Kuo

As RSV cases continue to spike across parts of the U.S. — with some areas nearing seasonal peak levels — those typical “bugs” your child brings home may have you feeling on edge. With so much swirling around these days, it can be difficult to know what’s behind a constant cough, especially if your child is very young.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, can include symptoms similar to a common cold. However, the virus can develop into something more serious. RSV can infect people of all ages but is most severe for older adults and young children.

Usually almost every child under the age of 2 has been exposed to RSV, but due to all the pandemic response over the last few years, kids have not been exposed as much to RSV. That is one of the reasons why we are seeing such a spike this year, as well as RSV in children older than 2.

Symptoms

RSV symptoms may vary and typically begin four to six days after infection. The most common symptoms might include:

  • Runny nose
  • Low appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

For young infants with RSV, they might be irritable, sluggish or find it harder to breathe.

Your pediatrician will be able to figure out whether it’s a common cold, COVID-19 or RSV, if you have concerns about symptoms your child is showing. They might perform tests, like chest X-rays, to see if pneumonia has developed.

When should you call a doctor?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes an increase in RSV-associated emergency room visits. However, most cases will go away on their own in a week or two. Symptoms are typically at their worst on days three to five of infection. Only 3% of children with RSV will require a hospital stay.

If symptoms become severe, contact your pediatrician right away. This may include:

  • Symptoms of bronchiolitis
  • Symptoms of dehydration (only one wet diaper in 8 hours or more)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gray or blue lips, tongue or skin
  • A significant decrease in activity or alertness

Even though RSV is common, and it might seem difficult to figure out how severe it will become, there are some risk factors parents should be aware of.

  • Children who are born premature or are 6 months old or younger are most at-risk for RSV complications
  • Children with chronic heart or lung disease, or a weaker immune system, can also be susceptible to RSV

Treatment

There’s currently no vaccine to prevent RSV and no specific treatment for the infection. As stated, most cases will resolve on their own. However, there are a few things you can do to help relieve the symptoms:

  • Manage pain and fever with over-the-counter medications (consult your pediatrician for guidance and never give aspirin to children)
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Nasal salineto help with breathing
  • Cool-mist humidifier to help break up mucus

Talk to your health care provider before you give any over-the-counter cold medicine to your child.

How it spreads

RSV is typically spread through coughs and sneezes, but can spread when someone touches a surface that has the virus on it and then touches their face, before washing their hands.

The following tips may help reduce your family’s risk:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm, not your hands
  • Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home
  • If you’re sick, stay home

The best way to avoid transmission of RSV is what we have been doing very well over the last few years: Scrupulous hand hygiene with washing our hands frequently with soap and water, and cleaning the surfaces small hands get to, like doorknobs and handles. Also, wear a mask if you have any respiratory symptoms.

With the knowledge of what RSV may look like — and how it is different from other viruses — you’ll be able to take steps to keep your child as healthy as possible all year round.

For more information, visit the CDC website.

Dr. Frederick Kuo, MD, MBA, is the chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, Northern California.

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Activism

State, Local Officials Take Actions to Tackle Homelessness Crisis 

“California’s housing affordability crisis has been more than a half century in the making and the state is tackling this foundational challenge with an innovative ‘all of the above’ approach,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “We’ve made unprecedented investments and progress to create more housing in California over the past four years, including using state-owned land to build homes – one of my first actions in 2019.

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Caption: State and local officials are using a multi-pronged approach to rein in the crisis of homelessness. iStock photo.
Caption: State and local officials are using a multi-pronged approach to rein in the crisis of homelessness. iStock photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

As the California’s growing homelessness crisis continues to rise, state and local officials are serious about tackling it head on.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation related to solving this issue.

Over $15.3 billion has been budgeted in housing programs aimed at curtailing California’s homeless.

“State and federal resources have certainly made a difference in our communities,” said Bakersfield Mayor Karen K. Goh. “You know, going back to 2020 and 2021 with the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act and then followed by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the dollars are making their way to our citizens.”

Goh also pointed to Project Homekey as a program that has helped alleviate homelessness.

“Project Homekey resources are being used to transform underutilized motels and hotels into safe shelter in our communities,” said Goh.

The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in the rise of homelessness, from 150,000 in 2019 to 161,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The African American population in California has suffered disproportionately from this crisis.

The California Budget and Policy Center reports that Black people are roughly 25% of the state’s homeless although they make up about 5.5% of California’s population.

Some of the funding the state provided went to the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court — or CARE Court, a program that diverts homeless people with severe mental health problems away from the criminal justice system and into mandatory treatment.

Signed into law on September 14, the CARE Court Act, Senate Bill 1338 which was introduced by Sen. Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) focuses on untreated individuals suffering from psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Bills that Newsom signed on affordable housing include Senate Bill 561 by State Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Assembly Bill (AB) 2233 by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), and AB 2592 by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento).

“This historical package will go a long way towards increasing affordable production in California,” Quirk-Silva tweeted.

Together, these bills require the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the California Department of General Services (DGS) to codify and expand the Excess Land for Affordable Housing program, a state initiative born from the governor’s first executive order.

“California’s housing affordability crisis has been more than a half century in the making and the state is tackling this foundational challenge with an innovative ‘all of the above’ approach,” Newsom said. “We’ve made unprecedented investments and progress to create more housing in California over the past four years, including using state-owned land to build homes – one of my first actions in 2019.

“I’m thankful to Senator Dodd, Assemblymember Quirk-Silva, and Assemblymember McCarty for their efforts in helping us fast-track our progress and bring more affordable housing statewide.”

Goh spoke about funding transparency.

“We’re seeing new innovation in our cities with these resources going to fund new city departments that help ensure that the city is accountable with the dollars they receive for addressing homelessness, and to better enable the city to show the public how they’re using these resources and the difference that they are making,” said Goh.

Mayor Todd Gloria of San Diego spoke about work that is being done on the local level to fight homelessness. “Our housing commission has put out over $200 million of assistance, helping roughly about 80,000 families at this point avoid homelessness, many of them seniors.” he said.

Gloria said that due to the federal government raising and lowering interest rates fighting this crisis sometimes “feels like you’re swimming upstream.”

He claimed that tackling minimum wage or advocating in the state capitol or Wash., D.C., are ways that local governments can have control over solving homelessness.

“You know, these are never satisfying answers because, yes, there are a bunch of things at work. But we get up every day and come here to try and make a difference on those matters,” said Gloria.

On October 3, Newsom signed Quirk-Silva’s AB 408 which requires local educational agencies to have a liaison for homeless youths so that the agencies can learn how to best support them.

Newsom recently announced that he will convene local leaders in mid-November to review the state’s collective approach to homelessness and identify new strategies.

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