On Tuesday mornings, Dr. Noha Aboelata MD and other physicians from the Roots Community Clinic host The People’s Health Briefing on Facebook and YouTube to offer COVID-19 information pertinent to Oaklanders based on their specific location.
The Roots Community Center began these weekly briefings after realizing that what East Oakland residents were hearing did not pertain to them.
“Alameda surged past 10,000 cases last Saturday, July 25. We hear national statistics, state, and city statistics, but what’s important are statistics specifically for East Oakland because the numbers are dramatically different from what people consider “averages,” said Aboelata.
Dr. Aboelata shared data that validates her cause for alarm. The COVID-19 infection rate in Alameda County is 548 per 100,000 residents. In Oakland, the rate is 832 per 100,000. However, in five zip codes, the infection rate is 6 to 8 times higher.
For example, the infection rate in Alameda County is 4.96% per 100,000 people, but in the 94603 area code the infection rate is 15.48%, 94612 is 16.56%, 94601 is 16.09% and 94605 is 10.52% — a 21%,25%, 23% and 15% higher rate respectively than Alameda County as a whole, Aboelata said.
So far, there have been 178 COVID-19 deaths in Alameda County, all patients were over the age of 50, which highlights Dr. Aboelata ‘s next concern as the cause for increased cases of COVID-19.
“When we first collected data on COVID-19, 80% of positive patients largely consisted of essential workers. Now, in July, we see this increase solely from community contact from parties, social gatherings and places where people are in group settings like jails, markets and construction sites,” said Aboelata.
“It is imperative that people take personal responsibility for their movement and actions, people have got to stop traveling and attending social gatherings. That means do not get on a plane, go to Vegas, or party — but if you absolutely have to get on a plane we recommend you BYOE, which means bring your own equipment, wear a mask and social distance.”
Dr. N. Kenji Taylor debunked some common myths that have been circulating in the community. “People are concerned about breathing in carbon dioxide, a natural substance the body creates upon exhalation. People should not worry. Medical personnel have been wearing masks for centuries with no issues, as masks filter out carbon dioxide (which is) able to pass in and out of the mask just as oxygen is able to pass in and out of the mask,” said Taylor.
Another common myth is how infections are likely to occur. Dr. Taylor said that infection can occur when a person is within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes, and cautioned that people who live at home with high-risk individuals — those over age 50 or those with underlying conditions — should wear masks in their presence in the home also.
“We are just starting to understand the long term effects of COVID-19. So people who get it and survive may have reason for concern because even though they have recovered, it does not mean their relationship with COVID-19 has passed,” said Aboelata.