December 28, 2020
Eden Health District COVID-19 Bulletin
“Remember, it’s not the job of a virus to make people deathly ill: It’s the job of a virus to make more virus. Overall, that is generally better served by strains that are easier to catch and that don’t rip into their hosts too viciously.”
Derek Lowe, PhD in organic chemistry and commentator on Science Translational Medicine, 12/22/20
Sunday sunset serenades in San Francisco
Earlier this year, bagpiper Hal Wilkes played on the roof of his Castro district apartment building at sundown for 111 straight evenings. He started the first night of shelter-in-place, hoping, as most of us did back then, it would be a short blip.

He gave up the nightly routine when it became clear our new reality wasn’t ending anytime soon, but he continues to play every Sunday at sunset. It’s a neighborhood ritual, and people lean out their windows or go on their roofs to listen to Wilkes’ music. At the end of each performance, he hears shouts of appreciation and “We love you!”

He always raises his glass of whiskey and hollers back “Cheers!”
That’s the highlight of his week. The rest is grim. He makes his living as a salesman of burial vaults, and business is sadly booming, especially in the Central Valley and Southern California.

“The grim reaper is just whizzing that blade,” he said. “It’s awful.” He has promised to play the Sunday sunset serenades through mid-March, to mark the first anniversary of the city’s shelter-in-place orders, and hopes life will be better by then.

Source: SF Chronicle
By the Numbers
Bay Area: 248,973

California: 2,132,290

U.S.: 19,221,164
Alameda County

Cases: 49,764

Deaths: 625

Adjusted Cases per Day: 22.7

Test Positivity: 9.1%

Hospitalized Patients: 453

ICU Beds Available: 75
Bay Area: 2,433

California: 24,295

U.S.: 334,025
Contra Costa County

Cases: 39,029

Deaths: 323

Adjusted Cases per Day: 28.9

Test Positivity: 11.3%

Hospitalized Patients: 280

ICU Beds Available: 27
Sources: Johns Hopkins UniversitySF Chronicle, and dashboards for California and Alameda and Contra Costa Counties
Adjusted cases per day is per 100,000 residents. Test positivity is based on a 14-day average. Hospitalized patients refers to patients with confirmed and suspected Covid-19.
Bay Area News
East Bay Times, December 27, 2020
On Saturday, Alameda County recorded its second-most number of cases since the start of the pandemic with 1,651 new cases for a total of 48,234.

KQED, December 27, 2020
The Bay Area is now averaging a roughly 11% ICU capacity, as of data released Saturday by the California Department of Public Health. That's fewer available hospital beds, and staff, than just two weeks ago when on December 14 the Bay Area's ICU capacity was at 17.8%.

Editor's Note: Latest data shows Bay Area ICU availability at 9.5%.

Mercury News, December 27, 2020
Kaiser Permanente announced Saturday that it will postpone “elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures” through Jan. 4 at its hospitals in Northern California as a rise in Covid-19 cases continues to pack hospital rooms and ICUs. The halted procedures do not include cancer cases, presumed cancer cases or other urgent surgeries and procedures, “as well as any situation in which postponing surgery would have a negative impact on the patient’s medical condition, including pain,” Kaiser Permanente confirmed.

SF Chronicle, December 27, 2020
As the latest coronavirus surge rages across the state, overwhelming hospitals and ravaging entire families, low-income communities of color again have proved particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus.
Health experts say the same factors that made them more susceptible to the virus early in the pandemic — living in crowded housing, working essential jobs, difficulties isolating and, in some cases, having no easy access to testing — have resurfaced as case numbers and deaths climb at stunning rates.

KQED, December 26, 2020
Stay-at-home orders currently in effect in the Bay Area and three other California regions will likely remain in place past the minimum three-week duration, state officials affirmed on Dec. 25. The state's stay-at-home order is triggered when a region's average intensive care unit capacity falls below 15 percent. The earliest date the Bay Area may become eligible to exit the order is Jan. 8, the state department said. 

ABC 7 News, December 27, 2020
Despite the pandemic and pleas from public health experts, millions of holiday travelers are returning from family get-togethers across the country and here in the Bay Area. A recorded announcement repeatedly plays at SFO, telling travelers that San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties require a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.
Vaccine & Health News
Helen Branswell, STAT, December 28, 2020
As Covid-19 vaccines go into broad use, some rare side effects of vaccination will almost certainly emerge, like the reports of small numbers of people developing anaphylaxis. But so will medical events whose timing just comes down to random chance — and the potential ripple effects of those reports already have experts concerned.

But the public doesn’t have a great grasp of the concept that many problems that occur after vaccination probably aren’t tied to immunization itself. In part, that’s because that context has been missing from public health messaging about Covid-19 vaccinations. The risk of the public misinterpreting such anecdotal reports may be especially acute early on in the rollout, when elderly adults and people with health conditions have been prioritized to get the vaccine. 

NY Times, December 24, 2020
Scientists initially estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the population needed to acquire resistance to the coronavirus to banish it. Now Dr. Anthony Fauci and others are quietly shifting that number upward.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.
Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.

UK Coronavirus Variant

The Hill, December 28, 2020
Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir said Monday that a new, faster-spreading strain of coronavirus first found in the United Kingdom is "likely" already present in the U.S., though he cautioned that officials have no evidence of its presence yet. The no. 2 HHS official went on to say that while the new strain of COVID-19 is believed to spread at a faster rate, there is "no evidence that it is more serious" than the version which has been spreading in the U.S. for months.

Salt Lake Tribune, December 27, 2020
If the new variant were to start spreading in the U.S., and did so faster than we can vaccinate people, our current containment measures wouldn’t be enough. Our R of 1 would turn into an R of 1.56 or so, and we’d see cases begin to double in a couple of weeks. Without changes, they’d keep exponentially growing, and our hospitals would get overrun. That’s why the U.K. is locking people down again, requiring them to stay at home except in cases of urgent travel, medical appointments and outdoor exercise. Most flights have been canceled, restaurants shut down, and so forth.
US and California Data: Full Range
Covid Tracking Project, 12/27/20 (bold lines are 7-day averages)
United States
California News
Mercury News, December 28, 2020
California’s record-smashing surge of Covid-19 was hardly curtailed over the holidays, with cases still coming in the tens of thousands every day and more patients hospitalized than ever before — three times as many as on Thanksgiving a month ago.

The state followed Saturday’s tally of over 50,000 new cases with another 28,871 on Sunday, according to data compiled by this news organization, increasing the daily average over the past week to about 37,500 cases per day after it dipped briefly over Christmas. The death toll in California climbed to 24,285, with an average of about 230 new victims of the virus each day over the past week, including 64 on Sunday.

Following the holiday slowdown, California’s case count remains about 17% shy of its pre-Christmas peak but still 3 times higher than it was a month ago. With nearly 10 Covid-related fatalities every hour, California is also averaging close to its highest death tolls of the pandemic, about 12% shy of its pre-Christmas peak.

The day after Christmas, active hospitalizations from Covid-19 climbed over 19,000 for the first time of the pandemic, an increase of over 12,000 Covid-positive patients in the month since Thanksgiving, a 189% spike in that time. In the southern half of the state, intensive care units have been effectively full for the past week with little capacity in other regions.

SF Gate, December 27, 2020
California is now reporting the highest number of new daily Covid-19 cases per capita in the country. California has reported an average of 100.5 daily Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, which places it ahead of second-place Tennessee, which saw an average of 89.6 daily cases per 100,000 residents over the same time period.

LA Times, December 27, 2020
A holiday surge in coronavirus cases may result in extended stay-at-home orders for Southern California and other areas.

The earliest date that Southern California could have become eligible to exit the existing order was Monday, but state officials said Sunday that the region and several other areas of the state would likely have to continue following the restrictions for several more weeks as the recent surge is pushing hospitals to the breaking point.
The restrictions include reduced capacity at retail stores; the closure of some businesses including hair salons, nail salons, card rooms, museums, zoos and aquariums; and a prohibition on most gatherings, hotel stays for tourism and outdoor restaurant dining.

Sacramento Bee, December 27, 2020
The nation’s unprecedented Covid-19 vaccination program wades into the very heart of the pandemic beginning Monday as shot-givers fan out to skilled nursing homes, where coronavirus deaths have hit in disproportionate numbers among California’s most elderly and infirm.
Officials at the homes, which were forced to shut down most family visitations in March, say they are eager for the moment.

It will take a month or more for the inoculation program to finish up at 1,200 California skilled nursing facilities, officials say. Even then, the virus may not be tamped down sufficiently in surrounding communities for family members to be allowed to resume face-to-face visits with loved ones at the facilities.

LA Times, December 28, 2020
It has been 284 days since California first went into lockdown and here in East L.A. — a hot spot of infection — nearly every street corner holds some sign of the virus that has stolen more than 24,000 lives across the state, widened the wealth gap and rewired the rhythms of how we mourn, learn, work and worship.

You can see it in the “We cash all stimulus checks” banner hanging outside a payday-loan spot on Atlantic Boulevard and in the way three women outside a clinic along Cesar Chavez Avenue quietly reposition their bodies when someone nearby lets out a rattling cough. You can hear it, too, in the whining ambulance sirens barreling west toward White Memorial Hospital.
Across the predominantly Latino neighborhood, which spans seven square miles, more than 15,000 residents — 1 in every 10 people — have tested positive for Covid-19, marking the highest recorded tally of any region in the county and serving as a stark reminder of the virus’ unequal impact.

LA Times. December 27, 2020
Tens of thousands of travelers are expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport this week, amid an alarming surge in coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County and pleas from public health officials for people to stay home and avoid gathering with family and friends outside their households. At LAX, the busiest day during the pandemic came Nov. 20, when TSA officials screened about 44,000 travelers, according to airport data. Dec. 23 came in as a close second, with about 43,000 travelers passing through. Officials expected a similar number Sunday, typically another busy travel day as many people return home after Christmas.
US News
Mercury News, December 28, 2020
President Donald Trump reversed course on Sunday, signing into law a massive $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill that he had objected to at the last minute.
That signature does two important things for the US economy: It averts a government shutdown that was set to begin on Tuesday, and extends billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to struggling Americans.

The estimated 12 million people in two key pandemic unemployment programs, who were facing their last payment this weekend, will now receive benefits for another 11 weeks. Plus, all those collecting jobless payments will receive a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March.

The relief package also extends eviction protection to January 31 and provides $25 billion in rental assistance for those who lost their sources of income during the pandemic. An estimated 9.2 million renters who have lost employment income during the pandemic are behind on rent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

One caveat: Because Trump did not sign the bill on Saturday, those enrolled in the two unemployment programs will likely not receive a payment for the final week of the year. Their payments could also be delayed several weeks while state agencies reprogram their computers.

Axios, December 27, 2020
The number of Covid-19 infections confirmed in the U.S. surpassed 19 million on Sunday. The U.S. coronavirus death toll stands at over 333,000.

The New York Times notes this means "at least 1 in 17" Americans have tested positive for the virus during the pandemic. The Census Bureau estimated the U.S. population to be about 330,750,000 for the last week of December. That means the virus has killed roughly one in every 1,000 in the U.S.

Vaccines are being rolled out across the U.S. and the world. The U.S. has reserved nearly a quarter of the world's supply, with 2.6 billion doses.
NIAID director Anthony Fauci has said the U.S. would need to vaccinate 70-90% of the population to achieve herd immunity and enable economies to safely remain open. Fauci predicted the vaccine rollout will gain more momentum into the spring and it's due to reach the general American population by mid-late April.

CNN, December 28, 2020
As the US prepares to grapple with potential holiday Covid-19 surges, hospitals across the country have reported more than 100,000 patients for the 26th day in a row.

And with waves of holiday travel, health experts predict cases will only grow. More than 1.1 million people were screened at airports on Saturday, according to the TSA. More than 616,000 were screened on Christmas Day alone, and hundreds of thousands more traveled in the days leading up to the holiday.

CNN, December 27, 2020
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday expressed concern that the worst may still come in America's battle against Covid-19, agreeing with President-elect Joe Biden's recent assessment that the "darkest days" in fighting the virus lie ahead. "[T]he reason I'm concerned and my colleagues in public health are concerned also is that we very well might see a post-seasonal, in the sense of Christmas, New Year's, surge, and, as I have described it, as a surge upon a surge, because, if you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we have experienced as we have gone into the late fall and soon-to-be-early winter, it is really quite troubling," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union."

USA Today, December 28, 2020
Since March, Black and Latina moms have stopped working, either voluntarily or due to layoffs, at higher rates than white moms. Many are single moms who need childcare but can’t access it during the pandemic. 

The Covid-19 recession has affected groups in different ways. Black moms have been more likely than Latina moms and white moms to quit their jobs. Higher rates of layoffs affected immigrant moms most severely in 2020. Meanwhile, Latina moms were more likely to be laid off than white and Black moms. This is in part because Latinas were more likely to work face-to-face service positions, such as in restaurants and hotels. 

Experts forecast that loss of skills, tenure and income among women of color will shape the U.S. economy for years to come by making it more difficult for moms of color to re-enter the workforce, earn the same amount as their white counterparts and reach supervisor and management positions.

ABC News, December 24, 2020
Lying in a hospital bed laboring for breath despite being on oxygen, Dr. Susan Moore, a 52-year-old Black physician, stared into her cell phone and recorded a video alleging her battle with Covid-19 was made worse by the treatment she received from a doctor at a suburban Indianapolis, Indiana, hospital.
CA Education News
CalMatters, December 28, 2020
A critical shortage of substitute teachers during the pandemic may make it difficult for some California school districts to reopen campuses or to keep open schools already offering in-person instruction.

A sharp decline in applications for substitute teaching credentials since January, as well an exodus of already credentialed substitutes, has left some districts unable to keep classrooms open, especially as more teachers are quarantined after potential exposure to Covid-19. 

Substitute pools at school districts are being drained, in part, because temporary teachers are tired of waiting to be called for the scarce jobs available during distance learning or are uncomfortable with the technology required. Some substitutes in districts that have reopened campuses fear returning to the classroom during the pandemic or can’t find child care for children who are home half the week in hybrid instruction.

EdSource, December 24, 2020
With the coronavirus out of control in California, and the health system reaching a breaking point, momentum toward opening more public schools for in-person instruction has largely come to a halt.

Some districts already offering in-person instruction are returning to distance learning, if only temporarily, as school leaders try to get through the holiday season and weather the full force of the pandemic’s spread. That’s according to an EdSource survey of the state’s 58 county offices of education conducted between Dec. 7 and Dec. 16. At the time, almost all counties in the state had moved onto the Tier One “purple” list, effectively prohibiting schools not already offering in-person instruction from doing so.

CalMatters, December 23, 2020
California’s community colleges are expected to receive a massive infusion of federal relief money to buttress their crimped finances and send desperately needed cash directly to students in the $900 billion rescue package and $1.4 trillion spending bill passed last week.
All told, analysts at the system of 116 community colleges estimate a windfall of around $1 billion, far more than the $600 million they received from the March federal relief package, known as the CARES Act.

This cash infusion includes about $23 billion for colleges, universities and their students, almost $10 billion more than the CARES Act. While the money is coming from a bigger pot to begin with, the community colleges are also getting more money because of an accounting change that more accurately captures the number of students they serve. 
US Education News
NY Times, December 28, 2020
Personal interaction is the essence of a school like Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a medium-size regional state campus in western Pennsylvania. Universities like this one educate huge swaths of the American public — an experience widely shown to move people into the middle class.

What happened earlier this year revealed the severe challenges facing IUP and less-affluent public colleges like it nationwide. In April, after the economic effects of Covid-19 became apparent, officials at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education said all 14 of its campuses, including I.U.P., would have to immediately and sharply curtail expenses. At I.U.P., the prospect of major cuts in programs and faculty loomed, threatening the precious bonds between teachers and students as well as the economic ties between the community and its largest employer.

The Hill, December 28, 2020
In a recent study, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty found that districts that went fully virtual saw a 3% decline in enrollment in the wake of in-person school closures, on average, once other factors were accounted for.
Many students who left public schools enrolled in the state’s private school choice programs, where a significant number of schools maintained in-person instruction even as traditional public schools shut down. The biggest enrollment declines occurred in the grade levels that have the most difficult time with virtual learning — kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.

It appears, though, that it was not just a desire for in-person instruction that drove many parents to leave traditional public schools. They also looked for schools that did a better job at offering virtual instruction, since not all school districts saw a decline in enrollment. Those that had a history of running a virtual charter school before the pandemic hit saw a 4.7% increase in enrollment.

Bloomberg, December 28, 2020
Many high schools are struggling with whether to allow students to learn in the classroom as Covid-19 infections surge across the U.S. But not the nation’s boarding schools. 

These schools have been mostly able to offer in-person learning with relatively few incidents, using a variety of intensive virus-mitigation strategies, according to Peter Upham, executive director of The Association of Boarding Schools. In many ways, boarding schools are like colleges, with most students living full-time on campus. But while colleges must deal with young adults, some of whom sleep off campus, boarding schools work with minors who are much more restricted and the schools generally have fewer enrollees. That gives administrators far more control.
Survivor’s family planning to distribute cell phone chargers to hospitals nationwide
Dr. Steve Hefler’s coronavirus survival story provided hope during the first wave of the pandemic in Florida; his family continues to provide a beacon in these dark days.

The 77-year-old retired pediatrician beat the virus after 49 days in the hospital. When he left in May, the nurses and staff lined the hallways to cheer him on and sing his favorite song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” by John Denver.

“What really became clear to me during my hospitalization, or when I recovered and came out of the hospital, was what my wife went through, what my family went through,” Hefler said.

While isolated in the ICU with Covid-19, a small gesture kept Hefler and his family connected: A nurse powered up Dr. Hefler’s cell phone with his own charger.
“It gave us hope and it gave us connection that we would not have had otherwise,” his wife Marcia Hefler said. “One of the angels would hold up the cell phone and we would talk to him, give him the ra-ra speeches, come on dad, you can do this.”

Unconscious at the time, Hefler doesn’t remember those FaceTime calls with his family. “The way we knew he heard them was because the nurses would tell us that when he heard our voices his blood pressure would rise,” Ms. Hefler said.
His family started an effort to get cell phone chargers to hospitals for staff to use to charge patients’ phones. “If their cell phone was dead, they had no way to reach out to their loved ones, so Covid just highlighted a problem we already knew existed,” said Dr. Vik Gulati.

Hefler’s son John partnered with Gulati, a San Diego-based emergency medicine physician, to start the nonprofit CHARGE Power. Their mission is to distribute phone chargers to health care facilities nationwide.

CHARGE Power partnered with Covid-Tech Connect, a nonprofit organization that is donating thousands of tablets to hospitals during the pandemic. Gulati said they have thousands of chargers available for the winter surge. “We are no longer collecting donations,” he said. “We are literally just trying to get them out to any hospital system that needs it.”

“All I can say is well done, guys, well done,” Dr. Hefler said. “It’s needed.”

Source: WFLA News 8
International News
NY Times, December 28, 2020
To brighten things up as Italians await the vaccine, the government has turned to urban planner and architect Stefano Boeri, who has sought to help his country with architectural flower power — designing 1,500 pavilions with a primrose theme where the vaccine will be distributed.

Boeri said he and his team worked furiously over 2 weeks to come up with an idea. They sought an image, he said, that could be universally understood as positive “by a 4-year-old or an intellectual in the north or a young migrant.”

He said they excluded antagonistic images that could “promote anxiety,” like a simple graphic of a bar crossing out the spiky virus, but were also careful not to promote the notion that a vaccine would set you free. So they nixed proposals like an image of two young people wrapped in an embrace, or of a mask flying away into the uninfected ether. When the flower idea emerged, it immediately resonated.

Associated Press, December 27, 2020
Doctors, nurses and the elderly rolled up their sleeves across the European Union to receive the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine Sunday in a symbolic show of unity and moment of hope for a continent confronting its worst health care crisis in a century. The vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer started arriving in super-cold containers at EU hospitals on Friday from a factory in Belgium. Each country was only getting a fraction of the doses needed — fewer than 10,000 in the first batches for some countries — with the bigger rollout expected in January when more vaccines become available. All those getting shots Sunday have to come back for a second dose in three weeks.

Altogether, the EU’s 27 nations have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths — huge numbers that experts say still understate the true toll of the pandemic due to missed cases and limited testing.

Associated Press, December 28, 2020
British hospitals are canceling non-urgent procedures and scrambling to find space for COVID-19 patients as coronavirus cases continue to surge despite tough new restrictions imposed to curb a fast-spreading new variant of the virus.

Another 41,385 confirmed cases were recorded across the U.K. on Monday. It was the first time the daily number of cases reported in the country surpassed 40,000, although many more tests are being performed than earlier in the pandemic. British authorities are blaming a new variant of the coronavirus for soaring infection rates in London and southeast England. They say the new version is more easily transmitted than the original, but stress there is no evidence it makes people sicker.

The Guardian, December 28, 2020
South Africa’s Covid-19 surge has taken the country to more than 1 million confirmed cases as president Cyril Ramaphosa called an emergency meeting of the national coronavirus command council. The country’s new variant of the coronavirus, 501.V2, is more contagious and has quickly become dominant in many areas of the resurgence, according to experts.
With South Africa’s hospitals reaching capacity and no sign of the new surge reaching a peak, Ramaphosa is expected to announce a return to restrictive measures designed to slow the spread of the disease.

Reuters, December 26, 2020
Mexico City registered 2,664 more deaths than usual earlier this month as authorities fought to contain the spread of Covid-19 that has strained hospitals and forced the city into a semi-lockdown.

The populous capital’s “excess mortality” from Dec. 1 to 12 - deaths above the typical number from prior years - averaged 214 a day, a government report said on Saturday. That compared to 141 excess deaths a day in November. The rate peaked in May when Mexico City, with a population of some 9 million, recorded 320 excess deaths per day.

Associated Press, December 28, 2020
Coronavirus infections have barely touched many of the remote islands of the Pacific, but the pandemic’s fallout has been enormous, disrupting the supply chain that brings crucial food imports and sending prices soaring as tourism wanes.

With a food crisis looming, many governments have begun community initiatives to help alleviate shortages: extending fishing seasons, expanding indigenous food gathering lessons and bolstering seed distribution programs that allow residents greater self-reliance. The project provides residents with vegetable seeds, saplings and basic farming equipment to help them grow their own home gardens.

Associated Press, December 28, 2020
South Korea has confirmed its first cases of a more contagious variant of Covid-19 that was first identified in the United Kingdom. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday the cases have been confirmed in a family of three people who came to South Korea on Dec. 22.
They arrived a day before South Korea halted air travel from Britain until Dec. 31 to guard against the new version of the virus. The three people, who reside in the U.K., are under quarantine in South Korea.

USA Today, December 28, 2020
A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a former lawyer who reported on the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak to four years in prison on charges of “picking fights and provoking trouble," one of her lawyers said.

The Pudong New Area People’s Court in the financial hub of Shanghai gave the sentence to Zhang Zhan following accusations she spread false information, gave interviews to foreign media, disrupted public order and “maliciously manipulated” the outbreak.
Lawyer Zhang Keke confirmed the sentence but said it was “inconvenient" to provide details — usually an indication that the court has issued a partial gag order.
Soumya Karlamangla and Rong-Gong Lin II, LA Times, December 28, 2020
The dire situation in LA has prompted confusion and dismay among Angelenos, many of whom are wondering whether their sacrifices over the past nine months have been for naught. L.A. County was an early adopter of masks, quickly instituted stay-at-home orders in March and November and, until this point, has kept its rate of coronavirus cases and Covid-19 deaths relatively low. So what went wrong?

The trifecta of fatigue, winter weather and holiday travel that has led to more coronavirus transmission across the country hit here, too — and became the match that lit the tinderbox.

Experts also pin LA’s problems on rules that can appear inconsistent or arbitrary, as well as a confusing patchwork of policies across Southern California. Additionally, the county is investigating whether a more contagious strain of the virus, circulating in the United Kingdom, could be partly to blame. L.A. for the most part has taken the right steps, according to epidemiologists, and with a bit of good luck, managed to keep a crisis at bay for months. “Now, some of that luck has run out,” Mayor Garcetti said.

Adam Rodgers, Wired, December 28, 2020
Public health depends on the public. If we fail it, it fails us. The virus is real, and it's bad. It’s a novel agent that infects the human respiratory system. Introduce that virus into a society that rigorously enforces and believes in the kind of difficult-but-basic measures that arrest its spread, you get deaths in the hundreds; drop it into a society that doesn’t do those things and you get deaths in the thousands.

Drop it into a society that also suffers massive socioeconomic and racial inequities, with a political class trying to turn those inequities into unjustly held power, and you get deaths in the hundreds of thousands. It presents a classic challenge—a fight between the public health of a society and the medical choices of, well, you. Of a country of yous.

The lifesaving public health advances of the 19th century—sanitation, sewage, nutrition—gave way to more technocratic and individualized medical interventions in the 20th. As the physician and public health expert John Knowles wrote in 1977, that meant everyone had an incentive to reach for expensive three-point shots to save their own lives, rather than work toward collectivist health overall, even though preventative measures like exercise, fluoride, nutrition, cleaner air, and access to primary care have more bang for the buck, society-wide.

Knowles thought that there had to be a third way, that “the idea of a ‘right’ to health should be replaced by the idea of an individual moral obligation to preserve one’s own health, a public duty if you will.” But it’d only work, Knowles wrote, if people had enough education and information, and if you gave food to poor people. Think of it as Universal Basic Health.

Rachel Feintzeig, Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2020
Overwhelmed by precarious school and child-care arrangements, working parents are turning to their own mothers and fathers for relief like never before. Grandparents are often transforming their lives to help.

The pandemic has washed away the informal, fluid arrangements that once came with being an involved grandparent—flying in for spring break if you lived far away, picking up a sick kid from school if you were local.

Instead, grandparents concerned about the risks of Covid-19 are often forced to make a choice: Isolate from the younger generation entirely, or dive in, becoming full-time caregivers bubbled with extended family. Many are choosing the latter, moving to new cities or pausing or ending work in its twilight to help their children maintain careers—or just a semblance of sanity.

Dr. Craig Spencer, The Atlantic, December 26, 2020
After 10 months of witnessing the coronavirus’s destructive capacity, on December 16 I joined thousands of health-care workers across the country and received my initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. I felt hope for the first time since March, when COVID-19 patients started streaming into my emergency room. My colleagues and I would now have one more layer of protection in our fight against the virus.

My relief was short-lived. Walking back into the emergency room, I once again felt the despair brought on by the pandemic; the vaccines won’t help any of the COVID-19 patients I am currently treating, or those who will come in during my next shift.

Americans can help lessen the burden facing health-care workers while they wait for their shots—by doing exactly the same things we have been doing, or should have been doing, all along: wearing masks, washing our hands, social distancing, and avoiding indoor settings, especially those with poor ventilation. These actions are much easier to do than putting vaccine doses into specialized vials at subarctic temperatures and distributing them across the country.

Chris Megerian, LA Times, December 26, 2020
When Pamela Caddell died of COVID-19 last month, there was no funeral — her family knew that, as a former nurse, she wouldn’t want anyone else to be exposed to the disease. But there was still something her husband, Richard, wanted to say — needed to say — so he sat down in his empty house to write her obituary.

After honoring her decades in medicine and listing her surviving relatives, he included a plea to anyone who picked up the Courier & Press in Evansville, Ind. “Pam died of Covid-19,” Richard wrote. “It was her fervent wish that everyone take this horrible disease seriously. This was her last wish to all people.”

Meaghan O'Connell, NY Times, December 26, 2020
A study from the spring suggested that a third of couples were experiencing pandemic-related conflict and that many of their sex lives were suffering. “We are missing out on many parts of our former lives,” Maya Luetke, a researcher at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University who led the study, wrote in an email. “Just as this is the lost year in other ways, it may also be the lost year in terms of sex.”

Dr. Emily Nagoski describes sexual desire and inhibition like the accelerator and brake in a car. And while right now there are more factors in couples’ lives hitting their brakes than their accelerators, all hope is not lost. There is still a lot you can do to take your foot off the brake and hit the sexuality accelerator:

  • Shift your perspective
  • Make a plan
  • Pursue novelty
  • Complete the stress cycle
We are proud to partner with the East Bay Community Foundation in publishing this bulletin. Through donations to its Covid-19 Response Fund, the EBCF provides grants to East Bay nonprofit organizations delivering essential services to those most impacted by the economic fallout from the pandemic.
East Bay Focus
by day as of 12/27/20
by day as of 12/27/20
Over the last seven days, Alameda County officials have reported 6,253 new coronavirus cases, which amounts to 380 cases per 100,000 residents.
Over the last seven days, Contra Costa County officials have reported 3,640 new coronavirus cases, which amounts to 321 cases per 100,000 residents.
Top 10 Locations of Cases in Alameda County, as of 12/27/20. Alameda County does not publish cases per 100,000 in the last 14 days by city.
Oakland: 15,830

Hayward: 7,542

Fremont: 4,176

Eden MAC: 3,236

San Leandro: 3,006

Livermore: 2,520

Union City: 2,186

Berkeley: 1,800

Newark: 1,486

Castro Valley: 1,406
Top 10 Locations of Cases in Contra Costa County plus (in parentheses) cases per 100,000 in last 14 days, as of 12/28/20
Richmond: 6,538 (1,039)

Antioch: 5,064 (923)

Concord: 4,697 (716)

Pittsburgh: 3,843 (871)

San Pablo: 3,174 (1,897)

Brentwood: 1,925 (697)

Bay Point: 1,606 (1,091)

Oakley: 1,539 (904)

Walnut Creek: 1,520 (457)

San Ramon: 1,189 (314)
East Bay Resources

Mask On Eden Area
Working in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, the Cities of Hayward and San Leandro, and the Castro Valley and Eden Area Municipal Advisory Councils, the District has printed “Mask On” posters for each city and community in the Eden Health District area. The posters are free and intended for businesses, health clinics, schools, churches, public agencies and nonprofit organizations to display in their entrances.

“Wearing masks in public or any gatherings, including events with friends and extended families, is essential for slowing the spread of the virus,” stated Eden Health District Director Pam Russo. “While we are seeing signs of progress in California, Alameda County remains a Covid-19 'hot spot' in the Bay Area. Please wear a mask to protect yourself while protecting others.”
The public is welcome to download and print or share “Mask On” posters from the District’s website. Posters are available in English, Spanish and Chinese languages.

Posters may also be retrieved during business hours from the lobby of the Eden Health District office building located at 20400 Lake Chabot Road, Castro Valley. Posters for the City of Hayward are also available from the Hayward Chamber of Commerce located at 22561 Main Street, Hayward.
Eden Area Food Pantries
We have posted information on food pantries and food services in the cities of Hayward and San Leandro and unincorporated Alameda County including Castro Valley and San Lorenzo. You can access the information here on our website. Alameda County has also released an interactive map listing food distributions and other social services. 
Your feedback is welcome. Please share the Bulletin.
The Eden Health District Board of Directors are Mariellen Faria, Chair, Pam Russo, Vice Chair, Roxann Lewis, Treasurer, Gordon Galvan and Varsha Chauhan. The Chief Executive Officer is Mark Friedman.

The Eden Health District is committed to ensuring that policy makers and community members receive accurate and timely information to help make the best policy and personal choices to meet and overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. We publish the Bulletin on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, unless the day falls on a public holiday.

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We welcome your feedback on our bulletin. Please contact editor Stephen Cassidy.