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Jump in COVID cases alarms Contra Costa health officials

on July 23, 2021

As the delta variant spreads across the state, the number of new COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in Contra Costa County since California officially reopened on June 15. 

Over the last two weeks, 76% of 96 new specimens collected have been of the delta variant.  “This is just a sampling, but it’s safe to say we have seen delta steadily grow in Contra Costa County,” said Dr. Sefanit Mekuria, deputy health officer with Contra Costa Health Services. 

“We believe the highly infectious delta variant is the predominant strain in Contra Costa.” 

Mekuria and other health officials are urging the unvaccinated public to get innoculated.  

Data from Contra Costa Health Services shows the rate of positive coronavirus cases is 11 times higher in those who are not fully vaccinated than it is for the vaccinated population. 

Unsurprisingly, the communities with the lowest vaccination rates are the same communities with the highest infection rates. Namely, eastern Contra Costa has been hit hard, with cities such as Antioch, Oakley and Pittsburg leading the per-capita case rate in the last two weeks, Health Services said. Only about half the population has been fully vaccinated in those areas. Richmond is not far behind, with a vaccination rate of just 60%. 

By comparison, 62% of Californians are fully vaccinated, with some places, such as San Francisco and Marin County, achieving rates of more than 80%, and Contra Costa as a whole, reaching 75%. Since the coronavirus arrived in early 2020, more than 3.7 million Californians have been infected and more than 63,600 have died. 

Contra Costa has logged more than 73,000 cases and, as of Thursday, 828 deaths. Since mid-June, coronavirus hospital admissions have increased by 50% in the county. On July 16, Contra Costa issued a joint statement with several other Bay Area counties, strongly advising the public to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status due to the troubling increase in the region’s infection rate.

In terms of who is becoming infected, 60% of new cases over the last two weeks were among 20-to-49 year-olds, with those in their 20s registering the lowest vaccination rate across all ages aside from children, Health Services said. The infection rate has been disproportionate along race lines, with African Americans topping infection rates at 5.6 cases per 100,000 people per day in the past 30 days, whereas white, Asian, and Hispanic cases all range between 1 and 2 per 100,000 people per day. 

Contra Costa Health Services recommends vaccines for anyone over the age of 12. 

“Vaccines continue to be our best defense against severe COVID-19 infection. Vaccines are safe, effective, free and widely available to everyone 12 and older,” Mekuria said.

Contra Costa’s Community Engagement Team is in its final stretch of a three-week canvassing effort in Antioch neighborhoods where the vaccination rate is unusually low. Masked outreach workers are going door to door to urge people to get vaccinated. Contra Costa Health Services has hosted vaccine clinics and plans on holding another one this Saturday in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Contra Costa. 

The county also has a mobile vaccination team to administer vaccines for free to groups of five or more people. More information is on the Contra Costa Health Services’ website.

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