While county health authorities continue to reach for clarity on how to be removed from the state’s COVID-19 watchlist, San Mateo County officials warn residents there’s no clear end to business closures in sight.
“The question is how do you get off [the watchlist] and the answer is no one knows and that’s disconcerting to say the least. We don’t know a clear path off this list and we hope that the state is working different metrics really based in science that would allow us the opportunity to get off this list,” said County Manager Mike Callagy during a remote press conference Wednesday.
Deputy Chief of Health Srija Srinivasan said suggestions have been made to the state to take into consideration what local health authorities say is happening on the ground. Similarly, County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow said in a phone interview last week he’d like to see more collaboration between state and county officials.
“To fix this process I would say ‘your metrics look concerning to us, let’s talk.’ The numbers are a mindless automaton. I would expect to use monitoring to understand the nuances and ask ‘What do you need? What would help you,’” said Morrow.
The county was first placed on the state watchlist for experiencing increased hospitalization rates above 10% for a rolling three-day-average while also reporting more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents for a rolling 14-day-average. While the county is still above both benchmarks, Callagy noted hospital surge capacity, including within intensive care units, was strong and most data points have stabilized, including hospitalizations.
“Our numbers are looking good, at least stable in the area of hospitalizations. We’ve got a lot of surge beds, acute care beds available, ventilators available, all the things you would expect and that’s why Dr. Morrow said several times that we believe we are stable,” said Callagy.
Until the county is removed from the watchlist, hair salons, barber shops, other personal care facilities, gyms, places of worship and office buildings performing nonessential work are prohibited from operating. Some businesses in parts of the county, including in Foster City and all unincorporated areas, have waived zoning requirements and permit processes to allow for outdoor operations.
While the county intends to comply with the business closures, Callagy echoed the sentiment of Morrow, saying the county has seen no evidence the spread of the respiratory disease has been traced back directly to those businesses forced to close.
“I want to reiterate that we do not feel we should have been put on the watchlist, that these numbers don’t necessitate that type of extreme action by the state in this case and especially because these numbers are in dispute and remain in dispute at this point in time.” said Callagy who noted the state appeared to be open to the county’s monitoring suggestions.
State officials had previously said changes to the watchlist would be paused until the glitch responsible for disrupting the transfer of daily positive test data, was repaired and the source of the error was understood. During the virtual press conference, Srinivasan noted the state had repaired the error but officials are still weary to sign off on the accuracy of the data.
“We saw a lot of progress over the weekend on Sunday and we will remove the disclaimer on our website when we feel confident that all of the underreporting has been overcome,” said Srinivasan.
The case count currently reflected on the county dashboard sits at 6,535 positive cases. A total of 122 individuals have died due to COVID-related ailments, two more than reported last week. Accurate hospitalization data report 55 residents are currently being hospitalized for COVID-related illnesses. Of those patients, 12 are receiving care in the ICU and one is from outside the county.
No new out-of-county patients, including those from San Quentin State Prison, have been admitted to local hospitals but officials said assistance could possibly be offered if needed.
Officials also remain concerned for rising cases amongst young adults in the 20 to 29 age range, individuals in the 30 to 39 age range and those in the Latino community. The spread within these groups have been attributed to heightened activity and an inability to social distance when at work or at home.
“The numbers continue to rise … and we’re just still trying to get that message out there to the younger generation to stay away from those parties and social gatherings,” said Callagy.
Despite young people being more likely to contract the disease, those 80 years old and older are still more likely to die if they contract COVID-19. Residents are encouraged to visit personal care physicians if interested in being tested which may have a quicker turnaround time than the government process, said officials.