Chair Andersen provided a brief update of changes that occurred during the previous week, most significant of which was the provision of a timeline of when certain activities may be resumed. She emphasized that the requirement keep roll of who has attended church services for tracing purposes was eliminated. She said that pools, gyms, driving schools, small social gatherings, and class participation, would be among the topics for discussion today. She asked for continued vigilance considering a reported increase in new cases.
Chair Andersen invited public comment on anything covered under the current Health Order. The following people offered comments:
Vice Chair Mitchoff interjected that Dr. Farnitano needed to leave a 3:00 p.m. and she wanted to leave time for his comments.
- Tim Morgan, who requested clarification on HOAs with community pools, how masks apply in a pool setting, and volunteer pool monitors.
- Barbara Csider, regarding other states’ data and their pace of reopening compared to Contra Costa County. She commented that protesting seemed riskier than religious services.
- Gertrud Jeffries, who commented about volunteer education services for students with learning disabilities who may not have access to services via computers. She advocated for full in-service instruction for the benefit of students.
- Jared Thomsen, who asked if mask wearing and social distancing are a recommendation or requirement so that he can relay the information to his congregation.
- “Christine’s Laptop, who commented about social bubbles and youth sports, saying that children need the competitive nature of organized sports. She wanted to know how many permits were pulled for protests.
- Elias Mandilaras, who asked for the rationale for allowing salons to open before gyms, which he considers more essential than salons. He described the precautions his gym is taking to keep members safe. He compared San Diego and LA Counties to Contra Costa County.
- Toni R., who commented about family visiting, and that outside visiting in extreme heat is unsafe. She compared family visits and church groups to protests, which have been allowed. She questioned the benefits of mask wearing.
- Frine Eger-Gelston, who commented that there is a misunderstanding that SIP is no longer in place. She said that people have a misconception that social bubbles apply to adults. She believes there is still confusion about what the current health order means and that more clarification is needed.
- Chad Allender, who commented that, according to the State, his tattoo shop can be opened at the discretion of the County. He wanted to know why his shop isn’t on the list of businesses to be opened. He said his industry has measures in place that exceed the health standards.
- Don Amador, who asked if the County planned on enhancing what the Governor has issued. Will the County approve his reopening plan?
- Allison Snow, who expressed concern about the methodology as well as the data that has been used to calculate the information that's provided publicly, which she claimed has not been completely transparent and for non-healthcare lay people. She said that the current statistics are not risk adjusted mortality, and that if adjusted, the virus could be very modest except for people that are 70+ or have other risk factors. She asked for more data that applies to the community of people who are not at risk, and a better balance of their needs with the needs of the community as a whole.
- Juliet, who appreciates the consistency in the health orders across the Bay Area and requested specific guidance for employees engaged in sales, either essential or non-essential.
- Tina Sherwin, who suggested that the testing indicator is being used as an excuse for not reopening. She said the State’s requirement pertains to capacity to test, not the number of actual tests. She said that it is counterintuitive to expect healthy people with no symptoms to seek a lab test. She thinks the County’s testing goal is unrealistic and unattainable. She asked why libraries are not on the timeline while bookstores may open.
- Janice’s iPhone, who is part of a Homeowners’ Association of 342 Homes with a large swimming pool. She said the rules practically make it impossible to reopen the pool because they would permit only four people in their pool at any time. She asked what to do about pool furniture? She was concerned about the personal safety of a pool monitor.
- Nancy Kors, who complained that her community pool is being rented to outsiders for children’s swim classes and wanted to know what redress she has to prevent this in favor of tenants’ use of their own pool, to which Chair Andersen explained that this is a civil issue between the HOA Board and the residents and not under the County’s jurisdiction. Perhaps a reduction in HOA fees could be negotiated considering the revenue that is being collected from outside groups.
- Sarah W, who requested more definitive guidelines on driving schools and believes that such schools are essential because they will facilitate people being in their own cars instead of in public transportation.
- Monica Hahn, who said that certified massage therapists are part of the healing arts. She reported getting conflicting direction as to who can grant permission for resumption of massage therapy.
- Chip McHuron, who commented that restrictions make community pools unusable and are creating a financial hardship for community pools. He said the Reopenings to Date report shows pools as “green” or reopened, which is not accurate. He suggested that a new category is needed for “partially opened” or yellow. He still has questions about parental supervision on the pool deck.
- Wendy Sula, who complained that aestheticians have been left behind. She asked when she will be able to reopen like med spas and chiropractors? She has a financial hardship because she is observing the rules rather that working underground as she claimed others are doing. She considers her work part of the healing arts.
- Shawna Garvin, who expressed concerns about youth programs and playgrounds and the need for connection. She questioned actual testing vs. testing capacity as an indicator for reopening. She commented that the goal posts continue to be moved back.
- Linda Cifuentes, who commented that she doesn’t plan to get tested and risk exposure to the virus. She wanted to know what the County’s statistics would have been if we had quarantined only the high-risk people. She wanted to have that model researched to see if it would have created a better balance among everyone’s needs. She asked why couldn’t we have allowed people to self-regulate rather than these authoritative health orders.
- Brigitte Black, who commented about masks in businesses and the challenge for people who have a condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. She said that she has been denied service for this reason and asked to have the health order clarified that masks are recommended and not required, to which Chair Andersen clarified that masks are required except for a unique set of people who cannot wear masks.
- Mac Heebner, who commented that the easing of restraints has put community pool associations in a bind trying to manage expectations and complaints. He requested clarity and a plan/timeline for fewer restrictions.
- Lydia, who commented about companies that won’t allow carpooling in company vehicles due to liability concerns. She said the goalposts keep getting moved back and opined that actual testing is not a good metric for determining pace of recovery. She asked what the basis of 12 people in a group is.
- Natalie, who commented that swimming pool guidelines are murky, unreasonable and need clarification. How can a child take swim lessons? Protests disregard all social distancing standards, yet we cannot touch our family members. People want to act responsibly but she said the orders are so outrageous as to defy common sense and will lead to rebellion.
- Miss K, who commented that people have free choice and the right to open their businesses, that government works for the people and not the other way around. She recommends that people do no harm and act responsibly but choose for themselves. She said that elected officials will be held accountable.
- Mike McDermott, who commented about contact tracing results of other states that are ahead of us in the recovery. He said we don’t need to rely on intuition but can rely on actual data.
- Mandi’s iPhone, who requested clarification on churches, to which Chair Andersen explained that indoor services will be allowed for up to 100 people effective July 1 with appropriate precautions. Right now, the limit is 12 people inside and 100 outside.
- Jonathan Katayanagi, Parks Trails and Recreation Director, who was tested without symptoms in one hour during a drive-in test. He said he appreciates the HSD call center and needs clarification in three areas: household support unit, childcare unit, extracurricular unit. Social bubbles as they apply to adult recreation. Addition of classroom unit to the care unit. And a potential hybrid model.
- Dino, who requested an update about churches. He said it feels too restrictive compared to other counties. Chair Andersen reiterated the current restriction and the change effective July 1. She stated the County has no intention to deprive religious liberty but merely to keep the community safe and find ways to manage the spread of the virus.
- Susan Morgan, who agreed that some of the health restrictions are ridiculous. She said there is an exemption under the health order regarding wearing masks but it hasn’t been effectively communicated. She complained about being micromanaged and said it doesn’t work. She said the mask order should be a strong recommendation rather than a requirement.
- Liz Claytor, who requested pool guidance. She said that even if every swim school pivots to camps, they cannot meet the demand for swim lessons. She wants to know when CCC will catch up with the state.
- Sven (iPhoneK), who spoke about opening up playgrounds since the sun kills the virus.
Dr. Farnitano Comments: Concerning trends. Highest number of weekly deaths, now up to 44 out of 1,829 cases equating to a 2.4% mortality rate in our county. Data modeling suggests we would have had 4,000 deaths absent SIP, and we need to acknowledge the number of deaths avoided in addition to the number of deaths sustained.
Hospital cases are also on the rise from an average of 12 per day to 21 per day, which may be understated since West County residents are typically hospitalized in Alameda County. Most of them are from community dwellings, not elder care facilities.
More people are testing positive, from about 2.5% to about 5%. The general scientific consensus is that a big portion of transmission is being caused by people who either are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic and that's why the importance of testing people without symptoms is so critical. He encouraged more testing and that the testing sites do very good hygiene.
Regarding pools, pool monitors do not have to be paid staff but can be volunteers so long as they are not swimming. He noted that the County’s pool guidance preceded the State’s and so now he is looking at better aligning the two and understands the confusion. He is committed to making the pool restrictions clearer and more manageable and appreciates the feedback.
Regarding facial coverings, they are required whenever a person is outside the pool and near others. There is consensus in the scientific community that facial coverings play a big role in reducing the transmission of the virus.
Regarding religious gatherings, there is still strong evidence across the country of a high rate of transmission. Church services are not prohibited but are allowed with restrictions. It is planned that effective July 1, indoor religious gatherings will be allowed up to 100 or 25% of the allowable square footage, consistent with the State order. Tracking attendance for purposes of contact tracing is now a recommendation rather than a requirement.
Regarding schools, working closely with County Superintendent of Schools and other school representatives to support them in opening schools safely. The County did obtain a variance from the State that allows for more local discretion, but we still cannot allow youth sports or open playgrounds or nail salons. It appears that outdoor playgrounds may be allowed to open before indoor playgrounds.
Regarding social gatherings, such as backyard barbecues and birthday parties, those are currently limited to a stable group of close friends or family numbering 12 or fewer that meets outdoors. There is no specific magic about 12 but small groups are better. For example, the State originally used groups of 10 or less, and so it’s just a matter of degree of risk. As to meeting outdoors in the heat of summer, he recommended meeting in the early morning or evening hours when it can be done more comfortably.
Public libraries are allowed but currently restricted to curbside for most of our libraries. A plan is under development to expand this to indoor library services. Driving schools are now allowed. Therapeutic massage will be permitted by the State in the later part of Stage 3; guidelines are under development. Medical massage is currently allowed under a doctor’s note. They are still working on guidelines for carpools. However, tattooing, nail salons and body waxing are still not allowed by the State and so no guidelines have been issued.
For allowable activities, for the most part the County is not requiring certification or approval of mitigation plans with very few exceptions in activities of high risk. He is committed to reviewing the refining the County’s guidelines as more information gets released by the State and in response to community feedback.
The County will make a greater effort to communicate to businesses that people with certain conditions may not be able to wear a facial covering. Refusals of service can be reported to the Consumer Complaint Hotline. Vice Chair Mitchoff suggested asking to speak to a store manager if denied service or entrance for not donning a facial covering.
At this point. Dr. Farnitano leaves the meeting.
Vice Chair Mitchoff commented that she and Chair Andersen empathize with the commenters and expressed frustration with the State for setting up restrictions and then telling people that the County has discretion that it doesn’t have to loosen them. She said the 200/100,000 testing indicator is mandated by the State not the County. She said she plans to get tested the following week and that testing has been made convenient, in your car. She directed people to the County website and encouraged more testing. She agreed that the goalposts have been moved because we are learning more about the virus and making informed adjustments. And while people may be willing to risk their own health, they may also be risking the health of others by doing so and we need to get beyond the “me” mentality.
Chair Andersen concluded by encouraging continuing feedback and monitoring of County updates on the website. She directed people to read about the variance obtained by the County.