On Tuesday the State of California announced that a number of California counties would be downgraded to the more restrictive purple tier in the state’s coronavirus coding system after the percentage of positive cases spiked above the requisite threshold and the number of hospitalizations increased – including Sacramento, Stanislaus and Contra Costa counties, all of which border San Joaquin County.
While the percentage of positive tests in San Joaquin County has increased above the acceptable level for the red tier, said Supervising Public Health Educator and Public Information Officer Daniel Kim, the numbers require that the county remain at that level of two weeks before they can be downgraded.
That means that unless things improve, San Joaquin County may meet the same fate – which includes disruptions to business operations and the closing of some business sectors that only recently reopened.
Slipping back into the purple tier would, among other things, shutdown indoor dining at restaurants. It would also jeopardize the reopening of schools from the 7th through 12th grades. Only schools that meet specific conditions to obtain a waiver for transitional kindergarten through sixth grade can be open in the purple tier.
The Manteca Unified COVID-19 dashboard shows only 6 cases of confirmed virus cases among students and five among staff as of Tuesday. Each case remains on the rolling dashboard for 14 days — the length of time is needed to quarantine
“Our concern is, while our case numbers have been going up there is a lag in terms of hospitalizations,” Kim said. “And we have started to see our hospitalizations start to go up – not just ICU cases, but inpatient hospitalizations as well.
“Seeing that trend up over the course of the past week or so is a red flag that we have to watch.”
According to Kim, one of the things that doesn’t fare well for San Joaquin County historically has been a relatively low number of patients that are tested for the virus. Based on the State of California’s metrics, he said, the county gets somewhat of a penalty because they have not been testing as many people as other counties that have a buffer because of the volume of people that are being tested – even when their percentages increase, he said, it isn’t as damaging in terms of potential restrictions.
Over the last several months testing availability has increased drastically across San Joaquin County and is now open to any resident that wants to be tested regardless of whether they have insurance, or they are showing symptoms. While many healthcare providers will only test people who are exhibiting symptoms that correlate with the coronavirus, Kim said there are now options for people who believe they may have been exposed and want to make sure that they are safe before visiting friends or family members – or hosting people for holidays.
“At this stage, we’re suggesting that even people who are asymptomatic get tested if they were around somebody that has tested positive or they believe that they may have been exposed,” Kim said. “There are now sites open to the public where people can be tested for free – all of those sites are able to collect insurance information that will prevent people from paying out of pocket, and if people don’t have insurance then there are programs available for them as well.
“It’s one of the best tools that we have right now, and even if people are negative the increase in the number of tests positively affects my metrics.”
Because San Joaquin County was spared in the last round of downgrades, it’ll be another week before the State of California releases its next round of data – which is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 17 – which gives the county and its residents time to try and ebb the tides that are flowing towards more restrictive measures.
Last week on Tuesday, San Joaquin County was sitting at 86 percent of capacity in terms of available ICU beds, and 65 percent of capacity for hospital beds throughout the county.
As of Tuesday, the ICU capacity increased to 112 percent of what is licensed, and overall hospital capacity increased to 71 percent.
The number of COVID-positive patients admitted to the ICU over the last week has also increased from 8 percent last week to 14 percent on Tuesday, and the number of overall COVID-positive patients requiring hospitalization increased from 5 percent last week to 9 percent as of Tuesday.
That trend alarms health officials like Kim, but he also said that the county has time to try and reverse that trend.
“We’re feeling right now like we’re probably going to be back in the purple, but they added a clause that looks at the 10 days prior as well,” said Kim. “If the last 10 days shows a downward trend, it’s going to fare better for us in the eyes of the state.”
Latest COVID-19 numbers
& local testing locations
Postings on the San Joaquin County COVID-19 dashboard on Wednesday at 2 p.m. show 1,040 persons with active cases of COVID-19 out of 776,000 San Joaquin County residents are currently positive with the virus although they are not necessarily sick. That is the number once you subtract the 21,453 people that health officials have determined to have recovered from the 22,993 cases since March
Many of the recovered may never have been ill. The same goes for a large number of those now with active COVID-19 designation. The mask order and social distancing is designed to protect people from those who may not know they are carrying the virus and who may never show symptoms.
There were 88 new cases received on Wednesday.
There have been 500 deaths in San Joaquin County.
If you would like to be tested, the test site in Manteca is at the Transit Center at 220 Moffat Boulevard. The Lathrop test site is at the Generations Center at 450 Spartan Avenue. The free drive-thru COVID-19 testing Monday through Friday is from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until a date when the demand for testing drops off.
HR Support also offers testing Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at West Valley Mall in Tracy as well as 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the San Joaquin County Fairground in Stockton.
You can go to hrsupportpros.com/covid-19-testing-sites-1 to sign up for time slots at any of the locations. They have the ability to test a maximum of 30 people during an hour.
For more information, click on to www.hrsupportpros.com.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.