STOCKTON — Dr. Maggie Park, San Joaquin County’s Public Health Officer, told supervisors on Tuesday that of the 210 COVID-19 outbreaks reported since the pandemic began in March, only five have been traced to restaurants or bars.
While she did not name which establishments were the source of the outbreaks, one was a bar in Lodi. The other outbreaks were restaurants located in Stockton, she said.
In addition, Parks said she could not determine if outbreaks were reported at churches or hair salons, as patients questioned by contact tracers are never exactly sure where they might have contracted the virus.
“I have looked at our outbreak list, and it’s gotten very, very long now,” she said. “And most recently it’s back to being at our nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, predominately, (as well as) some plant distributions centers.”
Park added that transmission has continually been traced to households, where a resident contracts the virus at work and brings it home to infect relatives. Large gatherings also continue to be the a large source of transmission, she said.
Her comments came after she reported that the current surge in COVID-19 cases has exceeded the surge experienced at the outset of the pandemic.
In addition, she said the 106 people being treated for COVID-19 in the intensive care units at seven county hospitals is the highest since the pandemic began. Of those with the virus, 76 were on ventilators, she said.
“We know there is extreme COVID fatigue among the community,” Park said. “Despite the warnings and the surge in hospitalizations and deaths, people continue to gather understanding the consequences. That is why we now need to shift our focus to vaccinations. They are the best hope to reduce our COVID cases and hospitalizations and finally get the state to allow us to reopen businesses, schools and everyday activities.”
As of Tuesday, the county has received 19,450 vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna, Park said, with more than 8,000 from the former company given to health care workers, long-term care facilities and those in the first phase of administration. Another 1,600 vaccines from Moderna have been administered as well, she said.
Vaccines have been administered by hospitals, county clinics and community medical centers.
Park said state officials visited several hospitals throughout the county on New Year’s Day, to see the condition of facilities, staffing needs, space contingencies, morgue capacity and discharge methods.
State officials visited four other counties in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions, and as a result, the California Department of Public Health issued a new order Tuesday evening that cancels non-urgent surgical procedures in regions were ICU capacity remains at 0%.
Additionally, the new order implements inter-facility transfers and out of county transfers to provide more space for patients in hospitals, and allows staff to reduce documentation and charting so it can focus more on patient care. The new order will remain in effect for three weeks.
Park’s update comes as the county’s new case rate reaches 64.7 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident and a test positivity rate of 17%.
If the regional stay at home order implemented on Dec. 6 were to be lifted in the next three weeks, the county would remain in the purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening system.
Because of the high case rate, schools in the county will not be allowed to open for in-person instruction until that case rate in reduced to 28 per 100,000, Park said.
Schools in the county that were providing in-person instruction before the regional stay at home order went into effect last month are allowed to bring younger students back to the classroom by the spring, she said.
“We need to do everything in our power to work together, mobilize assets and make plans now for not only rapid testing, but large-scale administration of vaccines in the community,” said board chair Tom Patti said. “Just as important, we need to get the message out to San Joaquin residents that vaccines are safe, effective and basically our only chance to get our lives and livelihoods back on track. We need to do this for our businesses, our kids, our front-line and essential workers and everyone in the community and we need to do it now.”