As more Contra Costa County residents are being tested for the coronavirus, it has become clearer that an increasing proportion of those who test positive are young, between 20 and 50 years old, county health officials said Tuesday.
Also those officials warned that cases are rising among all groups.
"We're seeing a rise in all indicators, regionally and in the Bay Area," said Anna Roth, director of Contra Costa County Health Services.
That fact, she said, makes it important for county residents to remember there is still a serious pandemic going on.
There were 343 new COVID-19 cases in Contra Costa County in the past week, Roth said, about a week ahead of the July 1 date when bars, gyms and personal service businesses are set to reopen, along with indoor restaurant dining.
“It's clear evidence of widespread community transmission," Roth told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
While Contra Costa County hospitals have ample resources to treat those patients at this point, some other area counties are reaching the breaking point.
"San Joaquin County, in particular, is reaching hospital capacity," Roth said. Bay Area counties, she said, have a mutual-aid-type agreement to help one another with COVID-19 treatments; Contra Costa County hospitals are now treating four out-of-county residents, Roth said, while seven Contra Costa County residents are being similarly treated in other Bay Area counties.
While infections among younger people are on the rise, it's also true, according to Roth and Dr. Sara Levin, a county deputy health officer, that two-thirds of the 62 total Contra Costa County residents who have died from COVID-19 have been 80 years old or older. And the vast majority of those patients lived in skilled nursing facilities or other "congregant care" facilities. Fourteen residents of one Concord center, San Miguel Villa, have succumbed to COVID-19 in recent weeks; an Orinda facility had an earlier wave of deaths.
Levin told the supervisors Tuesday that outreach to help these care facilities will remain a priority. And aside from being home to a specific population that suffers the most from the coronavirus, the relatively low-wage employees working in those facilities often work at multiple locations, adding to the rate of infection spread. Both of those situations, Levin said, "present a major challenge for us."
"Congregant care" centers serve seniors and other groups, too. Levin said residential treatment centers, youth group homes and intermediate care facilities are also ripe for the spread of COVID-19, and that the county is watching those facilities especially carefully, as well.
Of those younger people who recently have tested positive for COVID-19, Levin said almost all will show either mild symptoms or none at all. But Roth also said, "there's a certain randomness to it," and that young people occasionally die or get very sick from the coronavirus. And people without symptoms, she said, have the potential to spread the virus more quickly.
Almost 63,000 Contra Costa County residents have been tested for COVID-19 so far, with 2,454 positive results as of Tuesday. Roth said that, over the past week, more than 1,700 Contra Costa County residents were tested each day, approaching the eventual daily goal of 2,200 tests. She also said that Contra Costa County, as of Tuesday, had put to work 86 "contact tracers" to determine who infected people have been in contact with, and has hired another 60, expected to start work soon.