It’s a new era in the COVID pandemic: Most precautions have been rolled back and cases are on the rise again in California. But with the Bay Area boasting some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation and the availability of new therapies, Contra Costa County public health officials announced a new goal Monday: to reduce, and ideally eliminate, “preventable” COVID-related deaths.
“We are confident that you no longer have to die from COVID-19,” Contra Costa County Health Director Anna Roth said at a press conference, announcing the “Path to Zero” plan. of the county to expand home testing and make COVID patients efficient. antivirals quickly. “We believe that many deaths, most deaths, are preventable at this stage because we have powerful tools.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Contra Costa County’s cumulative death rate has been less than half the US death rate, but it has lost more than 1,300 residents to the virus.
Now the county is reviewing those deaths to determine which were considered “preventable,” which will help focus efforts on the most vulnerable populations, said county health officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli. The mortality review will ask questions such as “were they able to be tested in a timely manner? Did they seek treatment and were they able to get timely treatment? Were they able to get vaccinated? Have they been boosted?
“If the answer to any of those questions is no,” Tzvieli said, “it shows us what we did right and where we failed.”
Contra Costa County health officials are also encouraging the use of home testing and making it available at upcoming public events.
One of the main tools of this new effort is a new line of nurses for residents who test positive, available to everyone, regardless of insurance coverage or vaccination status.
The nurse advisory phone line will help county residents quickly determine if antiviral medication is appropriate, then help them locate where the medication is available locally and quickly.
Any Contra Costa resident who is sick with COVID can now call the county’s 24/7 Nurse Advisory Line at (877) 661-6230 and request a prescription.
The pills can be taken at home with a prescription within days of the onset of symptoms to significantly reduce the severity of illness and reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. Roth said one of the reasons the county turned to a tip line is because he heard residents were struggling to find antiviral medication.
County health officials made the announcement Monday at Bay Point Family Health Center, a county-run clinic that is also returning to provide regular health services after two years of a public health emergency that disrupted normal clinic care.
“The time has come for us to think differently about this virus.” Roth said. “When someone in our community dies from COVID today, we need to understand why and then work to remove any barriers to treatment that may have contributed to that death.
With few federal and state restrictions on social gatherings, and even mask-wearing, the “Path to Zero” plan being implemented is meant to refocus efforts on communities most devastated by COVID.
“There are stark differences in COVID death rates between our wealthiest and healthiest neighborhoods and those with significant community health challenges,” said Gilbert Salinas, director of equity for the Department of health. “Path to Zero helps us better target our most vulnerable communities. »
Case rates have more than doubled in the county in recent weeks, from less than 70 average daily cases to more than 180. COVID hospitalizations in the county have also more than doubled since early April, from as low as 17 COVID patients at the start of the month to more than 40 patients, approaching 50 in recent days.
There were 22 COVID deaths reported in the county in March 2022, and only three were reported for April, although this may increase further as reports may be delayed for several weeks.