Why the Virus Spread in Alameda County Should Alarm Us All
Most Bay Area counties are now mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well with trends in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths either curving or remaining low on the comparative scale. But where many of the area’s residents are latching onto signs of hope, people in Alameda County see cause for concern, and that should concern the entire region.
Cases are steeply and steadily rising in the East Bay county of roughly 1.7 million residents, recently overtaking the more populous Santa Clara County as the region’s coronavirus hotspot. According to the county’s public health reporting Wednesday, there are 1070 cases in Oakland alone. Hayward is reporting the second highest number of confirmed patients at 573.
For context, there are more Covid-19 cases in the city of Oakland than are being reported in whole North Bay counties. Density obviously factors into the varied statistics when comparing places like Alameda County to Napa County, where hair salons and barbershops are set to reopen. However, it does not explain the difference when comparing areas with similar populations and demographics.
Since we have the greatest amount of data coming out of the Alameda County, it’s worth noting how the virus is impacting the community on both macro and micro levels. The area’s Hispanic/Latino population has been hardest hit in terms of spread, representing 40 percent of the county’s cumulative infection total, whereas the African American/Black community makes up about 9 percent of the 3,049 patients countywide.
Yet, those proportions do not hold up when looking at the area’s health outcomes broken down by race/ethnicity. Among the county’s 93 tragic deaths due to the virus, the African American/Black community accounts for more than 23 percent. It’s quite a leap from a fraction of the total confirmed cases to a substantial portion of the death toll.
There is much speculation on the topic of why certain races and ethnicities are being disproportionately affected in areas with sufficient hospital resources.
Alameda County is wedged inland between Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties, explaining some of the spread from the previous South Bay hotspot and alarming their East Bay neighbors.
Santa Clara County has already experienced a severe first peak and established protocol to try and avoid another deathly round. But Contra Costa County, with about 1.2 million residents, has had a very different experience. Though local leaders there have been diligent in their shelter and health directives in an abundance of caution, the potential spread from Alameda County as restrictions are simultaneously loosening is a bit alarming.
The virus does not respect country, county or city borders. If asymptomatic people wander more freely between cities and counties, the Covid-19 will spread and can easily get out of hand.
Bay Area residents will need to be responsible about following guidelines and conscious of travel from one place to another in order to mitigate this brutal pandemic on a local level.