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Contra Costa County Slips Into Red Tier but SF Enacts Stricter COVID-19 Policies

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San Francisco city officials announced Tuesday that they’re shutting down all indoor dining at the stroke of midnight Saturday. Contra Costa County announced that various indoor operation capacities will be reduced. When you compare COVID-19 data for both counties, Contra Costa is in much worse shape. The stark difference between how each area tackles pandemic-related policies appears to have a substantial impact on the health outcome of residents.

The state downgraded Contra Costa County to the more restrictive red tier Tuesday and local health officials have responded by sticking pretty precisely to imposed state guidelines, reducing capacity from 50 percent to 25 percent here and there, with lower capacity limits for gyms and shutting down indoor family entertainment venues entirely.

California Blueprint for Safer Economy COVID-19 county mitigation map as of Tuesday, November 10, 2020. (Graphic courtesy of California Department of Public Health)

But San Francisco, which is still in the least restrictive tier dictated by the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy, is moving much more boldly in reaction to the latest confirmed case spike. That may explain why San Francisco has been credited with some of the lowest case rates per capita among all major urban U.S. cities.  

Sure, health guideline decisions have to be balanced against economic and educational risk, but the virus pays no mind to the bills we have to pay or the classes we’d prefer our children attend in person. The reality, which proves itself in current data comparison, is that stricter health guidelines lead to fewer hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19.

San Francisco has been slow and measured about how they reopen, hesitating to jump on newly permitted activities and capacity limits as it reaches less restrictive tiers. On the flipside, Contra Costa reopened playgrounds and indoor operations almost as fast as the state said it could. The result is a backslide in Contra Costa from the orange to red tier within a three-week period.

Outdoor pickup area at Park n Shop in Concord, Calif. when most indoor retail shopping remained off limits during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Nik Wojcik)

Nobody likes the current situation. Nobody wants businesses and schools closed or restrictions on visiting people we love, but time and time again, especially school-age parents say a consistent plan without needless back and forth is the preferred way to go. And, if the data is any indication, proactive and more restrictive measures appear to be the best way to keep residents healthy.  

Consider this: In San Francisco, the COVID-19 fatality rate among the entire county population is .017 — in Contra Costa, that rate goes up to .022. While we can hope that the recent presidential election will lead to a more comprehensive and informed federal-level plan, until then, states and localities are pretty much on their own to decide the fate of their residents, and Contra Costa may want to rethink its priorities as the fall surge really sets in.    


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.