Few communities are immune to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, it seems. That’s of little consolation to Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, where infection rates have risen dramatically in the past two weeks.
“The situation is very problematic,” Cabaldon said Tuesday. “It’s no comfort that it’s the case across the region and across the state.”
A month ago, West Sacramento was seeing one new case a day. Some days the city recorded no new cases at all, according to data compiled by Yolo County’s Health and Human Services Agency. The record for one day was six, reported in early April.
In the past few days, however, daily infections have risen significantly. The city had either 10 or 11 new cases reported on four separate days last week.
Cabaldon said many of the new cases are originating in private family gatherings — a belief echoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sacramento County health officials. But the mayor said the reopening of restaurants and bars has contributed, indirectly, to the surging caseloads because they foster perceptions among city residents that the coronavirus pandemic is easing.
“The pace and the sense of inevitability of reopening have created a sense in the public mind that the worst is behind us and normal is right around the corner,” Cabaldon said.
Yolo County public health director Brian Vaughn, who has the authority to reverse the reopening of sectors of the economy, said last week he agrees that most of the problems are originating in private gatherings.
“We haven’t linked anything back, say, to restaurants or gyms,” he said in a YouTube chat with Cabaldon. But he agreed with Cabaldon that openings have led to complacency among residents. People are “letting down their guard, feeling comfortable,” he said.
Unlike Sacramento County, which just ordered bars to close down again, Yolo County hasn’t reversed course on the reopening of the economy.
Cabaldon said West Sacramento’s large Latino population might also be a factor, given “the cultural norms in many parts of the Latino community around family gatherings.” Latinos are 31 percent of West Sacramento’s population.
State statistics show COVID-19 infection rates are soaring among California’s Latino population. Latinos make up 55.7 percent of those infected in the state, although they account for only 39.4 percent of the population.
Yolo County looks at adding more restrictions
At the same time, officials aren’t just focusing on family gatherings. Yolo County supervisors next week might be asked to consider a stricter crackdown on businesses that are ignoring rules about social distancing, masks and other precautions.
“We may be looking at something a little more concrete,” said Jenny Tan, the county’s spokeswoman.
She said the county might decide to shut down or impose fines on businesses that have been contacted already and are showing no signs of complying with the rules. The county might also decide to issue public statements about businesses that have been lax, she said.
Yolo County is seeing the same big jump in COVID-19 cases that are being reported in other jurisdictions. Twenty-seven new cases were reported Saturday, the most in one day for the county.
Tan said hospitalization rates, while still low, are on the rise as well. There were 11 county residents hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Tuesday morning, she said, although eight of those residents were in hospitals outside of Yolo. Two weeks ago, she said, only two county residents had to be hospitalized with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the county announced that its no-cost coronavirus testing site in West Sacramento will remain open another three weeks, until July 25. The site, at Club West on Riverbank Road, was supposed to close Friday.
The site, run by OptumServe in conjunction with the state, is open by appointment only Tuesdays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Residents can call (888) 634-1123 or complete an online application at https://lhi.care/covidtesting.
Testing is available to anyone regardless of documentation status. The state will pay the costs for those without health insurance. For those with health insurance, their carrier will be billed and there’s no out-of-pocket cost.