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Message From The Director

Taking a Moment to Look Back

Anna M. Roth RN, MS, MPH

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, you don’t often have time to stop and look around. Planning, coordination and action become the default. Fueled by adrenaline and passion, the days roll into each other with little time to look back on what’s been accomplished.

Yet after three months of concentrated effort responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to see what has been done—to take a step back and see where we’ve been, what’s been accomplished and what the road ahead looks like.

When word of the virus and its devastating impact in Wuhan, China, first broke, Contra Costa Health Services took notice. When Travis Air Force Base opened as a quarantine site, we were already making plans. And when the Diamond Princess passengers were evacuated to our region, we were in full swing, putting years of emergency planning and training into action.

During our first 90-day response to the virus, we haven’t wavered from any one of those priorities. To track and evaluate our efforts, we have summarized some of the work we’ve undertaken to meet those goals in a special report. This report offers a compelling snapshot of the breadth of work being done by the county’s Health Department, government, cities, healthcare workers, and volunteers. While not an exhaustive listing, the report is impressive in its volume and even more as an expression of how Contra Costa County works in the face of a crisis. You can view the full report by clicking this image or going to:

From the very beginning, we established three key goals: keep the people of Contra Costa County safe, address emerging health needs and devise plans that would allow us to contain the virus with the least impact on the well-being of our community.

LIVING SAFELY: Understandably, safety has been our overriding concern. The more people we can keep from getting the virus, the greater our success. Given the highly infectious nature of this virus, that’s been challenging, but we mobilized every resource to minimize spread. We issued a series of Health Orders that, while disruptive, were and remain essential to containing the virus and protecting your health. Those orders, however, can only be as effective as the public’s willingness to comply. In Contra Costa County, I’m proud to say, your cooperation has allowed us to slow the spread of this virus and avoid the catastrophes other regions of our country have experienced. We’re also doing investigations, data collection and modeling of the spread to give us the ammunition to make good, proactive decisions. And because we know

that certain populations are especially vulnerable, we’ve instituted a broad range of additional interventions and protections.

LIVING HEALTHY: Taking care of people with COVID-19 demands a team of experts. But it also requires specialized facilities, beds and equipment. At the onset of the pandemic we began sourcing and acquiring those much in-demand items. Fortunately, because of your responsible actions, we’ve reduced the risk of a surge that could overwhelm our health care professionals and supplies. We’ve also lightened the pressure on our health facilities by essentially redesigning our health delivery system to shift to telehealth–moving both medical and behavioral health to phone and video conferencing.

Part of protecting your health is a comprehensive screening and testing program. Initially, limited availability of testing kits hampered our efforts, but we’ve now doubled our testing, opened five dedicated testing sites and expect to have a significant increase by the end of this month. Fortunately, all our precautions and your commitment to shelter in place have slowed the spread, but as we move forward, we need to make a commitment to doing so carefully and strategically. In preparation for a potential surge, we have identified four alternative care sites around the county ready to house overflow COVID-19 patients.

LIVING WELL: Even in the face of a crisis, we must pay attention to our well-being. The need to be supported, respected, needed and engaged is vital to our overall health. Understanding that, our response to COVID-19 includes efforts to help people thrive even during this unusually anxious and difficult period. For all of us, normalcy brings comfort, and to that end we’ve tried to maintain the critical health services you rely upon. We’ve only slightly reduced the number of medical and behavioral health appointments, and other county health programs (Emergency Services, Public Health, Hazardous Materials and Environmental Health) continue critical operations.

What’s been gratifying is the outpouring of public and private support. Throughout the report you’ll find we’ve joined with other organizations to support vital work around food and housing security. Foundations, businesses and volunteers have generously supported our efforts, allowing us to magnify the services and supports we provide to the community. Similarly, we have never witnessed the level of alignment we are now seeing. Nonprofits, businesses, cities and government entities are all working as a seamless team to improve the well-being of individuals, communities and the county as a whole.

We know we have a long haul ahead, but by looking back at all we’ve accomplished by working as a community, it’s clear that Contra Costa County has the people, the know-how and the determination to cope with whatever comes next.

Wishing you all safety, health and wellness,

Anna M. Roth
Director, Contra Costa Health Services