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Message From The Director

The Path Forward

Anna M. Roth RN, MS, MPH

Many of us recognize the acute danger that COVID-19 poses for each of us and our communities, and therefore the need for masking, sheltering and distancing. At the same time, we’re all ready to get back to work, to school, to the many activities that we considered normal before this pandemic struck.

In Contra Costa County, and indeed throughout the Bay Area, we have seen the benefit of quick, definitive, science-based action. Because of the shelter in place orders and your observance of these health orders, we have largely avoided the devastation that has played itself out in other parts of the nation and world. Your collective sacrifices have saved the one thing that can’t be replaced: lives. But what’s next? When do we put this horrible pandemic behind us and resume life as we once knew it? What is the path forward?

For everyone looking for a date to put on the calendar, I’m afraid I have to disappoint. We are dealing with a virus that won’t be contained by a clock. COVID-19 is capricious by its nature. That isn’t to say we haven’t made concrete progress. We learned a great deal, built powerful response systems, developed amazing partnerships and instituted testing policies that allow us to track and control the spread. In short, during the two months since the initial shelter in place order was implemented, Contra Costa County is in a far better place to address this pandemic.

This week’s health order is a testament to that success. While it rightly maintains a high level of caution and vigilance, it also begins to lighten some key restrictions. It opens the door toward increased opportunities for business and commerce.

The data we collect on a daily basis will continue to serve as our gauge as we seek additional safe ways to modify our orders and open up our communities. Nothing about this is arbitrary. Our five indicators are the best tools to let us know how we are progressing, what steps need to be taken to protect your health, and when and how we can continue to open up the county.

Contra Costa during and in the Post-COVID-19 Era

Rather than solely focusing on reopening, however, I think it’s important to also focus on re-imagining what Contra Costa County can be during and in the post-COVID-19 era. Are there paths that can take us to new or never imagined opportunities? How can we work together not simply to get back to normal but to move forward to an even better place?

Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Bay Area didn’t just rebuild, it re-imagined. Long-standing structures like the sparse, utilitarian Embarcadero Freeway were torn down to give way to one of the world’s most striking waterfront developments. Why shouldn’t we do the same when we re-imagine what we want for our communities during and beyond the COVID-19 era.

I suggest this while fully appreciating the struggles and despair all around us. I am deeply troubled by the health and economic peril so many are experiencing. It’s truly heart-wrenching and should push us to think smarter and re-imagine what is possible.

As horrible as this pandemic has been, it’s revealed some of our finest attributes. As a community, we’ve shown an ability to work together. We’ve demonstrated the power of aligning for the common good. I have witnessed an unparalleled spirit of charity, compassion and camaraderie that is awe-inspiring. Imagine harnessing that power to support everyone in our county to live safely, healthy and well, regardless of location, income, ethnicity, gender or ability.

This isn’t a pipe dream. In the last two months the people of Contra Costa County have proven that we have what it takes to take on any challenge presented to us. We don’t have to simply aim for a return to the pre-COVID baseline. We can go further!

Wishing you all safety, health and wellness,

Anna M. Roth
Director, Contra Costa Health Services