The Alameda County Public Health Department announced Monday that it will postpone indefinitely its reopening timeline for businesses that had been on track to return in July, citing the need to better contain the COVID-19 pandemic amid recent upticks in local cases and hospitalizations.
The postponement means ACPHD will now keep closed businesses and activities such as indoor dining, salons and barber shops, pools and professional sports without fans — all of which had been scheduled to reopen by early- to mid-July.
The move also affects future phases of reopenings, such as those to include schools, bars, personal services, gyms, indoor museums and gatherings of up to 99 people.
“Given recent increases in COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates in our county and region, we are temporarily pausing our reopening plans,” ACPHD officials said in a statement Monday afternoon.
“We recognize the multifaceted challenges presented by a slow reopening and are grateful for the sustained effort and sacrifices made by our residents and businesses,” they added. “As the pandemic evolves, we will need to remain flexible and nimble in our response. We all play a part in safely reopening our communities and protecting people at high risk for COVID-19 infection and death.”
The announcement of ACPHD hitting “pause” came several hours before the department confirmed its leader Dr. Erica Pan — the public face and voice behind the county’s COVID-19 shelter order and related decisions — is leaving Alameda County for a position with the state government.
Pan’s top deputy, Dr. Nicholas J. Moss, will take the reins as the county’s interim health officer effective Tuesday.
Alameda County’s COVID-19 case rate has increased to 71.1 per 100,000 people (up 7.9) over the past seven days, according to ACPHD.
The public health agency also reported seeing a daily increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since last week, following a period of daily decreases.
ACPHD reported that as of Sunday, there had been a total of 5,762 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 133 deaths countywide. Highs by community included Oakland (2,252), Hayward (963), and Fremont and San Leandro (276 each).
As for the Tri-Valley, Livermore had 150 cases, Pleasanton had 99 cases and Dublin had 49 cases, as of Sunday. The Veterans Affairs Department confirmed on Monday that one COVID-19 death involved a resident in the Livermore Community Living Center, under the Palo Alto VA Health Care System.
Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, which is kept in a separate statistical category, had 60 cases and Sunol had fewer than 10.
“We are concerned by the increase in local cases, disproportionate impact on communities of color, local impact of the outbreak at San Quentin State Prison, and the alarming disease trends we see in counties that have opened at a faster rate,” ACPHD officials said.
“This week and next will be critical for assessing the impact of activities authorized to resume in Alameda County on June 19th, and we will continue to closely monitor our data to inform next steps regarding reopening and attestation,” they added.
And the department will be doing that analysis with a new leader.
Pan, the county’s interim health officer since July 2018, has been appointed as the state epidemiologist and deputy director overseeing the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to have served Alameda County for the past nine years, and grateful for the community’s support of the dramatic measures we had to take to slow the spread of COVID19 during these unprecedented times,” Pan said in a statement released through ACPHD late Monday afternoon.
“There has never been a more challenging time to be a public health officer, yet I look forward to the honor of serving to help lead this work more broadly statewide,” she added. “I leave here proud of the work our Public Health Department does every day to keep our communities healthy and safe, and confident in Dr. Moss’ ability to continue our plan to address the complex issues of this pandemic.”
Moss, the county’s new interim health officer, has served as deputy county health officer and acting director of the Division of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention since earlier this year.
He joined the department in April 2013 to lead the HIV/STD Section to provide oversight and planning for HIV care, build sustainable funding for HIV prevention, and integrate HIV and STD work in the department, officials said.