Directors will revisit decision at Jan. 27 Bard meeting
By Sam Richards
(Tuesday, Jan. 18) Citing the rapid spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant and skyrocketing Contra Costa County case numbers and hospitalizations since mid-December – still headed upward as of Tuesday – the GRF Board voted Tuesday morning to continue the shutdown of indoor public gathering spaces in Rossmoor until at least Jan. 27, when the next Board meeting is scheduled.
Board member Ted Bentley noted that more than 250 cases have been reported among Rossmoor residents, and that people he knows may be having long-term problems from it.
“And although they’re testing negative, they still feel like they have effects of it,” Bentley said Tuesday. “They just don’t feel right.”
Bentley joined Board President Dwight Walker and members Mary Hurt, Carl Brown, Neva Flaherty, Dale Harrington and Paul Moderacki in voting to continue to shutdown.
Board members Kathleen Stumpfel and Leanne Hamaji voted to end the shutdown. Hamaji said that while she had been “on the fence” about a reopening now, Rossmoor isn’t a care facility but rather a community of independent living, and that Rossmoorians continue to be careful. She said she knows of people for whom the shutdown has added to their general COVID-related despondence and that it is adversely affecting residents’ mental health.
“People here are free to make their own decisions,” Hamaji said. “Most people are very cautious and are taking this very seriously.”
But Rossmoor CEO Tim O’Keefe noted that Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Contra Costa County’s public health director, had recommended the temporary closure of indoor public spaces in Rossmoor – the impetus for the Board’s Jan. 7 closed executive session vote to enact the shutdown. Tzvieli reiterated his recommendation for that shutdown, and the reasons for it (including that Rossmoor residents’ median age is over 75) in a subsequent interview with the Rossmoor News.
And O’Keefe on Tuesday backed that up with data straight from the Contra Costa Health Services web page dashboard (www.coronavirus.cchealth.org/overview) – 32,423 new COVID cases in the county (including 239 hospitalizations) over the two weeks before Jan. 18, with the current fourth wave of infections dwarfing the previous three and showing no signs yet of slowing down.
“The infection rate of vaccinated people, and of fully boosted people, are drastically increasing, as well,” O’Keefe said. He noted 14 GRF staff members – most of them fully vaccinated – have reported infections since mid-December. That’s many more than during previous surges, he said, though he added that there have been no reports yet of employee-to-employee spread.
Acknowledging that the omicron variant appears to be causing fewer serious illnesses per capita than the delta variant did during much of 2021, O’Keefe said it’s mostly people over 60 – “in our age demographic” – who have died from it, and that presents a significant threat to seniors. And the number of fully boosted county residents getting infected, he added, is also concerning.
Those numbers, as well as Tzvieli’s recommendation to shut down Rossmoor’s indoor public gathering spaces, carried weight with most Board members.
“As an 83-year-old resident, I appreciate caution,” Harrington said.