Contra Costa surpasses 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations
By Ann Peterson
(Monday, April 26) Contra Costa County eclipsed its goal of 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations more than a month ahead of schedule last week, with 68% of its residents who are 16 or older receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.
Recognizing how vaccines have changed the landscape, California officials are allowing social gatherings again – but just how large a gathering depends on shots and negative tests.
And that question is about to come before the GRF Board.
Under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which uses a color tier system to restrict reopenings based on the risk of COVID-19 spreading, Contra Costa County is currently in the second least-restrictive tier (orange), meaning there’s still a moderate risk.
In that tier, Contra Costa once again can hold gatherings but with strict capacity limits. However, capacity would go up dramatically if event organizers require attendees to show proof of COVID testing or vaccination.
Director of Residents Services Jeff Matheson will ask the GRF Board of Directors at its regular meeting Thursday, April 29, how it wants to proceed with social gatherings.
“Basically, we can conduct events for 50 people outdoors or 25 indoors with no testing or vaccine verification. Social distancing is required, as well as masks,” Matheson explained. “If we verify 100% of those attending are tested or vaccinated, the attendance goes up to 300 outdoors and 150 indoors. Those that are fully vaccinated must still wear a mask, but social distancing is not required. Those who test negative still need to socially distant and cannot co-mingle with those who are vaccinated.”
Matheson added: “If the Board allows GRF and clubs to hold events for vaccinated-only attendees or for vaccinated or negative test attendees, we can start to offer and allow more events.”
The capacity limits also would change if Contra Costa reaches the least-restrictive tier (yellow). To do that, it would need to meet the following conditions for two consecutive weeks: a new case rate of less than 2 per 100,000 people per day, as well as a test positivity rate of less than 2% and an equity metric of less than 2.2% of tests for residents in the lowest quartile of Healthy Places Index census tracts. As of press time, the county stood at 4.8 cases, 1.9% positivity rate and 2.8% equity metric.
And in less than seven weeks, trying to navigate color tiers and reopening plans could all come to an end. That’s because earlier this month, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state has targeted June 15 for a full reopening, as long as vaccines remain widely available and hospitalizations are still low.
“If the Blueprint for a Safer Economy is ended on the 15th of June, it looks like more can open with fewer restrictions. Only events over 5,000 will require verification of negative test or vaccination,” Matheson said. “We’re still not sure how this will look.”
Meantime, Contra Costa continues its vaccination push. Last Thursday and Friday, it offered a drive-through clinic in San Ramon. It also opened walk-up clinics in Antioch and Richmond, where proof of residency and appointments were not required.
As of Sunday, 630,687 of the county’s residents who are 16 and older had received one dose of the vaccine and another 431,578 were fully vaccinated. At 68%, Contra Costa is ahead of the pace in California, where 58% had received at least one vaccine.