Contra Costa County health officials, already working to set up more COVID-19 testing sites in parts of the county hardest hit by the virus, are now reaching out with a short video interview of a Concord man who has been battling the virus.
County Health Director Anna Roth told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the hope is the video — shown at Tuesday’s board meeting — will help counter what she called a COVID-19 “stigma.”
The video features Jose, who lives in Concord with extended family members of a wide range of ages, perhaps 40 years old, discussing his recent bout with the coronavirus.
He said he didn’t take the virus seriously before he contracted it, and — in Spanish, with subtitles — said it’s still “extremely hard” to talk about.
“I went through it, and now I know it’s real,” Jose said. He said that he worried constantly about the costs of medical treatment, which became especially problematic as his job became unstable thanks to the pandemic.
“The entire time I just worried about money, but I had friends who pitched in and helped me,” Jose said.
Though he is past the worst of the initial infection, Jose said he is now pre-diabetic, and that his eyesight and memory have deteriorated since he was COVID-positive.
Supervisors told health officials Tuesday that the video should help what have been improved efforts to reach Contra Costa communities that have been hardest-hit so far. Those include San Pablo, Bay Point and parts of Concord, Pittsburg and Richmond.
“I’m glad to see we’re addressing these hard-hit areas — I’m glad to see that happening,” said Supervisor Federal Glover.
But health officials noted it’s been other locations, including Oakley and, especially Danville, that have been experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the last few weeks.
Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county’s health officer, told the supervisors Tuesday he will reach out to elected leaders in those cities to help get the message out to remain vigilant even as what Supervisors John Gioia, Candace Andersen and Diane Burgis called “COVID fatigue.”
Meanwhile, the outreach to the areas where cases have been highest will continue, with weekend hours coming to testing centers in Bay Point and elsewhere. And as cooler and rainier winter weather arrives, Roth said, testing centers will have to move indoors.
Despite upticks in places like Danville and Oakley, Contra Costa County is preparing for a move from the “red tier” of what’s allowed to open and into the less restrictive “orange tier.”
That reclassification would allow opening of bars, microbreweries and wine bars to serve outdoors without meals; indoor cardrooms with 25 percent capacity, family entertainment centers like bowling centers and climbing walls indoors with a maximum of 25 percent capacity, and cultural ceremonies (including houses of worship) can go from 25 percent to 50 percent capacity indoors, but still with a maximum of 100 people.