By Eric Wickboldt
As the United States reaches its first anniversary of COVID-19 lockdowns that initially began during March 2020, vaccine rollout has begun, and Contra Costa County cases are on a steady decline. Schools are beginning to reopen with guidelines, installations, and safety measures in place to help prevent the spread of the virus.
According to Contra Costa Health Services, on March 7, there were an average of 8.0 new cases per 100,000 residents in Contra Costa County. That is down from 18.9 cases per 100,000 on February 7 and 56.5 per 100,000 on January 7. The testing positivity rate has decreased as well, from a 4.7% 7-day average from January 31 to February 6 to 2.3% from February 28 to March 6.
Contra Costa Health Services have begun offering vaccines to the most important and highest-risk groups. According to their website, over 450,000 vaccine doses have been delivered to Contra Costa County residents, with just above 150,000 residents fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Currently, Contra Costa is in Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout, which means that healthcare workers, residents and employees at long-term care facilities, people above the age of 65, and frontline essential workers all qualify to receive the vaccine. According to Danville’s website, Contra Costa’s next tier will include people ages 16 through 64 with high-risk health conditions, followed by phase 2, all people that weren’t included in the previous phases. Although the vaccine is highly effective, it is still unclear to experts whether it is safe not to wear a face-covering after getting fully vaccinated, so it is recommended to do so to mitigate the spread and protect oneself.
Besides getting the vaccine directly through Contra Costa Health Services, different pharmacies, healthcare systems, and providers have different eligibility requirements to schedule an appointment and receive the vaccine, which can be found on the Contra Costa Health Services official website. There are no walk-up style services available in Contra Costa County. An appointment is required to receive a vaccine at this point. While the vaccine doses will not cost anything, providers of vaccinations might charge an administration fee that can be billed to insurance.
Las Lomas has shifted from a fully remote learning model to a hybrid model with a new schedule. Following successful predictions by the administration that case rates would lower, Contra Costa dipped below the purple tier into the red tier, and students returned to Las Lomas on March 16. This is reflective of similar plans from Walnut Creek Intermediate that aimed to get 6th graders back on campus by March 15 no matter what, as well as 7th and 8th graders if the county entered the red tier (as state guidance would prevent 7-12th graders from returning otherwise). Elementary schools in the Walnut Creek School District have already seen many of their students return with safety measures in place, even before March 15.