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County Health Official Sketches “Worst Case” COVID-19 Death Rate: Says 14,000 Could Perish In Contra Costa


At Tuesday’s Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting, Contra Costa Health Services Officer Chris Farnitano reported that – worst case -as many as 14,000 county residents could die as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Farnitano and other Bay Area health officials have said that the next two to three weeks would be a critical time for residents, with Health Services Director Anna Roth warning the board that a predicted “surge” in cases had yet to hit the county.

Farnitano explained this would double or even triple the county death rate each week during the peak of the virus.

Roth said last week when she reported to the Board of Supervisors, they had just 71 cases, today they have 212 cases with 3 deaths. Of the 212 cases, 23 are currently hospitalized with 11 of those in the intensive care while they are waiting for results of 29 who are hospitalized—of those, they are in the intensive care. (note – later in the day, the updated date released by Contra Costa Health Services showed 222 cases)

“I gave you the numbers of 212 cases, but we know that number is much higher due to the fact we do not have widespread testing occurring in our county,” stated Roth. “We are closely tracking those that are hospitalized because this is an important indicator of the surge we expect in Contra Costa county.”

Roth explained they had around 1,100 beds available across the county and plan for an additional 1,096 beds for a total 2,267 beds which does not include the alternative sites.

Roth said the biggest needs right now in Contra Costa County is gowns as they only have 1,000 left in the central supply.  They are also in need of medical grade cleaning supplies.

Roth closed her portion of the presentation highlighting their biggest concern is with the workforce and being able to meet the challenge—the county is going to need a significant amount of workers in the coming weeks as they hit the surge.

Farnitano reported that there were clinical trials and no medication available that works, and vaccines will be even longer. He said with treatment, the critical factor has been the availability of ventilators—the county currently has 76 and have 100 more have been ordered.

Farnitano stressed the best way to prevent death is to reduce the number of infections and prevent people from needing a ventilator in the first place. The other critical factor, he said, is the supply of qualified workers and stock of personal protective gear for them. 

Farnitano then expounded on health services modeling in an effort to predict what the county could expect in terms of hospital rates and loss of life.

“We know that looking at some of the models in number of deaths during the next several months from this covid-19 pandemic could range anywhere from 2,000 as high as 14,000,” said Farnitano. “We have a lot of different ranges and a lot of it is based on number of cases we have and how effective our social distancing is.”

He continued by saying he didn’t know exactly when they will see a surge that other parts of the country has already seen. The best guess he said was mid-April to mid-May.

He also explained the issue with testing limitations and delays in results saying that for every positive test, there could be 5-to-10 people who have COVID-19 who either haven’t gotten a test or gotten results back.

Farnitano says, at the moment, the San Francisco Bay Area has avoided the mortality rate seen in Italy where more than 10,000 have died – and New York state where they had 1,000 deaths compared to California which has around 150 deaths – noting the epidemic started sooner on the west coast.

“A lot of that is due to the early social distancing that were put in place,” said Farnitano who said now Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans where hospitals are being impacted. He continued by saying those situations could happen here if they relax the social distancing. “Some of the modeling is predicting up to 5,000 deaths a week in California which would be about 600 deaths in the central bay area. For contra costa county would be 100 to 200 deaths a week. For a baseline, there is about 140 deaths a week in Contra Costa County. So this could be looking at a doubling or tripling of death rate during the peak of the crisis.”

He did say he hoped they could avoid this type of scenario if they do not relax their efforts to reduce the curve.  He then highlighted that the 7-Bay Area counties have extended the Stay-At-Home order through May 3 (released Tuesday).

He also highlighted that when it comes to alternative care sites, the Antioch Fairgrounds will be up next week. Looking at the other sites in Richmond and other sites throughout the county along with scaling up hotel rooms to be available for homeless or those awaiting a test or need to be quarantined for 14-days.

The county also reported Monday that they have 222 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19). They still have 3 deaths.

Overall Totals As of 3/31/2020 at 2:12 p.m

  • March 31 – 222 cases / 3 deaths
  • March 30 – 187 cases / 3 deaths
  • March 29 – 175 cases / 3 deaths
  • March 28 – 168 cases / 2 deaths
  • March 27 – 151 cases / 2 deaths
  • March 26 – 147 cases /1 death
  • March 25 – 108 cases / 1 death
  • March 24 – 86 cases / 1 death
  • March 23 – 71 cases / 1 death
  • March 19 – 42 cases
  • March 18 – 41 cases
  • March 8 – 9 cases
  • March 3 – First confirmed case in the county

The health department continues to maintain its stance that it is not going to be releasing the cities of those infected or hospitalized.

For more information about the Coronavirus in the County, visit: www.coronavirus.cchealth.org


  1. We need to know the cases by town so we have the most accurate case information. Knowing where the hot spots leads to a more educated population that can make better decisions. For example, if there is a hot spot of CV in Walnut Creek maybe you avoid that area for grocery shopping and find alternative locations. We need more case information. I don’t what to know who or how old. I want to know where by town.

    • We’re floundering and in the dark. This comes down to testing and a more accurate assessment of what we are dealing with. We have no real idea at the moment.

  2. Perhaps the rationale for non-disclosure of specific community totals, is to force CoCo residents to play it extremely conservative when venturing out of the home. Sound advice from the medical
    experts, is to conduct yourself as if you have been afflicted with COVID-19.

    • That could be used as an excuse for such negligence if we weren’t being told not to use any PPE. Shaming citizens for using PPE while also refusing to release location information is negligent, irresponsible, will cause people to die, and should be criminal. Period.

  3. Months from now it might be safe to return to work…IF one could tell who has recovered from covid (antibody test) and IF one could tell who is newly infected at that decision point (a different test) and needs to be isolated . WTF is the plan to test 330 million people? I would like to know. What happened in those 45 days with no testing in January-February. We are flying blind with no national plan! NYC got where it is now in 1 month!!!! Where will Texas and Florida be in a month?

  4. It is extremely irresponsible of co co co health officials to not release location information for all confirmed cases. I don’t care about demographics beyond location. I cannot keep myself properly protected when going shopping unless I know where not to go. Or if I know my area has cases, when I do venture out, I can decide to wear gloves or a mask while our. There will be many many people getting sick and possibly dying due to our county health officials acting in such a negligent manner.

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