Joint News Release from the County of Sonoma and City of Santa Rosa - July 14, 2021:
Due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, particularly within the homeless community, and an outbreak at the City of Santa Rosa's Samuel L. Jones Homeless Shelter, the County of Sonoma will reopen an alternative care site at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg to provide additional space to isolate COVID-positive individuals.
The ACS, which closed on June 30 after operating for 13 months, providing space for COVID-positive individuals to quarantine, reopened today and is expected to remain in operation at least 30 days. The ACS has a capacity of 60 residents. All individuals at the ACS will have access to an onsite physician 24 hours a day.
The reopening is in response to an overall community need as the case rate throughout the County has doubled in the past month and now stands at 5.8 per 100,000 residents while the testing positivity rate has inched back up to 3.6 percent.
“We’re concerned as we have seen cases growing particularly among young adult residents who are unvaccinated and within the homeless community,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s Health Officer. “Having this Alternative Care Site open again will be a tremendous help in our efforts to limit further community spread and to address this particular outbreak. We are very grateful to the Best Western Dry Creek Inn and the City of Healdsburg.”
The Sonoma County Department of Health Services confirmed today that 59 of the 156 residents at the City of Santa Rosa’s Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus while another 26 may be positive, but their status has not yet been confirmed. Of these, five individuals are currently hospitalized.
Catholic Charities, the City’s contracted shelter operator, first became aware of a potential exposure on Friday, July 2 when two individuals who had been staying at the shelter tested positive. Following protocols that are in place for COVID-19 shelter exposures, the shelter was closed to new residents on July 2, and the Sonoma County Department of Health Services began testing all current shelter residents and staff members. Shelter residents who have tested positive have been staying in the Sam Jones Shelter Annex, which has been reserved as an isolation area and is adjacent to the main shelter facility on the same property.
Testing will continue at the shelter campus twice a week to monitor and manage additional spread. With additional positive cases still emerging through ongoing testing, a yet-to-be-determined number of COVID-positive individuals will be relocated to the reopened Alternative Care Site at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn at 198 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. However, the Sam Jones shelter will remain closed to new shelter intakes for a minimum of two weeks after the last confirmed positive test result.
Of the 59 individuals confirmed to have tested positive, 31 are unvaccinated individuals while 28 are fully vaccinated. Symptoms among those who have tested positive have varied. Some residents are asymptomatic while others are experiencing more advanced symptoms. A total of nine shelter residents have been hospitalized due to the severity of their symptoms although four have since been discharged and placed in isolation. Among those who have been hospitalized, six are vaccinated. All six vaccinated individuals are over the age of 55 and have pre-existing health conditions.
“This outbreak is a stark reminder that the virus is still very active in our community particularly within congregate settings and among unvaccinated populations,” said Dr. Mase. “But it’s also a reminder that while the vaccine does provide excellent protection against the worst outcomes such as hospitalization and death, it doesn’t necessarily prevent someone from contracting the virus, particularly if they’re living in close quarters with unvaccinated individuals. The best protection we have against further outbreaks like this is to get more people vaccinated.”
Additional time is still needed to confirm if any of the COVID-positive results are the Delta variant strain. Sonoma County Department of Health Services staff are closely analyzing the available data and monitoring the evolving situation to better understand underlying causes and factors contributing to the recent increase in community spread among Sonoma County’s homeless population.
“It is still imperative for those who are unvaccinated to continue to follow COVID guidelines such as wearing a face mask in congregate settings,” said Dr. Mase. “Facemasks provide a great level of protection from contracting and spreading the virus to the community. Individuals, especially those who have are not fully vaccinated, must continue to follow COVID protocols such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distance when possible, and to get vaccinated as soon as possible to prevent further outbreaks from occurring.”