In the nearly five months since the novel coronavirus officially reached pandemic proportions, news and knowledge about the virus continue to evolve at a rapid rate.
While local leaders attempt to tackle recent infection spikes among residents in vulnerable living conditions at the Livermore Community Living Center and Santa Rita Jail, the COVID-19 case total continue to grow throughout the region, with Livermore becoming the most affected community in the Tri-Valley.
In an effort to stem the spread of the virus, local leaders have called for residents to continue to follow guidelines set by health officials, some of which have resulted in businesses temporarily needing to close or adapt their business model.
"As a reminder, if everyone continues to follow protocols, we will be able to continue having a life during this pandemic. If not, we go back to square one. Like Governor Newsom said, reopening is like a dimmer switch -- we don't want it all the way off or on, we need to find a balance," Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said in a statement over the weekend.
Here are some of the most recent updates on the coronavirus in the Tri-Valley that have occurred over the past couple of weeks:
Tri-Valley trouble spots
Coronavirus hot spots have recently developed in certain areas in the Tri-Valley, with Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and the Livermore Community Living Center -- a military veteran care facility -- both seeing recent outbreaks of COVID-19 that have local leaders concerned.
The Livermore CLC, which is part of Palo Alto VA Health Care System, originally reported 18 confirmed cases and one death related to a coronavirus outbreak as of June 29, the cause of which Veterans Affairs Department officials are still investigating.
After the outbreak was announced residents and staff of the Livermore facility were tested for COVID-19 every three to four days, and anyone who enters the center is screened for the virus according to VA officials.
Over in Dublin, Santa Rita Jail -- which is operated by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office -- has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus over the past week, with the number of reported cases among the prison population increasing dramatically.
According to ACSO officials, the jail had 106 active cases of coronavirus among inmates, up from 46 cases on July 16 and six on July 15. That represents a more than 1,500% increase in total cases in less than a week.
Jail officials did not respond to requests for comment on the source of the recent outbreak.
ACSO officials added that those figures are in addition to a reported 44 inmates who have recovered from the virus, 17 who have been cite-released after testing positive and 10 who have recovered and since been released.
There are currently 10 active cases of COVID-19 among jail staff or contractors, including Deputy Oscar Rocha.
Additionally, 34 jail staff or contractor employees have recovered after testing positive for the virus, according to ACSO.
State of the Tri-Valley
Like many communities throughout the country, reported coronavirus cases have spiked in the Tri-Valley in recent weeks, with the weekly average of cases continuing to rise as state and county health officials attempt to crack down on activities that precipitate its spread.
According to the Alameda County Public Health Department, as of Tuesday a total of 9,383 cases and 167 deaths have been documented in Alameda County. Livermore leads the Tri-Valley, accounting for 371 of those cases, followed by Pleasanton with 183 and Dublin with 102, as of Tuesday.
Breaking down total countywide case numbers by race/ethnicity, ACPHD reports that the majority of these cases have affected residents who identify as Latino, who make up 4,471 of the 9,383 total cases.
In neighboring Contra Costa County communities are likewise seeing spiking cases, with the seven-day average of newly reported cases reaching 123 as of Tuesday, according to Contra Costa Health Services. In total 5,731 cases and 115 deaths have been reported in Contra Costa as of Tuesday, with 134 cases in San Ramon, 103 in Danville and 57 in Alamo.
On the state level, Gov. Gavin Newsom has recently been enacting policies geared toward reducing further spread of the virus policies that have also resulted in many businesses needing to close or adapt their operating practices.
The governor last week banned indoor fitness centers and personal care services -- however those operations had not yet reopened in Alameda County -- in addition to previous closures covering indoor shopping and dining, movie theaters, zoos and bars including outdoors.
On Tuesday, Newsom cleared the way for hair salons and barbershops to operate outdoors under a tent, canopy, or other sun shelter, just so long as no more than one side is closed, "allowing sufficient outdoor air movement," according to state guidelines.
Alameda and Contra Costa counties remain on Newsom's COVID-19 watch list, as of Tuesday, which places some additional restrictions on the region that aren't felt in areas with lower infection rates.
Those additional restrictions include shutting down malls like Stoneridge Shopping Center, closing offices for non-critical sectors and halting worship services inside (outdoor worship services are allowed with social distancing).
Local leaders in Pleasanton -- as well as Livermore and Danville -- have done their best to take advantage of the state's provision allowing for outdoor dining, and on weekends continue to close main downtown streets to vehicles, turning the area into an open space dining and shopping area for local businesses.
Schools go virtual
All four public school districts in the Tri-Valley are slated to exclusively offer remote learning for students when classes go back into session in the fall, a move that matches closely with state health guidelines.
In Pleasanton, when schools begin on Aug. 11, instruction will initially take place virtually, but district officials say efforts will be made to continuously evaluate the situation and adapt as needed.
"(We) will revisit the status of this decision monthly during our regularly scheduled board meetings and implement our plan (to reopen) when data suggests that it's safe to do so," Pleasanton Unified School District Superintendent David Haglund said during the board's online meeting on July 14. "This is a strange situation we find ourselves in and it's never happened before, at least not in the last 100 years."
The plan from Newsom and California State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond also largely focuses on distanced-based learning for school reopenings, with physical campus reopenings to be based on local health data concerning test positivity rate and the change in hospitalization rate among other criteria.
Public schools in counties on the state's COVID-19 watch list, like Alameda and Contra Costa counties, must remain closed to students until their virus conditions improve.
"Learning is non-negotiable," Newsom said in a statement.
"The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open -- and when it must close -- but learning should never stop. Students, staff and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely," he added.
Stay healthy, Tri-Valley
As case numbers continue to rise, state and local leaders alike have implored residents to continue to act responsibly. That means wearing masks whenever leaving home and maintaining social distancing of at least six feet when around others.
"We all have a responsibility to slow the spread. It is imperative -- and required -- that Californians protect each other by wearing masks and practicing physical distancing when in public so we can fully reopen our economy," Newsom said. "We all need to stand up, be leaders, show we care and get this done."
The regional COVID-19 testing site at the Alameda County Fairgrounds is available to test residents of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore through August.
The drive-thru testing site is open to residents 10 years old or older, regardless of symptoms -- with no appointment necessary and no out-of-pocket expense -- and runs Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. Residents in need of testing are encouraged to drop by early, as the available supply allows for a maximum of 200 individual tests a day and the site often runs out.