The Water Cooler – Should The Health Department Release More Information?

March 30, 2020 12:45 pm · 49 comments

The “Water Cooler” is a feature on where we ask you a question or provide a topic, and you talk about it.

The “Water Cooler” will be up Monday-Friday at noon.

Today’s question:

QUESTION: Currently, the Contra Costa County Health Department only releases how many coronavirus cases and deaths are in Contra Costa County. Do you think they should release more, like the city of those infected, how many are hospitalized, and how many are full recovered?

Talk about it.

Nature Lover March 30, 2020 at 12:50 PM

If Los Angeles County can give a breakdown for each city why can’t Contra Costa?

Bad Nombre March 30, 2020 at 12:54 PM

What is the purpose of the information they already release? It seems of little value.

Cellophane March 30, 2020 at 12:56 PM


There are about 20 different categories that should be released daily to give the public a much better view of how the virus works and how people are responding to tests and treatments.

That way the public can make informed decisions rather than following some so-called experts who are only proficient enough to work for the government.

The public should see what the experts see.

Otherwise, the people can only take it for granted that these public employees are once again lying to the public.

ConcordRez March 30, 2020 at 1:52 PM

Please list the 20 for those of us who are not as familiar with the model. I’m listening to the governor’s conference right now. He and the doc are breaking down PPE have/want; hospital bed have/want; medical staffing have/want. We do know by county the numbers of confirmed and expired patients. Thank you.

Lori R March 30, 2020 at 1:03 PM

Yes Please, that would not be a Hippa violation and would make a lot more sense. Thanks for asking

PO'd March 30, 2020 at 1:11 PM

A county map showing where patients are from would be useful. Los Angeles County is doing that and displaying it in the LA Times currently.

Anonymous March 30, 2020 at 1:16 PM

No excuse for keeping public in the dark. None.

Loretta Morris March 30, 2020 at 1:17 PM

Absolutely all of those facts can help people understand the scope of the situation. And if releasing the city is too problematic, then, at least release the area of the county. Contra Costa covers a large geographic area. Are more cases centered in one area ie. East County, West or Central? Information could help people better alter their behavior.

The Observer March 30, 2020 at 1:22 PM

The Health Department has justified withholding any additional information, because they believe it might lead to stigmatizing certain communities. They obviously mean ethnic Chinese. Well, we’re now at the stage where the virus is infecting people without regard to ethnicity.

Los Angeles County is reporting cases by city. Why can’t the Bay Area counties do the same? It’s crazy that we can see more information about the progress of COVID-19 in Italy than we can get in the Bay Area.

Ricardoh March 30, 2020 at 1:27 PM

I posted this before but this is what LA County does. Every community in the county is accounted for. Even neighborhoods. Check it out.

Reality says... March 30, 2020 at 3:23 PM

Would love to know what “Hospitalized (Ever)” means. I’d like more granular data on that number: of the 44 who died, X% have been hospitalized previous to this event. These are the UHCs that are important to acknowledge.

chris March 30, 2020 at 4:40 PM

This is what every county and city should do. This is awesome that LA does this! And why can’t Contra Costa do this?

ConcordMike March 30, 2020 at 1:37 PM

Maybe, Yes and Yes
Curious why the first fatality victim’s age, and that existing conditions existed, was given out.

Rob March 30, 2020 at 2:00 PM

How about we get our ducks in a row first.

The US President refused the testing kits early on and we are now flying blind.

We simply do not even have a good value possible for the number of infected, nor the number of people who are dying from it.

We only know for sure the very small sample size that can be tested.

The US will become a Text Book College Course on how to fail on a pandemic at every level.

Bad Nombre March 30, 2020 at 3:16 PM

You can blame the President but it is reportedly standard procedure for the CDC to produce their own test. So, no, he didn’t refuse anything.

Anew March 30, 2020 at 3:35 PM

@Rob. The Biden campaign falsely claimed that the U.S. refused the test kits early on. Then, the CDS’s government labs created their own test kits, and there were problems. President Trump fought the bureaucrats to cut regulations so that the private sector could develop new test kits at a record breaking speed. Abbott Labs is now rolling out test kits that are easy to use, and they get results in under 20 minutes. A major breakthrough.

JWB March 30, 2020 at 3:54 PM

Sure and nobody faults him for finally getting on track with testing. But please explain what stopped him two months ago from cutting the red tape? You know when he was going around claiming it was all a fake news and political opponent hoax?

Was he just too busy golfing or attending MAGA rallies? Or did some folks in congress just need a little bit more time to unload their stock accounts?

Ricardoh March 30, 2020 at 4:34 PM

You who keep harping about the president are just haters. We don’t take you seriously but only as ticks. President Trump and the vice president are doing an amazing job and keeping the public aware with daily televised reports. If you listen to the two incompetents Biden and Pelosi that’s your problem.

dws01 March 31, 2020 at 7:31 AM

Hey JWB and Rob,
I know it happened so long ago, but the President was involved with an Impeachment Inquiry that was held over from December (When the Corona was already raging in China) and should have been handled then. You should ask Pelosi why she waited?

Sue April 1, 2020 at 7:00 PM

Please do your homework and do not promote lies. Nothing you referenced happened and is untrue. Big problem for our country today is the division caused by people spewing propaganda. Just stop.

Gittyup April 1, 2020 at 9:22 PM

If I were the President, two months ago I would have been telling Democrats, “You Can Take This Job And Shove It.”

The Mamba March 30, 2020 at 2:44 PM

Of course they should, knowledge could save lives. We don’t need names or addresses but knowing city would help. Without widespread testing, I guess it doesn’t really matter though.

Atticus Thraxx March 30, 2020 at 2:56 PM

I agree with you all that generally speaking, more information is better than less. But from a practical standpoint, what would you really do with this information? You already should be shelter-in-place and taking all the precautions recommended. How would precise statistics change your behavior or outcome?

The Fearless Spectator March 30, 2020 at 5:47 PM

It would be beneficial in making family and estate planning decisions, especially regarding investments and/or divestments. If Contra Costa would provide data as Los Angeles County does, that would be most helpful.

Rita Girl March 30, 2020 at 7:04 PM

My first instant reaction was more info too.
Why not?
Then i read these comments and was given many reasons why not.
There are a lot of armchair experts here who want stats because they feel they are more equipped than our officials to interpret those stats and make their own experr opinions.
Cellophane writes “that way the public can make informed decisions rather than following some so-called experts..”
And Loretta Morris writes “Information could help people better alter their behavior.”
That’s scary when their decisions could effect all of us.
I worry they actually will behave diffetently based on their arrogance.
I’m not comfortable with someone caleede Cellophane or Ms. Morris making those choices that could put me and mine, and my entire community at risk. All becsuse they believe they are better equipped to decide these things for themselves than the experts. Maybe, if it was only for themselves, but its not.
The majority of the comments above who do not say they would know better are already doubting the honesty of the stats and the officials.With such a doubting population of know-it-all armchair experts, i think more stats could be dangerous.i feel based on the comments here that our community is not socially responsible enough to be trusted with more info. Knowledge is power and i don’t trust arrogant fools with power.
Im a fan of questioning things, but theres a timr and a place. To do so at all times is immature, irresponsible, and childish. Priorities people. Question things again after this.
For now, stop with the skepticism and fear monging.

Right now your neighbors, community, and social responsibility dictates you go along with the program required to keep us all safe. Stay home, wash your hands, and stop posting irresponsible negative nonsense you have no proof of and tears our society apart at a time we should be pulling together. At least don’t post that on a community website, save that for Facebook.
South Korea has highest numver is success because they listened to their officiwls, didnt waste time questioning them

Atticus Thraxx March 30, 2020 at 9:26 PM

A salient point Fearless One, and one I didn’t consider. 🤔

Ricardoh. March 31, 2020 at 9:55 AM

What do you do with any knowledge you gain?

The Observer March 30, 2020 at 3:05 PM

Santa Clara County has a “dashboard” on their public health website.

While it doesn’t give a geographic breakdown, it does show the age and gender for both cases and deaths. Of particular interest to me was the mention that 75% of deaths have been males. Uh, oh…

Me Me Me March 30, 2020 at 3:13 PM

Yes I would love to know the breakdown as well.

But I already know where these people have been.

Costco, Sam’s, Safeway, Lucky’s, Sprouts, Petsmart, Petco, Shell, Exxon Chevron, AMPM, 7-11 to name a few.

I also know who these people have come in contact with.

Their families, and whoever else works or has visited the above named places. Yea… don’t touch that gas pump or that shopping cart handle with bare hands!
Now you know too! Yea, big surprise!

What we WOULD REALLY like to know is who these people are! Plain and simple! Patient privacy? No… how about life for the rest of us NOT infected. I don’t want to alienate anyone, but it’s pretty simple under the circumstances. Your neighbor sneezes in their backyard, you close all windows and doors. Why?

Self preservation!

Dee March 30, 2020 at 3:42 PM

All they publish is how many cases and how many deaths…How about how many RECOVERIES??? Others release more info than these guys do Or is it all still gloom and doom for CC health Dept?

RANDOM TASK March 30, 2020 at 3:47 PM

oh how long did it take for the lemmings to blame trump

even though this was made by the Chinese to lower their population of aged workers that under perform
for a socialist communist government

now they have done the hugest human trial ever known to man

and will get away with it …without any consequences

as you blame trump instead of the genocide that china just pulled off
on the world

if the Chinese furor or what ever they call him can take out 12% of the world population and get away with it

whats next

your looking in the wrong place

as china is pulling off the greatest long con trick of all time
up until now at least

what about he people partying with 50 plus people
and people flooding the parks and joggin along your street daily …..

are they being prodded to do so because of trump

wow you would have thought that with this people would see the world for what it really is

china has just said loud and clear what their intensions are

yet you refuse to acknowledge the severity and repercussions of what is happening

china will in the near future
will hold the world hostage for trillions of dollars
as they now hold the greatest weapon of all time

yet sure blame trump and run to newscum for help he will do anything without Pelosi’s approval anyways

get ready the world just changed and china and Russia are going to establish global communism

by weakening Americas resolve to thwart world domination by entertaining over 50 years of liberalism and self loathing for a hashtag

we are now going to be controlled by communists ….lol

you are going to love this …you have stabbed yourselves and have been bleeding out for years ……

welcome to your purgatory lol

a lot of good blaming trump when you voted to weaken America and allow this to happen …..

does it feel good ???

Reality says... March 30, 2020 at 3:53 PM

I’d like to know…

1) How many have recovered both with/without treatment. There are thousands who have recovered by just resting and taking the same at-home treatments they would if they had the flu. NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO RUN TO THE HOSPITAL nor does everyone need a test. If you are not told by your physician to immediately go to the hospital for treatment DON’T!
2) I want to know the ages of those who have died
3) I want to know if those who died had UHCs and what those UHCs were
4) I want to know by city the rate of confirmed cases and hot spots in those cities.
5) I want to know the family ecosystem impact and recovery patterns. If 1 person in a family of 5 got sick, we can assume the other 4 got exposed: Did they get sick? Did they need hospitalization? Did they recover on their own?
6) I also want someone to assign an accuracy factor +/-% to these numbers that are being thrown out. Not everyone reports, not everyone gets tested. I would say there are thousands more who have been exposed or have confirmed cases and recovered with no hospitalization or physician visits. Also note, there are people getting sick now from non-COVID-19 flu bugs as well, not everything is COVID-19 related.

Today’s numbers from JHU for the US: 160K confirmed, 2,953 deaths, 5,595 recovered. On avg, CDC says ~500K (mid) hospitalizations and ~50K (mid) deaths since 2010 related to influenza. Did we not care about the 50K+ a year dying before???

Curious George March 30, 2020 at 4:18 PM

@Random Task

Geez man…..chill out!

BOB March 30, 2020 at 4:40 PM

YES. Although as LBJ said “don’t tell the public anything, the American people can’t take the truth.”

Curious George March 30, 2020 at 5:15 PM

@Reality Says…

If you had those actual numbers…..would you honestly believe them?????

Dirk Sikkema March 30, 2020 at 6:42 PM

I do not usually like to post to websites like this because I think they often foster as much false information as true. Over the weekend I forwarded to the county supervisors the following letter. This was after receiving a rather dismissive e-mail from the county regarding my concerns from a week earlier.

As an older citizen with some respiratory issues I am increasingly concerned about the approach that our governments are taking to combat the covid-19 pandemic. As I live in Contra Costa County in California, I have confined my analysis to that county (which is not in nearly as bad shape as other counties and/or states). The message communicated is to “flatten the curve” which is a reasonable way to describe what’s needed but does little to describe how we are doing. With this e-mail I have included an excel spreadsheet which models the growth of cases in Contra Costa county based on the standard growth formula:
y (tn) = y(t0) x e(ktn)
where y equals the number of cases, tn days in the future, t0 equals the starting date, e equals the natural log and k equal the growth constant.
As can be seen on the spread sheet I have used a range of values of k. When I first calculated k it looked like the value was around 0.2. Subsequent determinations place it closer to 0.15. The significance of this is that I have also modeled hospital bed utilization in the county. The number of beds was based upon publc information ( and I increased it to 1800 beds on the assumption that hospital would be able to slightly increase their capacity. I also assumed that all hospital beds would eventually be used for covid-19 patients. The take home message from this rather crude analysis is that unless the value for k can get below 0.1, we have little hope of meeting the surge in cases that will occur starting in mid April. The interesting thing about exponential growth is that it can appear that things are working, until its too late to do anything about it. This is why I contacted supervisor Supervisor Mitchoff of Contra Costa County over a week ago. My request for additional information and a change in strategy was dismissed with a “do as we say” and “we know best” attitude.
Again, I think that if the governments involved want to continue to have the faith of the people that they govern, they need to be more forthcoming with information. In addition to confirmed cases, counties should show how cases are distributed in the county (L.A. Dept. of Health already does this as reported in the L.A. Times). Further they should report the number of tests performed both daily and cumulatively. It would also be helpful to report age and gender of cases. This can all be done without disclosing patient information (the shield that government workers seem to be conveniently hiding behind when asked for more information). Also, the same information should be reported for deaths.
But even more important than reporting is the strategy employed to fight this epidemic. The strategy of mitigation (shelter in place, social distancing and closing non-essential business) adopted by the bay area counties was a good first step and is to be applauded but from examining the data it may not be enough.
Further mitigating steps should be adopted as soon as possible including:
(1) Stop all public transportation including BART, buses, Uber and Lyft. Set up a system where people with essential jobs that require transportation can be served. Use buses as a means of providing delivery assistance for people. Keeps riders to a minimum.
(2) Close ride share lots.
(3) Further control access to shopping for food and other essential items. Require stores to limit the number of people in the store to their floor space (minus area for goods) divided by 125 sq. ft. (a little bit greater than the area of a circle with a radius of six ft.
(4) I have tried to go to Costco (Concord) twice in the last few days. Each the line to enter the store extended through to parking lot to the street (about ¼ of mile). Instead ration shopping times as a function of the last name on you driver’s licence and distribute times evenly though the hours open.
(5) Require workers serving the public to wear N-95 masks. These individuals are also at greater risk for acquiring covid-19 but also for transmitting it to large numbers of people.
Finally, I cannot stress strongly enough that he strategy of mitigation must be switched to one of active suppression. As a first step in this process testing must be switched from confirmation (which can be done via CT scans or chest X-Rays) to identifying asymptomatic individuals. Concomitantly with this, testing must also focus on health care providers who are treating covid-19 patients and first responders (EMTs may inadvertently come in contact and police are already at significant risk (it was reported that NY city has more than 600 officers with covid-19). This is what ultimately worked in China, S. Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. I am not alone to promoting this. See the following:
So long as tests remain limited, beyond health carr workers they should be focused first on areas where cases of occurred that are correlated with high density housing. People living in apartment complexes not only encounter one another more frequently but typically at closer distances than those in single family dwellings. Also many apartment complexes have shared ventilation.
However, to be a truly suppressive strategy, testing must be expanded to asymptomatic individuals who have had contact with people who are ill or people who are asymptomatic.
Again I understand that testes are limited, but it is unclear to me as to why. Is it a shortage of equipment? There are many RT-PCR machines, centrifuges, pipettors and the like sitting idle that could be put to work.
Is it test kits? It is not necessary to have a “kit” to do the tests. Protocols could be implemented that could use off the shelf or easily obtainable reagents.
Is it components? It has been reported that swabs may be in short supply. Forensic swabs used by law enforcement can be repurposed for this.
Is it personnel? Again with all of the idled workers, many of whom are lab workers, it should be possible to expand the number of people performing tests.
Another aspect to testing asymptomatic individuals, is that health officials need to be more aggressive in tracing contacts. A confirmed infected individual worked in a place, lives in a place and travel to certain stores. These can be documented and followed up with further testing. Attributing infections to “the community” is simply code for we did not have enough resources to track contacts and this needs to rectified (again all those idled workers!).
It is time to get creative in dealing with this disease. To depend solely on mitigation not only invites disaster with the current epidemic but does nothing to prevent a resurgence of covid-19 in the fall.
I hope you will take this missive seriously.

W. Dirk Sikkema, Ph.D.
Retired microbiology instructor

I have received no response. Now for the good news. As of this writing the value of k seems to be closer to 0.05 than 0.1. I have posted the analysis at I would like to receive comments that might improve the model. It is the nature of science that facts are shared and alternative hypotheses considered.

brit March 30, 2020 at 7:45 PM

I would like to see how many recovered and cities the cases is in

Rita Girl March 30, 2020 at 8:20 PM

My first instant reaction was more info too.
Why not?
Then i read these comments and was given many reasons why not.
There are a lot of armchair experts here who want stats because they feel they are more equipped than our officials to interpret those stats and make their own expert opinions in how they should behave.

Cellophane wrote above”that way the public can make informed decisions rather than following some so-called experts..”
And Loretta Morris wrote “Information could help people better alter their behavior.”

That’s scary when their decisions could effect all of us.
I worry they actually will behave differently based on their own.egotistical decisions .

I’m not comfortable with someone who class himself an oxymoronic alias like Cellophane , or someone I don’t know like Ms. Morris, making any decisions that could put me and mine, and my entire community at risk. All becsuse they believe they are better equipped to decide these things themselves than the experts. Maybe, if it was only affecting themselves, but it’s not.
The majority of the comments above who do not say they would know better do still doubt the honesty of the current stats and the officials.With such a doubting population of know-it-all armchair experts, i think more stats could be dangerous.i feel based on the comments here that our community is not socially responsible enough to be trusted with more info.

Right now your neighbors, community, and social responsibility dictates you go along with the accepted program that keeps us all safe. Stay home, wash your hands, and stop posting irresponsible negative nonsense you have no proof of and tears our society apart at a time we.whould be pulling together.
Just stop with the skepticism and fear monging.

Gittyup March 30, 2020 at 9:10 PM

If you feel that way, protect yourself and stay home. People are allowed to question authority. In fact, it’s healthy. And, a good dose of skepticism isn’t going to kill anyone.

Puffandstuff March 30, 2020 at 8:26 PM

LA had it right! Full transparency! As of now I’m doubting there really are any cases in ccc.

S March 30, 2020 at 9:06 PM

The Banana Splits were better.

Ozzie March 31, 2020 at 12:45 PM

I agree there are no cases. This is a deep state conspiracy to destroy the world’s economy.

CMama March 30, 2020 at 11:09 PM

No, I don’t need more details released. It wouldn’t alter my behavior in any way except if I were to learn that a neighbor had tested positive. If so, I would offer to bring him food or whatever assistance he needed.

I can’t for the life of me understand why any of you think the County releasing more details would be of any use to you. It might satisfy your curiosity, but I don’t see that as a valid reason to violate other people’s privacy.

Here’s why I think the data is not useful. The count is not accurate. As most of you know, testing has been very limited in California. In general, only the most severely ill, first responders, and healthcare workers are likely to be tested. The rest of us who get sick with Covid-19 symptoms are told to self-isolate and call if things get worse. Even those who do get tested must wait days – four, five, a week – to get results. By the time the County posts the numbers, it’s old news. The people being counted have already been sick for days and have already spread the virus if they’ve been going to work or running errands. There are many who have no symptoms or only mild symptoms and therefore never contact a doctor, and will never be included in the count. Yet they still are shedding the virus and can pass it on to the rest of us. Getting more details from the County isn’t going to tell you if it’s safe to go to your closest Safeway or if you should go to the other side of town. It’s not going to tell you if you should go to the Danville Costco instead of the Concord one. The County numbers are not going to tell you anything about your particular odds of dying from the virus. It’s not going to tell you if that person being listed as a Richmond patient actually works in Concord and commutes on BART. If you really want to know the age, gender, length of time on hospital, underlying conditions, what percentage have mild symptoms, etc., so you can figure out your odds, the County numbers are too small to do much analysis. You need a larger sample size. Read reliable news sources to find what info is available. But it’s such a new illness, that the health experts are still gathering data.

Accept the fact that the virus is spreading in the community and the best way to protect yourself and the rest of the community is to stay home as much as possible and maintain a six foot distance from others when you do go out. And wash your hands! Do your part to flatten the curve.

Ilovepopcorn March 31, 2020 at 2:51 AM


Dirk Sikkema March 31, 2020 at 7:48 AM

Your points are well made especially about the delay time in reporting test results. However I would prefer to see more data not less as it gives me a sense of what is going on. As I said in my post I would like to see the county move from mitigation to suppression and the only way that I can see that is if they provide more data,

To Do List March 31, 2020 at 10:40 AM

Gallup polls question one thousand people to make defining and very detailed conclusions about the US population of 320 million people. Surprise! So much for the comments about sample size above in CCC.

I can very easily understand those who just want to hunker down and wait for the government or their favorite media to tell them reality. I can very easily understand those who seek knowledge and grasp for more information about their local area. What I do not understand are those who are happy being fed information but also want to deny additional information to those who seek it. No one is looking for names and street addresses but if city and age and other information is available, why would anyone want to suppress that information. It smells kind of like religious fanaticism waiting to be told how to think by authorities. I always told my kids to listen to authorities but use their own judgement and my favorite example was the public service announcements in the Twin Towers telling people do not worry about the fire because it is several floors away and do not evacuate.

Ozzie March 31, 2020 at 12:42 PM

Why is it so important to you?

To Do List March 31, 2020 at 1:54 PM

Ozzie: There are people here who want to study this problem using more local information. That is enough for me. I think it should not be up to those who want knowledge to prove their case, rather it should be up to those who want to suppress knowledge to show why it is important to not know. My comments were kind of in response to CMama saying why he/she does not think the data are useful. Why should he/she even have an opinion about how useful this information is to someone else? If there is no provable public harm from more information, what is the difference then of CMama telling us what religion we must follow or what foods we should like or otherwise telling us what we should read or how to think.

Captain Bebops March 31, 2020 at 12:03 PM

Curious about the numbers yesterday I looked up the records for flu deaths during last year’s season. Compared to the CDC page the California PDF file is impressive and thoroughly done. There is actually lots to wonder about when you compile the real data.

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