The second half of 2020 saw a rise, and then a fall, and then another rise in COVID-19 cases. In addition to the direct impact of the virus in terms of hospitalizations and deaths, many traditional events around town were affected by the quarantine orders from the state and county. Following is a roundup of local stories and trends influenced by the pandemic.
July: Cases on the rise
COVID-19 cases are on the rise, with 222,917 cases reported in California as of the first week of July, including 5,980 deaths.
Local restaurants that had reopened for limited indoor dining had to go back to take-out or outdoor dining following new statewide COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.
By the third week of July the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services reported that COVID-19 infections had surged to the point where hospital intensive care units were at capacity, with more than half of ICU patients being treated for COVID-19. As of the end of the month the San Joaquin County Department of Public Health was reported that 232 people were being treated for COVID-19 across the county’s seven hospitals.
Tracy Unified and Lammersville Unified school district expected to start the school year with remote instruction. Hybrid schedules that could have students on campus part-time was the alternate plan, should COVID-19 cases be reduced by August when school begins.
Joe Wilson Pool in Dr. Powers Park reopened for the summer, but with strict social distancing and sanitation protocols.
Athletic teams from local high schools had been back into conditioning during the summer but now their school districts were ordering them to halt activities. The California Interscholastic Federation announced that three high school sports seasons for 1920-21 would be compressed into two seasons, with competition to begin in December.
July also saw expansion of coronavirus testing locally, with a new site at the Tracy Sports Complex operated by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which has a clinic in Tracy and had been doing testing at McKinley School.
New COVID-19 cases in California hit their summertime peak of 12,807 new cases reported in a single day on July 21, with a peak of 477 cases in San Joaquin County reported on July 15. The state reached its highest single-day death toll for the summer, 219 people, on July 31.
August: Peaks reached, city adapts
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 started to decline in San Joaquin County, but reports of new cases in California hit a second summertime peak of 12,614 daily cases on Aug. 14. San Joaquin County’s second summertime peak was on Aug. 8, when 535 new cases were reported.
Tracy Unified School District had ordered 10,000 new laptop computers from Hewlett Packard for remote instruction, but nationwide demand for computers meant that delivery would likely be delayed until October.
The Tracy Boys and Girls Clubs continued to do what it could to serve families, including distribution of free food every Friday through the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
The third week of August saw protests in Tracy’s downtown in response to state orders that required many businesses to close. Stylists from Tracy’s salons held a rally, stating that they keep their businesses, including hair cutting and styling, COVID-19-safe, and should be allowed to stay open.
While COVID-19 forced shutdowns and event cancellations, many in town have adapted to the new rules with socially-distanced events. The annual Relay For Life, a benefit to support the American Cancer Society, was held as a drive-through event on Aug. 22 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. There was a survivor lap, and Allie Kidd was named Survivor of the Year, and Jamie Flint was Caregiver of the Year. Teams raised $37,239 for cancer research.
September: Cases decline
COVID-19 hospitalizations, infections and deaths are on the decline, and improvements in those numbers continue through the month. Lifting of restrictions is now dependent on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” which outlines what conditions need to be in place, in terms of COVID-19 infection rates, in order for state-imposed restrictions to be lifted.
Meanwhile, the community continues to live under COVID-19 restrictions. The Lolly Hansen Senior Center has adapted, and has employed the city’s TRACER buses to make deliveries of the meals the center provides, and has also turned to holding Zoom-based online bingo games.
Some schools, including Bella Vista Christian Academy, are reopening after getting waivers from the state. Even though the state is under a “widespread” category for COVID-19 under Newsom’s “Blueprint.” The waivers allow schools to bring students back to campus if done so in a safe way.
October Some restrictions lifted
New COVID-19 infections in San Joaquin County have been reduced to the point where the county could move to the red “substantial” tier, allowing some restrictions could be lifted. By the second week of October San Joaquin County would see its lowest rates of new infections, less than 40 per-day, since June.
The Tracy Learning Center brought students back to campus for the first time in seven months, and Tracy Unified School District announced that it planned to reopen classrooms on Nov. 2. Jefferson School District’s board voted to delay reopening until January, while Lammersville Unified and Banta districts announced plans for kindergarteners to return on Nov. 3 and all other classes to return on Jan. 4.
By the third week of October the TUSD school board, after hearing objections from parents about the tentative reopening of schools, reconsidered its previous vote, and agreed to wait until Jan. 4 to reopen schools
Local high school athletic teams began to ease back into their practice routines in preparation for a sports season, expected to begin in late December.
Health officials at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital announced that they would prepare for a “twindemic” this winter as the threat of the flu combines with the threat of COVID-19. Health professionals worry that the H1N1 strain of the flu, the predominant virus in the 2009 swine flu pandemic, will be prominent.
Tracy High School’s FFA chapter held a socially distanced “Trunk or Treat” for Halloween, allowing costumed kids to tour a parking lot of decorated cars to gather candy. Tom Hawkins and Central schools had similar drive-through events for Halloween.
By the end of the month San Joaquin County health officials reported that the COVID-19 infection rate had dropped to 4.9 cases per-100,000 residents, indicating that the county was moving toward a less restrictive tier, under Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
November: Another surge
The California Department of Public Health is reporting that San Joaquin County is seeing another increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and by the third week of November the county went back to the purple “widespread” tier. Restrictions on businesses and their ability to let customers in their shops and restaurants were reimposed.
Tracy’s downtown business owners immediately responded by urging the Tracy City Council to declare Tracy a “sanctuary city,” where restrictions would not be enforced in defiance of state mandates. The council eventually voted down a proposed sanctuary city measure, which would have put certain state and federal funding for the city at risk.
The rise in COVID-19 cases caused traditional holiday events, like the downtown Hometown Holiday Light Parade and tree lighting ceremony, to be canceled. Meanwhile, traditional holiday food drives, including efforts by Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, helped Tracy Interfaith Ministries fill its shelves in preparation for distribution to families in need next month.
Tracy Sunrise Rotary Club continued with its annual Thanksgiving dinner for local seniors, but this year, in response to COVID-19, the dinner was pickup and delivery only.
With COVID-19 numbers rising and availability of hospital beds declining, Governor Newsom has ordered a curfew, referred to as a “limited stay-at-home order,” for certain counties around the state, including San Joaquin County.
December: Restrictions return
San Joaquin County faces another stay-at-home order should availability of hospital ICU beds continue to decline.
High school sports were put on hold again with the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. Full practices had been set to begin the second week of December, but later in the month the California Interscholastic Federation said that Jan. 25 would be the earliest possible start date. More likely, sports will not begin again until COVID-19 infection rates are back to where they were back in the fall or spring.
On Dec. 15 the new COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer, arrived in Tracy, and the staff at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital was the first to get the shots. California got 327,000 doses with the first shipment of the vaccine, with 4,875 coming to San Joaquin County Public Health Services and then to the county’s hospitals. The vaccine arrives as hospitalizations and reports of new COVID-19 infections continue to climb to the highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
Jefferson school district has officially halted in person classes indefinitely, with the intent of reviewing the rate of COVID infections again in January.
As Christmas approached Brighter Christmas was able to help more than 600 families in the charity’s annual food and gift drive, with distribution held at Williams Middle School. Brighter Christmas director Steve Abercrombie said that the community came through with donations even as food and toy drives were curtailed or canceled because of COVID-19.
The Tracy City Council agreed to direct some of its Measure V sales tax money toward relief for small businesses that have seen revenue decline as a result of COVID-19. On the first day that the $5,000 grants were available the city received applications for more than 100 grants, accounting for all of the $500,000 that the city planned to make available.
Executives from Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanante and Dignity Health urged people to stay disciplined during the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. They described how hospital staffs are stretched to their limits, and even though they could find room to put more patients, they have a limited number of trained doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to care for those patients.
Reports of new COVID-19 cases reached a peak in mid-December, with 53,711 new cases reported in one day on Dec. 15, and a seven-day average of 43,900 going into the third week of the month. San Joaquin County’s 7-day average topped 810 daily cases going into the final week of December, with a single-day peak of 1,258 on Dec. 22.
Hospitals were at capacity statewide and in the county as well, with more than 21,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide, and more than 350 people hospitalized across San Joaquin County’s seven hospitals in the final week of December.
There were 2,292,568 COVID-19 infections reported in the state in 2020 and 25,971 deaths. In San Joaquin County there were 47,208 cases reported in 2020, most of them in the last six weeks of the year, and 651 deaths, with most of the deaths reported in the past 3 months.
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