A county in California this week approved a pilot program that will establish a $1,250 stipend to encourage those who test positive for coronavirus to stay at home and self isolate.
Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors set aside $10million for the stipend program which will allow payments to 7,500 people, in the hopes of preventing a sudden financial crisis if a family member tests positive.
It was approved as the county hit a new high in daily coronavirus cases Wednesday and as California struggles to contain its outbreak.
The stipend program has been welcomed by local healthcare providers who say it will help those in the county’s working class areas to remain at home and not be forced to continue going to work if they test positive.
‘Literally every single person that we have spoken to through our contract tracing program, they have all asked for either food, help with rent, or access to be enrolled in healthcare,’ Andrea Schwab-Galindo, CEO of Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center in Hayward, told CBS San Francisco.
‘Most people that test positive are usually the members that are out there working and able to do that,’ Schwab-Galindo added.
‘You know, they are construction workers, they are grocery workers, so they are more exposed compared to some of the other family members they are trying to support, including their children.’
She added that the area has a 28 percent positivity testing rate.
The plan was also welcomed by local residents who said said it would alleviate the worries on families.
‘Yeah, whatever makes it a lot easier for people to deal with this pandemic would be great,’ resident Robert Mangrobang told CBS.
‘Twelve hundred dollars or even more would be ideal for comforting a lot of families.’
The pilot program was approved by the board on Tuesday but details of who will be eligible still need to be finalized.
In order to benefit from the stipend, people who need to isolate because of a positive test must not receive unemployment benefits or sick leave.
Approval for the program will also require a referral from one of five approved clinics in the county.
The $1,250 amount equals to two weeks wages on minimum wage in California, targeting low-income workers who are unable to stop working, even if they become infected with the virus.
The issue of infected people still returning to work has been a major part of the spread of coronavirus in the area, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The board hopes that laborers, independent contractors, people who are paid under the table and undocumented workers will now be given an incentive to stay at home and avoid contact with co-workers, an aide for Supervisor Keith Carson added.
County officials are hoping that the money set aside for the plan will be reimbursed by the state or federal government.
Alameda County experienced a massive spike in cases Wednesday, setting a new daily record.
There were 321 new cases reported, bringing the county’s total over 12,460. More than a third of these cases are in the city of Oakland, which has 4,923 cases.
The county has had 202 coronavirus deaths.
The county’s cases are significantly higher among the Hispanic community and among 18 to 30-year-olds.
A third of cases are within the Hispanic community while a third of those infected are also aged under 30 years old.
Alameda has the ninth highest number of coronavirus cases among the state’s counties but lies far behind the likes of the more populous Los Angeles County, which has almost 200,000 total cases.
This week, California edged closer to 10,000 coronavirus deaths as rural counties began to see a massive uptick in new cases.
The Central Valley, in particular, is causing concern for federal health officials.
‘This is a predictor of trouble ahead,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, said Wednesday of the area’s increase in positive test rate.
He said the increase in positive tests is ‘a clear indication that you are getting an uptick in cases, which inevitably — as we’ve seen in the Southern states — leads to surges, and then you get hospitalizations, and then you get deaths’.
‘Now is the time to accelerate the fundamental preventive measures … masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds,’ Fauci added.
The state’s response to the pandemic has also been marred recently by a technical problem which is blocking case data from getting both to the state and to individual counties and has resulted in a large problem in reporting new cases and in contact tracing.