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Q&A: Sacramento County health director takes ABC10 viewers' questions about coronavirus pandemic

Sacramento County health director took ABC10 questions such as why people are not allowed to sing in church and how to talk to loved ones about the pandemic.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Coronavirus cases are surging across the state of California. Sacramento County Health Director  Dr. Peter Beilenson took questions from ABC10's audience on Wednesday to explain why health officials see an increase in cases despite the fact the county seemed to be bending curve. 

Beilenson spoke on how young people are driving the coronavirus case numbers in recent days. Beilenson also explains how you could convince loved ones in taking the pandemic seriously.

As of Wednesday, there are 4,776 confirmed coronavirus cases within Sacramento County.

The following interview between ABC10's Van Tieu and Sacramento County Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson, has been edited for clarity and brevity.

ABC10: Where is Sacramento County during this dynamic, ever-changing pandemic?

We had been doing extremely well, as most people know, we were the best in the country in terms of the lowest number of cases per capita among major urban areas in the entire United States. We were number one. We bent the curve. We stayed home, and we did all the appropriate things.

I think people have been affected by message-fatigue, and cabin fever, and that has led them to throw caution to the wind, to an unfortunate degree. Where a decent number of people, particularly young people. Not to be dissing a certain age group, but particularly young people are gathering again and having fun.

It's's friends, extended family and family gatherings, etc. and that's a large chunk of the number of new cases in the county.  I would just urge people to remember that this virus is still out there. It's still dangerous. It still kills. 

We've had 79 or 78 deaths, including 9 this week alone, which is the most we've had in the entire outbreak. There are probably more to come.

It's's very important to follow the three guidelines, as we continue to point out, which are: social distancing, handwashing and hand sanitizing, and wear a mask.

READ MORE: New antigen coronavirus test offers results in 15 minutes 

ABC10: Is it true that coronavirus tests are coming up false positive because it's detecting other viruses?

There's no evidence that I have seen, or any of us have seen, that the COVID-19 tests are coming up with false positives for other viruses. 

For one thing, this is the coronavirus. It's's not the same thing as the flu. There are a few other coronaviruses that cause the common cold, but nothing that I have seen indicates there's a large false-positive rate because of that.

ABC10: Are we no longer allowed to sing while attending church services? Is that right, and if so, when is that effective?

There is some issue right now with some churches still singing, even though it was prohibited from doing so, indoors at least. There's first of all, a restriction on the number of people that can be in service to 25% of the capacity of a church or 100, whichever is less.

The big issue is singing and chanting. The reason for that is when you sing, you expel more air and there is more aerosolization, and that actually kind of defeats the purpose of 6 feet of social distancing because it spews out the virus more than 10 to 12 feet.

People have to follow the orders about that otherwise we're to have a lot more outbreaks.

ABC10: Are cases up because people with the virus get tested multiple times before they test negative?
A: We are doing more testing,[including multiple test takers],  which relates to having more positive cases, but we are having so many more positive cases that it's not strictly related to the testing. 

READ MORE: How prepared are Sacramento County hospitals for a new surge of coronavirus patients?

ABC10: What is the state of Sacramento county hospitals?

Right now, we talk to Sacramento County hospitals every day. Right now, they're fairly comfortable in terms of being able to handle more cases. 

For one thing, people tend to be a little bit younger right now. We have a majority of the population of our new cases, 1,000 or 1,200 cases last week, which is a significant number, have been under age 40 or 45. 

They tend to be healthier, but we are seeing a sizable number of people in the hospital as opposed to the ICU. Right now, the hospitals seem comfortable. We have plenty of surge capacity. Still, we mustn't overload our hospitals, and we got to start bending the curve again.

RELATED: Sacramento coronavirus testing sites to reopen with help from California National Guard

ABC10: With the five Sacramento testing sites closed for about a week, does the public health department anticipate seeing a dip in numbers because people couldn't get tested? And could that lead to a false sense of security?

We don't expect it to affect the number of positive tests, positive cases, as much as one might think because we don't do that many tests in our community-based testing sites.

There are about 18,000 done a week in Sacramento County, and a lot of the huge number of them are actually done in private doctor's offices and labs, As well as the UC Davis drive-thru. The community-based sites, while very important, in terms of who we're serving, are not going to affect the number of positive cases dramatically.

ABC10: How do family members convince loved ones to abide by rules to help spread coronavirus? 

Family dynamics are a touchy issue, in general. I think it has helped since we've mandated masks instead of having it encouraged because when it's's mandated, it takes some of the politics out of it, and people say, it's the rule, we have to do it.

I think that's undoing the majority of the work. The other thing is to simply say, a matter of factly, to your family member, this is not just protection of them, it's's the protection of you. 

So you don't get it if they have it, and vice versa. You want to try to keep it spreading from your relatives, relatives with underlying health conditions and kind of try to reeducate folks as to why it is important to wear a mask.


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