Since priority testing for COVID-19 came to San Benito County on May 5, 785 people have been tested, county Health and Human Services Agency Director Tracey Belton told the Board of Supervisors on May 19. She also noted that 246 test results are pending.
“I know there’s been some delay,” Belton said. “Out of those results we’ve only had one positive test.”
As of May 1, there have been 63 confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Benito County since February. Seven are active, 54 have recovered and two have died from the virus.
Tests are being conducted at the Veterans Memorial Building in Hollister.
Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health designated the county as one of 80 priority testing sites across the state to receive free tests as part of a program focused on underserved communities. Testing is expected to continue by appointment from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 649 San Benito Street. Site operators OptumServe have the capacity to test 132 individuals per day.
“We encourage everyone to continue to get tested,” Belton said, adding that staff is figuring out a way to offer expanded testing to the local migrant community.
Belton said public health staff is collaborating on outreach to migrants with the San Benito chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. There is also talk of moving priority testing to the San Juan Bautista-Aromas area so that residents in that part of the county don’t have to travel as far to get tested.
“We’ll be exploring that moving forward,” Belton said.
Belton was the only public health official to speak, as she said interim Public Health Officer David Ghilarducci could not attend the meeting. His absence drew the ire of several speakers during public comment, who called for his resignation or firing.
County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa updated supervisors on the county’s personal protective equipment and said the state provided 26,000 surgical masks to hand out to local businesses to help comply with Stage Two of the state’s Resilience Roadmap.
Of the 20 people who spoke during public comment, a majority called for the removal of the county’s face covering order along with other shelter-in-place restrictions. Some even called for the board to declare the region a sanctuary county free from state oversight concerning the shelter order. San Benito County has followed state guidelines since the local shelter order expired on May 3.
Supervisor Peter Hernandez was the lone official saying he agreed with becoming a sanctuary county. Supervisor Jim Gillio said there are people who agree with the health and mask orders who don’t speak up, and Supervisor Anthony Botelho said he believed the vast majority of the public wants the county “to do what’s best for public good and public health.”
“That’s what these orders are meant for,” Botelho said. “We have to follow state law. I’m not going to support a sanctuary county, I believe in law and order.”
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