COVID-19 numbers are on the decline after Sonoma County moved into the state’s red tier a week and a half ago, but communities are facing other types of loss since the start of the pandemic.
Sonoma County’s made progress in keeping case numbers low in the red tier, even as businesses started opening up a bit more on March 12. County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said moving into the even less-restrictive orange tier is on the horizon.
"We may be able to move into the orange tier very soon. Possibly within the next two to three weeks," Mase said.
While the county celebrates lower case rates and declining deaths and hospitalizations caused by COVID-19, new data shows a 78 percent increase in deaths caused by overdoses in 2020, compared to the average of the prior three years. There was also an unexpected increase in suicide among Latinx communities in 2020.
While it’s too early to directly correlate the pandemic to these deaths, Director of Sonoma County Behavioral Health Services Bill Carter said it’s clear COVID-19 has taken a toll on mental health.
"We know that folks are under stress, economic stress isolation and we know that has an impact on this. We know that access to treatment is impaired," Carter said. "You don’t have access to in-person treatment services in the way you did before."
The county is working on analyzing the data in detail to further understand how the pandemic has affected mental health and addiction. Tessa Paoli, KRCB Sonoma County News
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health challenges or self harm you can call the county’s 24-hour crisis hotline at (707) 576-8181.