SALINAS VALLEY — More patients are being relocated to an Alternate Housing Site at San Lorenzo Park in recent weeks due to an overall increase in Covid-19 cases countywide.
The King City site is called Operation Oasis by Monterey County staff, and has 10 trailers to house people who are having trouble safely isolating while they are infected.
Within the past two weeks, Oasis went from housing one person to housing 22, according to Deb McAlahney from Monterey County Department of Social Services.
“As we are moving through the months, we were thinking the vaccines would be a really big game-changer, and they really were for a while,” McAlahney said. “We were serving folks at our main Operation Oasis site and also doing some safe home isolation.”
Regarding the impact of the Covid-19 vaccine on patients, she said five of the 22 residents at Oasis were vaccinated.
“They still were able to contract Covid, but their symptoms were near nothing,” McAlahney said. “A majority of them didn’t realize they were Covid-positive until they were tested for some other strange reason, like travel or starting a new job.”
McAlahney noted the symptoms among unvaccinated patients at Oasis have been worse.
“Just recently we had two people who were unvaccinated who were sent to the hospital right now and they are struggling,” she said. “They came to the park first and we convinced them to go to the hospital.”
McAlahney added that there are other patients at Oasis who are suffering but not to such a degree that hospitalization is required. She said based on her experience of more than 16 months serving patients in the Alternate Housing Site (AHS) system, the symptoms in the new Covid variants are harsher.
“It’s a bit scary to watch it unfold right in front of us,” McAlahney said.
The county also works on isolating people at home, and works with people as soon as they’re called about a home isolation to discuss the impacts and safety procedures.
“What we help them realize is that their situation might not be safe, that there might be something they need to think about, such as if they share a bedroom,” McAlahney explained. “Even with a mask on, you can transmit Covid.”
Using the restroom or cooking a meal could mean contamination risk for other people in the house, she noted. Another issue was the difficulty of parents with young children trying to isolate, since the children don’t understand quarantine.
“It’s always hard on a household and a family, which is why we offer up this discussion,” McAlahney said. “We can support them in their home isolation and we can also have them come into our Alternate Housing Site program.”
For those who enter into the AHS program, they are able to isolate and be provided with amenities, such as showers, meals, medical assessments and check-ins.
“What we can offer is the place where you can go, relax, get better and have a support team behind you that is also looking at you from a medical perspective,” McAlahney said. “There is a pretty good network to support our Monterey County communities through their Covid experiences.”
In addition, McAlahney said the county has access to three stipends that can provide an alternative to income for those safely isolating or going to the alternate housing.
“They’re not anything to scoff at because they’re $1,000 apiece if the person qualifies,” she said.