Contra Costa County remembers 730 lives lost to COVID-19 over the past year

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- A special event was held in Contra Costa County Monday night where those who died from COVID-19 complications were remembered.

Outside of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, more than a dozen people held candles to remember the 730 people who died due to COVID-19 complications in Contra Costa County over the past year.

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"Family members lost, friends lost, businesses lost, schooling not what it should be for many of our children," said Dr. Samir Shah who is the CEO of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center.

A flag flew at half-staff outside the medical center. While lost lives were remembered, this wasn't all about sadness and loss, but also the good to come.

Officials in Contra Costa County made a major announcement that they will be opening eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone ages 50 and older. That's an additional 325,000 people.

Officials admit supply is limited. They're urging everyone to be patient if they're on the list and have received a confirmation email.

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Along with this actual ceremony, they held a virtual event of hope and healing.

"Our message tonight is one of hope. It's not always easy to feel hopeful during a pandemic," said Contra Costa County District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis.

But that hope is something felt on the streets of Martinez. Those like 70-year-old Benjamin Contreras who had COVID-19 three months ago, but also just got the vaccine and is excited about the future.

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"I feel better, I feel stronger. My opinion is very optimistic," said Contreras.

"We're a couple years off. We still have to wait, but it's okay, we're in line. we're waiting just excited to get it done," said Jennifer Jelich of Martinez.

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Contra Costa Health Director Anna Roth said the county is hoping vaccine supply improves, but if it doesn't, they will slow down the scheduling of appointments -- something they've had to do at times.

At this point, it's unclear on when the next group of people will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine or how long it will take to vaccinate the 50 and over age group.

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