Western Nevada County residents should assume community spread of the new coronavirus disease is already happening, expect confirmed cases to increase when more testing is available and take seriously social distancing and other mitigation measures advised by health and government officials, Public Health Director Jill Blake told the Board of Supervisors during its Tuesday meeting.
On Monday, the county confirmed its second and third cases of COVID-19 and the first in the western region. On Tuesday it announced the fourth case, also in the eastern part of the county, with an undetermined mode of transmission. Officials think in the western county case the virus was caught through international travel, and said the person’s household contacts have been quarantined.
Still officials warned that just because community spread of COVID-19 hasn’t been confirmed, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
“We should assume that it is here,” Blake said. “Our borders look fine on a map, but they don’t prevent a disease from moving across those lines so if everyone could take that stay-at-home order seriously and practice it as advised, that will help all of us.”
Blake pointed to the situation in Seattle where the virus was spread for weeks before testing could bear out the full extent of its transmission.
“We can’t emphasize enough how important we think it is for people to follow this stay-at-home order,” Blake said.
PREPARING FOR EXTENDED COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION
According to Blake, the health department is internally prioritizing ways to identify and isolate cases and exposure, protecting vulnerable populations, preparing for extended community transmission, and addressing resource requests for critical medical equipment.
She said the health department is working with skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, senior care facilities and residential treatment centers to consult on best practices, use of personal protective equipment, and in some cases for medical consultation.
Blake said the county gets regular updates about hospital bed availability and patients with flu-like symptoms. Those figures were not immediately made available by the county.
“To date, every polling that we received indicates that our hospitals are in fine shape, but I do want to remind you that we’re at the very earliest stages of this outbreak locally,” Blake told supervisors at the meeting.
At the beginning of the outbreak in the county, officials publicized the number of persons under investigations for COVID-19, but did not return repeated requests for that number or whether it is still being tracked. However, Blake said at the meeting that officials are no longer able to track the number of tests administered.
“In the early stage of the outbreak, every request for a test went through our department, but weeks ago when commercial labs started testing we lost that ability to track tests,” she said. “Any licensed health care provider can order a test if they deem it medically necessary or appropriate. We get notified of positive results, but we don’t get notified when testing occurs.”
Blake advised that people with mild symptoms ration both tests and medical equipment for those most vulnerable to the disease.
“The demand for testing still exceeds the state’s capacity to implement testing due to testing supplies as well as the protective equipment that is necessary to conduct that testing,” Blake said. “If you have mild symptoms and those symptoms can be addressed at home with self-care, we’re recommending that you do so and that you don’t try to be tested and that for now we continue to reserve those testing supplies and testing equipment for those who are most vulnerable to serious illness.”
Blake said in light of a worldwide personal protective equipment shortage, if people are not feeling sick, there is no need to don a mask.
“It will not provide the protection that you are seeking,” she said. “There is a shortage of masks and our health care providers need them in order to provide care.”
According to Blake, the health department will request a field hospital be made available to the Sacramento region in order to support smaller surrounding rural counties.
“Our staff is working hard with a number of nonprofits and with the state,” Supervisor and board chairwoman Heidi Hall said at the meeting. “There’s a lot happening at the county that we aren’t reporting out on today, so please go to mynevadacounty.com/coronavirus to get additional information.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email [email protected] or call 530-477-4229.
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