Local News

Inyo County Given Green Light to Open Economy at Local Level

INYO COUNTY, CA, May 15, 2020: Inyo County has received approval from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to move forward with reopening additional businesses in Inyo County. With this approval, Inyo County businesses that have completed an industry-specific checklist and submitted the Inyo County Business Attestation Form may receive approval to reopen (will be available on the Reopening Inyo Businesses webpage within the next 24 hours).

Inyo County has officially moved to Phase Two, Stage Two of the Governor’s Four Stage Recovery Roadmap.  Here is the current status:

According to the Resilience Roadmap for the State of California, before reopening, all facilities must perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan; train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19 (including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them); implement individual control measures and screenings; implement disinfecting protocols; and, implement physical distancing guidelines.

All businesses that are currently operating, as well as businesses that are permitted to reopen, must certify that they have met the industry-specific reopening requirements by filling out the Inyo County Business Attestation form located at Reopening Inyo Businesses. Industry checklists are also located on this webpage.

Northern Inyo Hospital Update: Dr. Brown Implores Public to Wear Masks

Rural Health Clinic Director for Northern Inyo Hospital, Dr. Stacey Brown, spoke to the media on Friday, May 15, 2020, and provided the latest on how hospital is managing in its fight against the COVID-19 crisis.

Brown said that the hospital has the capability to test almost anyone who is feeling symptomatic. “The vast majority of people we test are relatively healthy. However, there are some symptoms people show, and we will test them for coronavirus. If someone has a subjective fever, we will test them. The bar is low for testing,” Brown remarked.

Though there is a low requirement when it comes to a person receiving a COVID-19 test, the bar is still not low enough for an asymptomatic person to be tested. Brown said, “We can’t do testing for asymptomatic individuals; it is just not possible at this time.” The reason it is not possible to test those who do not show symptoms is because there are not enough tests available.

It is no secret that the United States is behind the curve when it comes to administering tests compared to some other countries in the world. Brown gave an explanation as to why acquiring a sufficient number of tests has been so difficult at a federal, state, and local level.

Brown said, “There are so many factors involved when it comes to lack of testing. I think we underestimated the impact that COVID-19 would have. It is what it is though, and we have to deal with what we’ve got.”

With that being said, Dr. Brown believes Northern Inyo Hospital will catch up when it comes to having sufficient testing. “I am a cautiously optimistic person. With the amount of regularity that we are getting relating to antibody testing and nasal swabs, things seem to be much more secure now. We aren’t getting much extra testing, but we are receiving tests, which makes me more comfortable than where things were a month ago.”

The discussion shifted toward the importance of wearing a mask when going into public. On Friday, May 8, 2020, Inyo County Public Health Officer, Dr. James Richardson issued a mandatory face mask order for all Inyo County residents who are out in public. When speaking about the mask order, Brown expressed approval for business owners not allowing individuals to enter their businesses without a mask. “I am happy that a lot of the places that are essential businesses have not been allowing entry to customers who do not have masks on,” Brown remarked.

Though appreciative of the public’s efforts in complying with the mandatory mask order, Brown said he has been seeing a lot of masks with valves on them, which defeats the point of even wearing a mask in the first place. “If you go back to why we are masking in public, it is not about inhaling the virus, it is about spewing virus,” Brown said.  “One-way exhale valve masks are not the tool for what we call source control. Folks come into the district wearing these valve masks, and they are still asked to cover up when they come into the district. It is not doing the job,” Brown said.

Brown thinks it is necessary that the county provides a way of enforcing the public health order issued by Dr. Richardson. “There has to be some teeth on it [the facial cover order.] We need to trust people to do right thing, but verify that they actually are. There should be mechanism or hotline that the public can call and report businesses who are not complying with the order. There has to be threat of a shutdown or a fine if people do not listen,” Brown said.

Mono County Issues Hantavirus Warning

May 14, 2020 – As the weather is warming and people are spring cleaning, Mono County Health Department would like to remind residents of the risk of hantavirus in the Eastern Sierra, a known region of exposure in the United States.

People may catch hantavirus by inhaling virus that is found in the urine, feces, saliva, and nesting materials of infected deer mice. Most people who become ill with hantavirus report some exposure to rodents in the preceding weeks, typically while cleaning enclosed spaces that have been closed-up for some time with mice living there.

For more information on hantavirus, click here.

Hantavirus illness begins with a fever and flu-like symptoms, such as headache and body aches, typically one to five weeks after inhaling the virus. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain are common in the early part of the illness. Respiratory symptoms, including cough and feeling short of breath, may develop after a few days, signaling increased chance of deadly respiratory and heart failure. When people start having trouble breathing, their condition may rapidly worsen and become critical. There is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection, but high-level intensive care has allowed many people with life-threatening illness to survive. Overall, approximately 25-33% people with hantavirus infection die.

It is important to note key similarities and differences between hantavirus infection and COVID-19. For one, COVID-19 is spread from person to person, whereas hantavirus is spread from deer mouse waste. A person with hantavirus cannot spread it to another person. Both infections may present with flu like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, or muscle pains. This is why it is critical for residents to be aware of and avoid exposure to rodents, their waste, and their nesting materials. If you begin experiencing any of these symptoms, you should call your primary healthcare provider or the Mono County Nurse Hotline at 211. Be sure to inform health professionals of any exposures you may have had to both mouse waste and COVID-19. Timely hantavirus and COVID-19 diagnosis and potential transfer to higher level hospital care is crucial as these diseases can progress rapidly.

To decrease risk of hantavirus infection:

• Open windows and doors of a potentially contaminated area and allow it to air out for at least 30 minutes before cleaning. Cross-ventilation is best.

• Avoid sweeping, vacuuming or other activities that stir up dust and dirt that may contain the virus.

• Spray dead rodents, nests, droppings, and other potentially contaminated items and surfaces with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach with 10 parts water) or a disinfectant made to kill viruses (check the label). A dead mouse caught in a trap should not be removed from the trap. Instead, the trap and mouse together should be disinfected, bagged and discarded into the trash.

• Wait at least 5 minutes after spraying the disinfectant on things before wiping.

• Inspect vehicles for rodents. Mice incursion in vehicles may also pose some hantavirus risk, especially if mice infest the heating and air conditioning system.

• Minimize mouse entry points at home and at work. Mice may enter through very small gaps under doors or around windows and where conduits and vents pass through walls. Heating and air conditions ducts should be periodically inspected for holes and/or rodent feces or nesting material.

Wild Horse and Burro Adoptions Increase Thanks to Incentive Program

BLM Press Release

WASHINGTON— The Bureau of Land Management announced today that the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Incentive Program launched in March 2019 contributed to a significant increase of animals placed into private care. In the first 12 months of the AIP, the agency adopted 6,026 animals, compared with 3,158 during the previous full fiscal year. That increase of 91% revives and accelerates an upward trend of adoptions that began in 2015.

The AIP, which began mid-way through Fiscal Year 2019, helped the agency to achieve a 15-year record for total placements that year of 7,104 animals. Total placements include animals adopted, sold or transferred to another public agency. Each animal successfully placed into private care is estimated to save taxpayers approximately $24,000 in lifetime off-range holding costs. That amounts to over $170 million in lifetime savings generated during Fiscal Year 2019 alone, in large measure due to the AIP.

“We’re excited that the public has responded so strongly to this innovative program. The successful use of incentives to increase adoption rates is a win for all involved – saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, reducing the overpopulation of wild horses and burros on the range, and helping these animals find homes with families who will care for and enjoy them for years to come,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond.

The AIP seeks to increase placements of wild horses or burros by paying individuals $1,000 for each untrained animal they adopt. Payments are made in two installments: $500 within 60 days of adoption, and $500 within 60 days of receiving title (approximately one year later). By contrast, it costs an average of $1,850 per year for the BLM to care for a wild horse or burro in an off-range corral facility.

“Placing animals into private care is a vital component of our mission to restore and maintain balance to America’s public lands where extensive wild horse and burro overpopulation threatens ecosystems, economies and even the health of the herds themselves,” said BLM’s Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Pendley. “The response we’ve seen to this incentive reveals how much the American people value wild horses and burros and understand the importance of BLM’s mission to properly manage them.”

Besides an increase in overall adoption numbers, the first year of the AIP also saw a sharp rise in the number of first-time and repeat adopters, as well as the number of individuals who adopted multiple animals. In all, there were 2,923 first-time adopters, 932 repeat adopters and 1,280 multiple-animal adoptions – all of which represent substantial increases over previous years.

Brad Smoot and his family, who live in Arco, Idaho, learned of the Adoption Incentive Program and ultimately adopted eight wild horses. They started their herd by adopting two weanlings and two 2-year-olds from the Boise Wild Horse Off-Range Corrals. The initial experience with BLM Wrangler Ruby Kyle was so positive they made a trip to Boise and adopted three more mares. The Smoots then adopted a pregnant mare during the wild horse adoption held in Challis the winter of 2020. Having grown up with Quarter horses and Tennessee Walkers, Brad Smoot knew he wanted his family to enjoy experiencing life with horses.

“Together my wife and I have eight children and we enjoy getting into the back country and trail riding,” said Brad. “These horses have been relatively easy to start. I really do prefer working with horses that do not have any developed or spoiled habits. My 15-year-old daughter has already started riding one of them.”

During the same time the agency ramped up other efforts to find good homes for more animals, including holding more events and offering more animals. Nationwide, there were a total of 223 adoption events held at BLM facilities, remote venues and online, at which 9,228 animals were offered. This also represents a substantial increase over previous years.

Under a 1971 law, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, BLM is responsible for preserving and protecting these animals as part of a thriving natural ecological system on public lands. The agency achieves this objective primarily by gathering and removing excess animals from the range and offering them for adoption or purchase at facilities and events around the country.

As of March 1, 2019, the wild horse and burro population on public lands was estimated at more than 88,000, which is more than triple the number of animals the land can sustainably support in conjunction with other legally mandated uses, making every successful adoption or sale vitally important in helping the agency regain proper balance.

Given the extensive overpopulation, wild horses and burros routinely face starvation and death from lack of water. The high number of excess wild horses and burros causes habitat damage that forces animals to leave public lands and travel onto private property or even highways in search of food and water.

“The current overpopulation of wild horses and burros represents an existential threat to the health of landscapes across the West. In many places, the range will take decades to recover – and in some cases, it’s unlikely that it ever will,” said Pendley. “For this reason, the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program is critical to the health of native wildlife populations and the economic health of countless communities.”

When the number of animals removed from the range exceeds the number the agency can place through adoption or sale, the remaining animals are held in off-range corrals or contracted pastures at taxpayer expense. Currently there are approximately 50,000 wild horses and burros in off-range corrals and pastures. The cost of providing quality, humane care for these animals runs about $50 million annually.

To learn more about the wild horse or burro program, visit https://blm.gov/whb.

 

 

Inyo National Forest Implementing Fire Restrictions

Inyo National Forest is implementing fire restrictions effective on all Inyo National Forest lands.

 

We want to support a strong fire prevention program, limiting human-caused fires, to keep our firefighters healthy and ready for when we need them in the coming months,” said Tammy Randall-Parker, Forest Supervisor.

 

The forest is basing this decision on increased fire danger, local fire activity, and the availability of firefighters for response. Effective May 13th and through December 31, 2020 or until rescinded, the following restrictions will be in effect:

 

  • No campfires, briquette barbeques, or stove fires are allowed outside of designated developed recreation sites and specifically posted campsites or areas. However, for now, campgrounds are closed on the forest.
  • Persons with a valid California Campfire Permit are not exempt from the prohibitions but are allowed to use portable stoves or lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel.
  • No fireworks. It is prohibited to possess or discharge any fireworks, including “safe and sane” fireworks.
  • No smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.
  • Please refer to the webpage for the forest order, the list of developed recreation sites, and full list of restrictions.

 

Resorts, pack stations, recreation residences and other sites operated under special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service may be exempt from the special orders, as long as any fire activity is conducted in compliance with their permit.

Residents and visitors are reminded that additional simple steps can help prevent human-caused fires. Fire crews regularly respond to vehicle fires along the Sherwin Grade on Hwy 395.

  • Prevent vehicle related fires by maintaining proper tire pressure, ensuring adequate tire tread, and checking your brakes for overheating. Avoid traveling or parking on brush or grass. Ensure chains are not dragging while towing.
  • Use of exploding targets, such as Binary Explosive Targets, and tracer rounds, while recreationally shooting is both a fire hazard and illegal. The use of steel-core ammunition, although legal, can greatly increase the chance of a wildfire.
  • Motorcycles, ATV’s and chainsaws require an approved spark arrestor.

https://www.readyforwildfire.org/

City of Bishop Declares May as Healthcare District Month

As the world continues to celebrate healthcare workers, the City of Bishop chose to salute its local healthcare and first responders Monday night with a proclamation naming May as Healthcare District Month.

This is not the first time the City recognized healthcare workers in May. For the past several years, the City set aside May as Healthcare District Month, and May traditionally housed National Hospital Week and National Nurses Week. The arrival of the Coronavirus indeed lent itself to expanding this recognition to include the first responders and county-based public healthcare staff who work alongside Northern Inyo Healthcare District.

Kelli Davis, Interim Chief Executive Officer, told the council that this recognition focuses on all the community heroes, who are working tirelessly through the crisis at hand. “These first four months of 2020 have been very trying, frightening, and devastating throughout the United States and in our small communities through the Eastern Sierra due to the pandemic,” Davis said.

While many of the frontline workers are obviously our physicians and nurses, Davis noted that other often-unsung heroes contribute to the health and well-being of the community during trying times such as this. These include, but are not limited to, firefighters, air ambulance teams, police officers, paramedics, EMTs, hospital and county teams at every level, and many other community workers required to respond to health-related needs and medical emergencies.

“We are very appreciative of the action our City Council is taking in honoring all of these community members,” Davis said. “These workers continue to risk their personal safety to execute their respective duties, day in and day during this crisis. Honoring our healthcare workers and first responders by proclaiming May as Healthcare District Month demonstrates the appreciation and heartfelt thanks for these folks and the work they are doing on the front lines against the pandemic we have been facing for the past few months and will continue to face for some time.”

Before the City Council read the proclamation into the official record, Mayor Laura Smith paused to recognize some of those who contributed to the team effort. Those workers included: Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Andrea Daniels, Denice Hynd, Dr. Stacey Brown, Jannalyn Lawrence, Krissy Alcala, Amy Stange, Janice Jackson, Genifer Owens, Emily Smith, Tanya DeLeo, and Scott Hooker; along with Symons Ambulance’s Judd Symons; Sierra Life Flight’s Mike Patterson; Bishop Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Dell; Big Pine Fire Chief Damon Carrington; Chalfant Valley Fire Chief Steve Lindeman; and, Inyo County Public Health’s Anna Scott.

“Our community deeply appreciates the work that’s been done and continues to be done within the healthcare district and beyond,” Mayor Smith said.

Crash Near South Lake Leads to DUI Arrests

On 5/11/2020 at approximately 1700 hours, Macy Bounds was driving a Jeep Wrangler northbound on South Lake Rd. south of SR-168 (west) at approximately 55 MPH. Trujillo and Thomas were passengers in the Jeep Wrangler. Bounds entered a right hand curve in the roadway at an excessive speed for the roadway conditions, and subsequently lost control of the Jeep. The Jeep fishtailed, went off the road, and overturned in the sagebrush, ejecting Bounds and Trujillo, who were unrestrained. After the collision, passing motorists stopped to assist the injured parties. CHP, Inyo County Sheriff deputies, Cal Fire, Bishop Fire Department, and Symons all responded to the scene. Subsequent to an investigation, Bounds was arrested for Driving Under The Influence of alcohol causing injuries to other parties.

New COVID-19 Cases Stop Mono County From Moving Into Stage Two of Reopening

Mono County recorded 6 new COVID-19 cases during the week ending May 10. This number of new cases, unfortunately, prevents Mono County from moving fully into Stage 2 of the “California Stay At Home Order Except for Essential Activities Roadmap” at this time.

Over the past 14-days, Mono County has identified a total of 8 new COVID-19 cases. Our population is around 14,000 people and the State’s recommended limit for transitioning completely into Stage 2 is one new case per 10,000 people over a 14-day period. Mono County is now significantly above this limit.

As of Friday May 8, under State rules, most retailers in California can offer curbside pick-up service and the same is true in Mono County. When we move completely into Stage 2, retailers will be allowed to have customers in their stores, restaurants can serve meals on the premises, and other business activities that are deemed “lower risk” can re-open. However, we are not there yet according to the State guidelines on new case rates.

Mono County Health Officer Dr. Tom Boo stated that he “is concerned about the number of new cases and complete investigation is essential. Methodical contact tracing procedures have identified links between these new cases who are all residents of the Mammoth Area: regions defined within Mammoth Lakes and Crowley Lake.”

Dr. Boo further stated that, “The first case this week was identified by new screening procedures recently implemented at Mammoth Hospital and contact tracing led to the identification of the other 5 infected persons. None of the new cases have sought medical care related to COVID-19, and at least three report no symptoms at all. Testing was performed because they live or work with other confirmed cases and all are self-quarantined.”

Public Health Officials state that none of these cases would have been identified earlier in the pandemic because of testing limitations. The hospital can now test more people with results in less than an hour, giving the Health Department a critical tool in efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus throughout Mono County. With increased testing, more cases are predicted to be identified in the future.

Currently all patients admitted overnight to Mammoth or Northern Inyo Hospitals for any reason are being tested for COVID-19. In addition, as our local hospitals resume more elective healthcare services, many patients coming in for scheduled tests or procedures are also being screened for COVID-19.

Mammoth Hospital has not admitted people for COVID-19 since our alarming cluster of severe illness in March. Diagnostic capacity in Mono County remains adequate to test anyone who is sick as well as those who are identified by Public Health as having been exposed to positive cases. We do not yet have the capacity to implement widespread community-based testing, which is an objective we will continue to work towards.

Public Health Officials continue to learn more about the novel coronavirus every day. In recent weeks we have learned more about the range of effects and complications as well as containment efforts as countries struggle to sustain their initial successes in containing the virus. Recent clinical findings include: damage to heart and kidneys, increased frequency of blood clots in sicker people, and the potential for severe complications and even some deaths in children.

In summary, we ask the public to keep in mind that the virus remains active here in our county and more infections will occur as movement, business, and social activity increase. We hope that with continued distancing and widespread individual commitment to reduce risk by getting tested, staying home when ill, as well as wearing face coverings in public places, that we as a state and county will be able to gradually move toward a sustainable way of living with the pandemic without sacrificing many lives.

Public Health Officials urge residents to stay at home except for essential purposes and to call 211 if they are feeling ill and would like to talk with a nurse 7-days a week from 8:00am – 5:00pm.

Inyo County to Discuss Reopening With Business Owners

Local Business Task Force Presents a Business to Business Webinar to Discuss Reopening

 
INYO COUNTY, CA, May 11, 2020: The County of Inyo has teamed up with area business leaders to form a Local Business Task Force.  The group consists of one representative from each of the following sectors: 

  • Lodging
  • Food & beverage
  • Retail
  • Childcare
  • Personal services
  • Non-profit
  • Events and entertainment
  • Inyo County Administration / Information Technology
  • Public Health

 
The purpose of this group is to assist all local businesses by ensuring they have the most up to date information regarding rules and best practices as prescribed by state and county officials.  It is important to note the Task Force is not creating rules, rather providing technical assistance, and acting as a liaison between businesses and government health officials.

A menu item on the Inyo County COVID-19 webpage is now available for the public to receive email notifications that are specific to Reopening Businesses in Inyo County. If you are interested in receiving updates, please go to the following link:

https://www.inyocounty.us/covid-19  – click “Reopening Inyo Businesses” and sign up.

The Task Force will host a Zoom webinar on Wednesday, May 13th at 3pm and all local businesses are invited and encouraged to tune-in

https://zoom.us/j/96234465375?pwd=bkJ6MHhObVA3enNGTS9SOStGb2ZPQT09
Prior to the webinar, questions may be submitted to the panel by email at
businessinfo@inyocounty.us   In order for the questions to be addressed during the presentation, please submit no later than 5pm, Tuesday, May 12th.

Bishop Paiute Tribe Planning Reopening Phase

May 7th, 2020 – As the pandemic stabilizes, the Bishop Paiute Tribe has planned a measured and strategic approach to allow employees to return to work safely to prevent a resurgence of the virus. This must be done in the most effective, efficient, and risk-averse way possible to balance the return of governmental and economic stability, while simultaneously continuing to keep employees and tribal members safe by controlling the spread of the disease.

The tribe’s re-opening plans are currently being crafted at the departmental, tribal, and public levels, and will be announced as they are developed and finalized. Updates will be available to the public as they occur on KBPT-LP 96.1fm and on the Tribe’s website and Facebook page.

The Bishop Paiute Tribe is a federally recognized Indian tribe located on its 879 acre Bishop Paiute Reservation in Inyo County, California. The Reservation was formed under Congressional Act 5299, P.L. No. 43 of April 20, 1937. The Tribe is committed to the well being of its people. For more information please contact the Bishop Paiute Tribe at (760) 873-3584.