Community News

Northern Inyo Hospital Not Panicking After Five New COVID-19 Cases

Northern Inyo Hospital held a press conference on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in response to the five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. All cases were confirmed at the hospital, bringing the total amount of victims to seventeen.

Dr. Stacey Brown could not comment on whether or not the cases were all connected, but did say that each patient’s tests were confirmed to be in the same batch of testing kits that were sent to LabCorp in Phoenix, Arizona. “Those five positive cases were in a batch of twelve people that we tested last weekend,” Brown said.

The Rural Health Clinic Director added that he is not overly alarmed by the five cases. It is more likely that the test results were confirmed at the same time and less likely that every person tested came down with the virus at the same time. Brown said, “The new confirmed cases is not diagnostic of a surge, but more of a testing glut. Usually five to eight tests per day is what we send out for lab analysis. With just one data point to look at and five tests confirmed, I can’t say we are in a surge.”

Turnaround time for testing results will be faster than the usual two days it takes to receive coronavirus testing outcomes. The in-house testing has been approved for the hospital to use, which will allow for patients to find out whether or not  they have the virus in approximately an hour. “As of today, we have in-house testing via nasal swab available,” Brown remarked.

Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Will Timbers, added that the healthcare district has also implemented antibody testing, which will let patients know whether or not they have built up immunity to COVID-19. “Antibody testing in-house is available as well. However, we are not entirely sure how accurate it is right now,” Timbers said.

California Governor, Gavin Newsom recently said in a press conference that in order to lessen up on societal restrictions and go back to some semblance of normal life, he would need to see a decrease in hospitalizations and ICU admissions. The governor outlined “the six critical indicatiors” the state would need to see in order to consider modifying the Stay-at-Home guidelines.

When asked whether or not there has been an increase or decrease in hospitalizations locally, Dr. Timbers said there has been a moderate increase of admissions to the hospital, but not enough to warrant alarm. “Volumes have been up marginally, but nothing that is coming at all close to taxing our resources,” Timbers expressed.

It has been well documented that the majority of cases of COVID-19 are considered by the medical community to be mild, with eighty-one percent of patients reporting mild symptoms. However, just because it is deemed to be a mild case, does not mean that many of the individuals who come down with the sickness do not experience tremendous pain and discomfort.

Timbers also spoke about the misconception that many people have when it comes to what the word “mild” means relating to coronavirus. “Mild, severe,  and critical are used to classify illness in the medical community. Eighty-one percent of people who have COVID-19 are determined to be a mild case based on if they have mild viral pneumonia or no pneumonia. Mild cases in the medical community is not what the majority of the public would perceive as a mild,” Timbers remarked.

Inyo County Has Five New Cases of COVID-19

COVID-19 CONFIRMED 5 NEW POSITIVE CASES

Inyo County has 5 new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases
bringing the total COVID-19 positive cases to 17 INYO COUNTY, April 15, 2020 – Inyo County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. James Richardson, received notification this morning from Northern Inyo Healthcare District regarding five new positive COVID-19 cases for Inyo County residents. The current total of positive COVID-19 case in Inyo County is now at 17. All five patients presented to Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Rural Health Clinic with symptoms associated with COVID-19, and were tested for COVID-19 based on symptoms and other risk-factors.

Inyo County Public Health is working to determine the source of the infection for each of the new cases, and conducting investigations to identify potential exposures and notify contacts. At this time all five patients are currently isolated at home. As of April 14, Inyo County has 21 tests pending and 147 negative cases. The turnaround time on test results is approximately 48 hours at this time.

The public must continue to practice preventative measures such as wearing a cloth or fabric face mask when conducting essential activities outside the home, avoiding contact with sick individuals, wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, practicing social distancing, and adherence to State and County Orders. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, coughing or shortness of breath, and think you may have had contact with a person with COVID-19, call your health care provider before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken.

The County of Inyo, Northern Inyo Healthcare District, and Unified Command partners are committed to keeping Inyo County residents up to date with the most accurate information. You are encouraged to visit https://www.inyocounty.us/covid-19  for the most recent press releases and community updates. You can also register your email so you receive all Inyo County COVID-19 information by clicking either Situation Update or Press Releases from the left-side menu.

 

 

Local Conservation Groups Efforts to Protect Sage Grouse is Making a Difference

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) announced it is withdrawing a 2013 proposed rule to list the Bi-State sage-grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

USFWS made this decision after an “extended and comprehensive analysis of the best available science.” They concluded that local conservation actions have and will continue to successfully reduce threats to the Bi-State sage-grouse.

This is good news for all the Eastside conservation professionals and community members who have unified to form what’s called the Bi-State Local Area Working Group (“LAWG”), a group of diverse stakeholders dedicated to bringing the power of local land protection to care for the Bi-State sage-grouse. The LAWG is made up of state and local officials, public and tribal land managers, ranchers, private landowners, scientists, and conservationists like the Bishop-based nonprofit organization Eastern Sierra Land Trust.

Sometimes, like in the cases of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker or the California Condor, the Endangered Species Act serves as a very effective tool for the recovery of a species. In the case of the Bi-State sage-grouse, our uniquely local and collaborative approach is working without the need for the Endangered Species Act. The committed Bi-State partners have seen success in the targeted and specific actions they’ve taken to enhance our local sagebrush ecosystem. They’ve cared for the needs of our local environment using individualized and flexible efforts.

The efforts of LAWG have not only worked, but are also being heralded across the nation as an exceptionally successful model for local, collaborative, science-based conservation. And after such a comprehensive analysis by the USFWS, we can rest assured that we’re on the right track to protecting the many unique species that make their homes in the sagebrush, like sage-grouse.

Bi-State sage-grouse are a unique population of Greater sage-grouse that live in the Eastern Sierra and western Nevada. The birds are known for the males’ flamboyant springtime mating displays on traditional dancing grounds, known as leks. This species is a key indicator species for the health of other wildlife and for sagebrush areas generally. This means that if the Bi-State sage-grouse are thriving, there’s a higher likelihood that other species of plants and animals are thriving too.

In addition to the Bi-State sage-grouse, mule deer, pronghorn, songbirds, lizards, pygmy rabbits, and more depend on wide sagebrush areas for homes and food. It’s great to have some hopeful news right now, as our world navigates the current COVID-19 pandemic. Once it is safe to do so, local organizations like Eastern Sierra Land Trust look forward to inviting community members back onto the land

to work side by side with them and agency partners to care for sagebrush ecosystems. Future sage-grouse workdays are planned for this autumn, and the safe participation and support of our community members make a positive difference for our iconic Eastern Sierra land and wildlife.

Tonopah Now Has Four Cases of COVID-19

Four people have tested positive for coronavirus in Tonopah, Nevada. The news of the positive cases was confirmed by Nye County Health and Human Services via the department’s website.

Tonopah recently had its first confirmed case of the virus on April 7th.

Per the Nye County Health & Human Services Website, here are some steps that can be taken to curb the spread of COVID-19.

 

  • Practicing basic hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of all communicable diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing.
  • Sneeze using tissue and throw the tissue in the trash immediately following use.
  • Get a flu shot.
  • If you get sick, please stay home from work, school or other places where you are in close frequent contact with other people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched “community” objects and surfaces.

 

Two Benton Residents Arrested for Attempted Murder & Assault

Press Release – Attempted Murder and Arrests in Benton

During the early morning hours of April 12, 2020, the Mono County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a physical altercation which occurred on the Benton Paiute Reservation. The altercation escalated and resulted in a shooting. Through the course of the investigation, witness statements and physical evidence were collected, which led investigators to identify two suspects.

On April 14, 2020, members of the Mono County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, Bishop Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Mono County District Attorney’s Office served search warrants on two residences located on the reservation. During the warrant service, both suspects were arrested without incident. Marque Santos Marquez was arrested and charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Battery with great bodily injury, and Felon in possession of a firearm. Emilio Elizarraraz was arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Shooting at an occupied vehicle.

We thank our allied law enforcement agencies for their assistance with this investigation. The investigation is still ongoing, and anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at
(760) 932-7549 ext 7.

Death Valley Authorities Searching For Vandals

DEATH VALLEY, CA –Death Valley National Park Rangers are investigating repeated incidents of vandalism over the past two years and seek the public’s assistance in identifying a suspect.

Early this year, rock faces, buildings, and other infrastructure were vandalized with graffiti that reads in part “Steve & Lacy.” Similar acts of vandalism occurred during the federal government shutdown in early 2019, possibly by the same person. This individual is suspected to be a male from Grand Forks, British Columbia who traveled with a dog named Lacy on his way to an event called King of the Hammers.

Park Rangers are seeking any information that could aid this investigation. Tips can be submitted anonymously to the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB). Their tip line can be reached via call or text at: 888-653-0009; online at www.nps.gov/ISB and click “Submit a Tip,” or emailed to nps_isb@nps.gov.

Graffiti and other forms of damage to parks is illegal. The “Steve & Lacy” graffiti was found on rocks and historic structures in Echo Canyon, Butte Valley, Homestake Dry Camp, and Crankshaft Junction. Defacing any part of the national park degrades the experience of other visitors. Repair of vandalized sites is costly and time consuming, and often cannot restore the site to its former condition in some cases permanently defacing unique historic sites or natural features.

“It is heartbreaking to see treasures like Death Valley National Park get damaged by intentional acts such as these,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “We ask park visitors to help us find those who should be held responsible, and thank hard working park rangers for efforts to prevent further damage.”

Park rangers are still patrolling Death Valley National Park during the current temporary closure due to coronavirus. Through traffic is allowed on CA-190 and Daylight Pass Road.

Northern Inyo Hospital Welcoming PPE Donations From Public

As hospitals across the country wait to see where the coronavirus pandemic will lead their communities, residents may help by donating new or unused protective medical gear to Northern Inyo Healthcare District.

Healthcare District leaders say while there is a sufficient amount of critical personal protective equipment, or PPE, for use by frontline medical staff for the next 10 or more days, the concern rests with any potential surge in patients. Among the equipment most needed are N95 masks, sometimes called respirators; eye protection including face shields and safety goggles; disposable gowns; disposable gloves, especially non-latex in medium and large sizes; and disposable shoe covers.

Any person or business who can contribute aid may do so by contacting NIHD’s Infection Preventionist Robin Christensen, RN BSN HIC, at (760) 873-5811 ext. 3490 to arrange for drop off. Donations are accepted Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking lot drop-offs are available by phoning ahead.

NIHD extends its gratitude to those who already made similar gifts to the Healthcare District. Christensen said donations have ranged from small bags of three to four N95 masks found in garages and homes to larger donations of N95 masks by local contractors and businesses.

“NIHD is grateful for the demonstration of support and graciousness at this time,” said Kelli Davis, Interim Chief Executive Officer for NIHD. “Nationwide shortages of PPE have given us all moments of pause, but our local communities continue to show great resourcefulness and in doing so humble us with their compassion and concern for our medical staff.”

NIHD is currently reviewing methods for sterilizing N95 masks for reuse under recently issued Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The Tide May Be Turning In Northern Inyo Hospital’s Favor in Fight Against Coronavirus.

There is finally some good news when it comes to Northern Inyo Hospital’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

During Monday’s press conference with Rural Health Clinic Director, Dr. Stacey Brown, the hospital announced that the long-awaited  speedy coronavirus test will be ready for NIHD to use by the end of the week.

Brown said, “We finally got our rapid turnaround testing kits validated. The new testing protocol for coronavirus will take around an hour to complete. We will have this testing up and rolling by the end of the week.”

The rapid testing will mostly be used for critically ill patients and essential healthcare workers.

Dr. Brown also expressed that the hospital is aiming to expand testing capabilities to the general population in the future. The district would essentially move from a “containment” public health strategy, back to a “surveillance” strategy. With a “surveillance” strategy in place, NIHD would resume contact tracing, meaning the hospital would test those who have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 victim.

However, the hospital does not plan to test random individuals from the general public. The idea of doing so is simply unrealistic, since Dr. Brown said the hospital has roughly 200 testing kits available.

Brown added, “It would be an epidemiologist’s dream to test everyone in the town, but we don’t have the capacity to do that right now.”

Even better news than the rapid testing, is the notion that there is finally an end in sight when it comes to lessening social distancing measures and reintegrating various parts of society back in to the picture. As Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Will Timbers remarked, “The rational here [when it comes to opening services] is that even if we do see a surge of COVID-19 patients, it is unrealistic that this disease is going to go away after we have one big surge. It will likely be a slow burn for cases, but we have to get some people back to some semblance of normal life. To that end, over the next several weeks, the hospital will provide a wider scope of services. This is going to be more like a marathon opposed to a sprint.”

When it comes to an actual timeline of when some societal functions will return to normal, Inyo County Public Health Officer, Dr. James Richardson, recently said he expects social distancing measures to lessen around May. “I suspect around mid to late May, things will start to lighten up. However, there may be a undercurrent of this virus in our community for a while,” Richardson said at last week’s “Inyo County Virtual Town Hall Meeting.”

Dr. Brown shares similar sentiments when it comes to an expiration date on the intense measures currently being taken. “I would hope that we could start some sort of phased return to normalcy by sometime in May. I will put a caveat on that though. We will be following guidelines from state and the feds before we start to open up.  All kinds of functions of society must be carefully considered, and it has to be a staged and phased rollout to ensure that we don’t have to lock down everyone for another fourteen days.”

 

Mono Public Health Officer Orders All Essential Workers to Wear Masks

April 13, 2020 – Effective immediately, all individuals working in essential sectors throughout Mono County and the Town of Mammoth Lakes are required to wear a face covering or mask to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19. Under Governor Newsom’s Stay At Home Order issued on March 19 2020, only workers in essential sectors should be currently working and this order applies to all, from essential retail operations, construction, utilities, medical, food service, etc., to public safety and government personnel.

Physical distancing and staying at home is the most effective way to control the spread of COVID-19, and it is working both locally and across the state. Mono County experienced a dramatic 55 – 70% decrease in the average mobility (based on distance traveled) of residents during the past few weeks that has drastically new infections. Masking or wearing cloth face covers is expected to further diminish the number of new infections, primarily by reducing the spread by infected people who have no symptoms. The CDC states that about twenty-five percent of people with COVID-19 have no symptoms.

LOOKING AHEAD

Mono County Public Health Officer, Dr. Tom Boo, anticipates issuing a follow-up order requiring everyone to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in public, which should go into effect before the Stay At Home Order expires.

We anticipate masking to become our new normal in the time of the pandemic, and that physical distancing and other mitigation must continue even after the Stay At Home Order is lifted. We are experiencing some respite, but we are clearly not out of the woods yet. You may say we have a bit of a cease fire, but the war is not over,” stated Dr. Boo.

Dr Boo further stated that “The virus is still out there and can be expected to rebound with diminishing physical distance measures and vigilant hand washing, as we try to get more people back to work. We cannot eliminate the virus without a highly effective vaccine. When we move into the next phase, some social restrictions must stay in place. We are still a long way from being able to go back to normal life.”

In anticipation of the continued spread of the virus through Mono County and the impacts to our residents, the Health Department has increased staffing levels. The Nurse Hotline, accessible by calling 211, combined with improved testing capacity will be essential to our combined efforts to identify people affected by COVID-19. In addition, Mammoth Hospital continues to work with public agencies to coordinate hospital care with follow-up monitoring and patient support at home. A primary area of focus for Mammoth Hospital and medical teams across the country is the expansion of testing for quick results to know if someone is ill and antibody testing to know if some has already had the disease. To determine the effectiveness of these aggressive mitigation measures, the Mono County IT Department has built a new database for tracking cases that will greatly enhance a well-coordinated response enhancing our level of patient and family care

Coronavirus Cases Continue to Climb in Mono County

April 12, 2020 – The Mono County Health Department announces today two new positive COVID-19 (Coronavirus) cases today, one from northern Mono County and another from the Mammoth Lakes area, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 23.

The case from the northern part of the county is the first confirmed case outside of the Mammoth Lakes area. The Health Department is in contact with each individual and both are clinically stable and have not required hospitalization. Both are isolating themselves and their close contacts are quarantining themselves.COVID-19 is a community-wide threat and it was only a matter of time before we saw our first case outside the Mammoth area. All Mono County residents should continue staying at home except for essential purposes, and practicing consistent physical distancing, diligent hand/cough/sneeze hygiene and frequent cleansing of common surfaces. We also recommend masks or other face covers when out in public and it is imperative to not to go to work when you are sick, even if the symptoms are mild.

We are increasingly impressed by how variable and mild the symptoms of COVID-19 can be. A number of the Mono County cases have not had significant cough and not everyone has had a fever. Please call the 2-1-1 Mono County Nurse Hotline if you are experiencing illness to discuss the possibility of COVID-19. Alternatively, the Nurse Hotline can be reached at (760) 924-1830. It is fortunate that most cases are mild but remember that this infection can kill people of virtually any age and is especially dangerous in older people and those with medical conditions.