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Teamwork and Preparation Most Important in NIHD’s Response to COVID-19

It is an overused analogy, the war against novel coronavirus, but as any employee at Northern Inyo Healthcare District will tell you, the battle is real. Ironically, it is a battle most have prepared for throughout their respective careers.

“Every team member brings something to the fight,” says Dr. Stacey Brown, Medical Director of NIHD’s Rural Health Clinic and current Vice Chief of Staff. “Every department plays a role.”

For NIHD Board President Jean Turner, the show of teamwork fits right into the District’s operational design. “When I came onto the Board, I was told our basic structure is that of an inverted pyramid,”
Turner says. “Leadership at the bottom, the workforce at the top. The top is where the real work goes on; it’s where things really matter. If I wanted our community to remember one thing at this point in time, it’s this: Our staff is disciplined, well-trained, and ready for this challenge.”

The District’s fight against coronavirus began in mid-January. For weeks, Infection Preventionist Robin Christensen, RN BSN HIC, kept an eye on what was transpiring in China. On January 28, she called the first team meeting to talk about coronavirus and its potential impact on NIHD and the community. Everyone in the room knew the odds, had watched the numbers coming in from China.

“It is safe to say we wished for the best, but as healthcare workers, we always prepare for the worst,” Christensen says. “It’s who we are; it’s what we do; it is what the community expects from us at a time like this.”’

As the NIHD team developed needed plans, they carried on with providing day-to-day care. Hallway conversations and internal emails began to refer to coronavirus more frequently. The District conducted a pandemic disaster drill on February 13. The tipping point came March 6 when a two-hour coronavirus meeting gave way to a day-long review of staffing levels, supplies, policies, plans, and shared concerns.

The group met the next afternoon again for several hours. They got a late start, beginning at noon. It gave those who volunteered to help at the Eastern Sierra Cancer Alliance’s Blue Ribbon Walk & Run a chance to meet their commitment. For many at NIHD, it was the last “normal” day of the month.

NIHD initiated an internal Incident Command on March 10 and continues working under it today. Incident Commands use a standardized approach to direct, control, and coordinate emergency response. More importantly, it brings people together to reach a common goal.

Like her co-workers, this was not the first time Allison Partridge, RN MSN, worked under an Incident Command. Partridge, the Director of Nursing for the Emergency and Medical-Surgical departments, knows the system well and aids Chief Nursing Officer Tracy Aspel in keeping the daily meetings on task.

Partridge now spends much of her days working with others to put together workflows for the departments that will be most affected. With guidance from Infection Preventionist Christensen, Partridge
and others closely watch the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Public Health Department for direction. No area or service escaped review.

“We track daily our current availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the recommendations for use,” Partridge says. “Additionally, we have made modifications in how we provide services and how visitors access the campus. All of these measures are in place to protect our teams and community. We encourage all employees to adhere both while at work and at home to the recommendations issued by national, state, and local government.”

Carefully crafted plans address the care of Patients Under Investigation (PUIs). Partridge says the standardized workflows are based on the patient’s level of care, whether that be critical care at the hospital or self-isolation at home. Care of multiple positive COVID-19 patients within the hospital remains an area of concern for the small 25-bed hospital.

“A great amount of planning and preparation has gone into every action, and it’s still ongoing,” Partridge says. She notes that just this week, the team was searching every square inch of the facility for places to place more beds. No space is overlooked. An unused and unfinished room located in the two-story hospital was turned into a four-bed safe patient care area within hours.

As for staffing, the level is adequate at this time. The District is working closely with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union on staffing plans should the virus take hold of the community.

As non-essential services are scaled back, staff in those areas become available for use in others. Nurses and caregivers were surveyed to see if they would be OK to serve in other departments they were cross-trained to work in. Recently retired nurses may be considered for voluntary return to bolster staffing numbers. The dedicated care given by generations of NIHD nurses is legendary in the community.

They were also asked who would be willing to work with critical coronavirus cases. No one will be asked to step into a situation they are uncomfortable with — and to date, no one has opted out.

As for the physicians, Dr. Brown and Dr. William Timbers, NIHD’s Chief of Staff, are relying on the aid and advice of many of the District’s Medical Chiefs – Dr. Richard Meredick (Orthopedics), Dr. Charlotte Helvie (Pediatrics), Dr. Sierra Bourne (Emergency), and others. The Medical Support Staff office issued emergency credentials for other physicians in the area should their aid be required at bedsides.

The Rural Health Clinic team launched drive-in coronavirus testing well before some larger, urban hospitals did. The move was based on when the RHC offered drive-in flu shots more than a decade ago.
“Hometown health care can work anywhere, even in the big city,” Dr. Brown smiles.

Dr. Brown’s reliance on RHC Directors Paul Connolly and Jannalyn Lawrence, RN, is evident. Both work closely with the District’s outpatient clinics and played critical roles in clearing barriers for drive-in testing. When offered kudos for the work, Lawrence scoffed. “One Team, One Goal,” she says, incurring the closing line of the District’s mission statement.

Later, as Director of Nursing Partridge studies the endless worklists that paper the walls of Incident Command, she agreed with Lawrence. “Teamwork has played a huge role in managing every aspect of this situation,” she says. “This collaboration has taken place across all disciplines and has included a multiagency approach across Inyo and Mono counties. This great work truly exemplifies our mission of ‘One Team, One Goal, Your Health.’”

Meanwhile, as another day ends for the District team, Infection Preventionist Christensen is in her office. It is quiet in the usually bustling hallway; the result of the District’s temporary telework plan. Almost 80 employees are working from home, practicing social distancing.

Laying across Christensen’s desk are signs of a community lending its support to its healthcare workers: Packages of the valued N95 masks recovered from businesses and home garages, plus several handcrafted face masks. The handcrafted masks, with bright patterns of cacti, cats, and paisley, are especially touching
to Christensen.

NIHD is looking into options that could allow the homemade masks to be used as covers for approved personal protective equipment. That would occur if, and only if, NIHD’s supply of approved masks is
depleted. The covers would help keep the N95 masks free of transferred hand oils, possibly extending the life of the N95s.

“One team,” Christensen says, circling her index finger, gesturing from east to west, north to south. “It’s all of us in the community. Together, we will get through this.”

Mule Days Release Statement About COVID-19 Crisis

In 1970, Bishop Mule Days Celebration rose from humble beginnings to bring a world-class mule show to the Eastern Sierra. We have become the premier mule show in North America. Our annual event brings visitors from all walks of life: RV enthusiasts, campers, equine enthusiasts, contestants, celebrities, fans and friends. Mule Days has endured through recessions, high fuel prices, devastating equine diseases and the loss of many dedicated, dear friends and volunteers. Our all-volunteer Board has continued to promote the legacy of our founders: “Anything a horse can do, a mule can do better.” And, we have continued to promote and enhance the local community and tourism-dependent economy. Mule Days has become a vital part of our local economy by bringing packed hotels and campgrounds during a time that had previously been slow, foot-traffic and visitors raising revenues in our local businesses and government. Mule Days is estimated to bring multi-millions of dollars in direct spending to the Bishop area. For a tourist-driven economy, this equates to $7 million in economic value for every $1 million spent. Our humble show is honored and proud to be such a vital part of our local economy.While Mule Days has succeeded, Tri-County Fairgrounds has been struggling. The State has cut much of the funding for county fairs leaving them struggling to remain open. Unfortunately, this has resulted in many fairs closing. Mule Days has long been a partner of Tri-County Fairgrounds providing much needed capital improvements, sponsorships and assisting with repairs. Mule Days is the single largest financial contributor to the Fairgrounds. Mule Days provides labor and facilities for hosting the State High School Rodeo Finals and the Tri-County Fair. Despite our partnership and the fair hosting events generating much needed income and city and county TOT funds, the fairgrounds is struggling. The reality is, Mule Days cannot exist without Tri-County Fairgrounds and Tri-County Fairgrounds cannot exist without Mule Days. The economic and social benefit of Mule Days and Tri-County Fairgrounds cannot be replaced and should not be ignored. Mule Days is primarily a volunteer-run event; but, we do have a few employees who rely on the success of our event for their income and benefits. Mule Days is a private, not-for-profit entity and may not be eligible for the stimulus programs related to this pandemic. While we recognize the economic and social benefits of our event, we are cognizant of the impact such an event can have on the health and welfare of the citizens of our small community. Mule Days has been contacted by many contestants, participants and fans. We have heard your concerns and agree the well-being of our community is paramount. To that end, Mule Days is giving the local, state and federal government time to address this pandemic. We will continue to do our part to produce a quality event while it is our hope, solutions will be forthcoming and we can ultimately move forward.In the meantime, Mule Days continues to monitor the situation. We realize the decision to continue with our 51st event may be taken out of our hands. If such a decision is made, we will do our mule-minded best to save Mule Days and the fairgrounds for the future. We want to assure our competitors, fans, campers, RVers, ticket holders and volunteers we have a policy in place to ensure refunds will be made fairly and appropriately. We have also developed a procedure whereby reservations and payments are fully credited to our event in 2021 – our “pay-it-forward” option.

Mule Days wishes to thank our community, fans, competitors, volunteers and attendees for your patience and understanding while we work through this unprecedented time of uncertainty. Your dedication to our beautiful American mule is our strength.

-Mule Days Board of Directors

Local Businesses Have Teamed Up to Deliver Groceries for Free

Local businesses are joining forces to deliver groceries to Owens Valley residents during the COVID-19 crisis.

Manor Market, Steve’s Auto & Truck Parts, and Pilot Thomas Logistics have decided to establish a grocery delivery system. Manor Market is supplying the food, Steve’s Auto & Truck Parts is delivering the orders, and Pilot Thomas Logistics is providing Steve’s Auto & Truck Parts with the fuel.

Owner of Manor Market, Kyle Oney said a lot of customers were asking for home delivery in an effort to reduce their chances of being exposed to coronavirus. “We were having requests from people because they are scared during this time. They wanted home delivery and curbside services,” Oney said.

Oney expressed that he was not keen on the idea of having his employees deliver groceries. “We were worried about the delivery aspect, because of the liability of the vehicles without having the proper insurance coverage. Steve’s Auto Parts are kind of quiet right now, so they contacted me and offered to use their drivers and vehicles. So far, it is working out really well and it is a great thing for the community.”

Steve’s Auto & Truck Parts Owner, Robert Dowers discussed how he came up with the idea to help people out during this pandemic. “I got the idea because I had some elderly friends called me who are stuck in their house. One day, I offered to drop off some stuff on their door step. Then I got the idea to reach out to Kyle to see if he wanted to have us do delivery. We have delivery vehicles and are taking advantage of our resources. We are doing whatever we can for people in this time of need.”

After hearing about the service Robert Dower’s company is providing for local residents, Jim McDade, Owner of Pilot Thomas Logistics found out about the efforts from his wife, who works at Manor Market. McDade felt inspired to do what he can to help out, so he is donating the fuel to Steve’s Auto & Truck Parts.

“My wife works at Manor Market and told me what Steve’s was doing. I offered to jump on board, because they are doing this out of the goodness of their heart. Bishop is pretty tight knit community and supporting each other is what we do. When an opportunity arises to help out, I thought it was the right thing to do,” McDade remarked.

Oney said they didn’t have a lot of time to put together the plan. “We are kind of learning as we go along, we threw this together really quickly, but we want to make sure we get this right. We enacted an email address for orders and it is called orders@manormarketbishop.com.”

To put the icing on the cake, delivery is completely free.

Caltrans Replacing Signal Detection Cameras in Bishop

INYO COUNTY — On Monday, March 30th, Caltrans will begin work on the District 9 Signal Video Detection Camera upgrade project. The project, which is expected to take a week to complete, will remove and replace cameras at seven signalized intersections located in Bishop.

 

Cameras used in the video detection process are programmed to activate the traffic signal when a vehicle is present. These cameras do not take video or pictures of vehicles for any other purpose.

 

Work will take place from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am each day. Contractors plan on starting at the intersection of SR 168 and Fowler St. The construction schedule for this project is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials, and/or construction-related issues.

 

 

This $240,041 project was awarded to Cen-Pac Engineering of Oxnard, CA.

Coronavirus is Here. How is Northern Inyo Hospital Dealing With it?

NIHD Rural Health Director, Dr. Stacey Brown provided the latest update on COVID-19 in Bishop during a conference call Monday afternoon.

Coronavirus already has a presence in the Eastern Sierra, with a confirmed case occurring in Mammoth Lakes this past weekend. Brown expects a case in Inyo County soon.

“Inyo county does still not have a positive test. In the district, we have done a total of thirty-four tests, eighteen are negative and the balance is pending.” Brown remarked. “For any positive cases that happen in Inyo County, the district will be jointly announcing those with the Inyo County Public Health Department. So as soon as we do have a positive case, which I do expect at some point, those will be reported as a joint effort.”

The RHC Director says both the hospital and county have COVID-19 test kits still available. “We still have availability of testing COVID out in the community, as well as the hospital. However, they are not available for the general public right now. Patients have to be screened and will be tested if it looks like a positive test will be indicated.” Brown said to media members.

Though it is still a positive that testing is available in the community, the wait time to confirm a positive case of coronavirus takes quite some time.

“The difficulty is that the tests that both NIH and Mammoth Hospital are sending out are still sent to LabCorp. The turnaround time on average is 4.7 days [to receive a result] and some of them are still pending seven days out.”

The long wait time for tests results is definitely not a good thing. However, Northern Inyo Hospital fortuitously has a high-tech machine from molecular diagnostics company, Cepheid Inc. The machine, known as the “Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test” could allow testing results to be provided in as little as forty-five minutes.

“Luckily the hospital lab has a state-of-the-art machine that has the capacity to do rapid testing. This past Wednesday, the FDA authorized Cepheid to go ahead and release the bedside coronavirus testing.” Dr. Brown said. “We are working diligently to get less than an hour bedside testing locally. It may take a little bit of time to get the tests set up, but the hospital may have the ability to get testing out locally that will take about 45 minutes, which would be huge for the district.”

Don’t expect the rapid testing to be available to the general public. Dr. Brown emphasized that tests are for symptomatic individuals along with medical personnel.  “The tests are really supposed to be used for in patient, emergency room patients or if you are trying to clear a healthcare worker to try and work again after dealing with a COVID patient.”

NIHD is taking a new proactive measure when it comes to implementing new ways to see patients. Telemedicine will soon be available for patients to receive primary care.

“A lot of places have been toying with telemedicine for a while to see if it fits the mode in their community. We have been considering it for our district as well. To roll this out in a primary care fashion or triage fashion is something we want to do. Since people are at home, it makes sense to try and reach them from home. “

Social distancing is also an important step that needs to be taken to “flatten the curve.” The action will also help save lives and resources.

Brown says, “I want to stress to the public that this ‘Stay Home’ order from the governor and bolstered by our local health officials is really critical to the success of us making it through this COVID pandemic intact. Folks that are staying home are able to flatten that curve and allow the limited number of healthcare resources to reach the people without being overloaded.”

With that being emphasized, some people are doing a great job at social distancing, while others are not.

“I am super happy to see the public pretty much following those guidelines to go out for essentials only like gas, medical, and grocery.” Brown stated. “However, I am not surprised, but unhappy about folks that are enjoying their spring breaks in beaches and crowded environments. Remember, being young doesn’t mean you’re invincible.”

Mammoth Hospital Encouraging Social Distance After First Coronavirus Case

Mammoth Hospital received confirmation today of the first case of COVID-19 in our community.  For anyone who is wanting to know who that person is and “did I come in contact with him/her?” the answer is that nearly everyone has a high likelihood of having been exposed in some way to someone with COVID-19.  This is only the first confirmed test in Mammoth Lakes, and not the first case.  And there is a BIG difference.  Everyone in the community must assume that the virus has spread worldwide at this point: in Mammoth, Bishop, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, the West Coast, the East Coast, the United States, North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Australia. EVERYWHERE. And with that assumption, everyone must act accordingly.  It does not matter if the person was a local, a tourist, or what nationality he/she was.  We have to act as if everyone may have it.

The physicians, nurses, and administrators serving on the Hospital Incident Management Team reviewed new projections today showing the growth rate of spread under different conditions. The single most impactful condition is the degree to which the community engages in Social Distancing.

Consider what we know about COVID-19, and how it spreads.  Our current best guess is that if we do nothing to change our behavior, the number people infected will double every 4 days.  That means today with one patient.  In four days, there will be 2 patients.  And what follows is this:

Today on 3/21/2020 1 patient
3/25/2020 2 new patients
3/29/2020 4  new patients
4/2/2020 8 new patients
4/6/2020 16 new patients
4/10/2020 32 new patients
4/14/2020 64 new patients
4/18/2020 132 new patients
4/22/2020 264 new patients
4/26/2020 512 new patients

 

So assuming no one dies, in just one month, we will have over 1,000 patients with COVID-19. The challenge is we do not know precisely how many of these patients will actually be sick, how many will need to be hospitalized, how many will need to be in the intensive care unit on a ventilator.  That said, our projection at this point is that 5% of infected patients will need to be hospitalized, which means of those 1,000 people, 50 will need to be admitted to the hospital in the next month, and that is when we start with JUST ONE patient! The reality is that we likely have many more people in Mono County who are already infected. So, the numbers are almost certainly much higher than the above example.  It is of critical importance to note that Mammoth Hospital is a small hospital with only 17 beds!

So what can you do to prevent this from becoming a situation we cannot possibly handle?

SOCIAL DISTANCE!

The point of Social Distancing is to keep the illness from spreading so quickly that the need for healthcare resources exceeds capacity. Right now, if we put an estimate on how well we are doing our part to Socially Distance, let’s assume our success rate is 25%, meaning on average we have all cut our social interactions by 25%. If we maintain that rate, and look at a population of 25,000 people (Mono County, Inyo County, and visitors) we will have our absolutely worst day in about two months, which means on that day alone, we will have 23 patients requiring life support (ventilator) in the intensive care unit, and 111 patients needing inpatient hospitalization. These projections far exceed the Hospital’s 17 bed capacity and our ability to care for no more than 4 people on life support at one time.

Now imagine if our success rate for Social Distancing is improved to 60%.  So we stay at home, make our own coffee, go for walks by ourselves, and stop going to parties with our friends – a tall order for all of us without question.  Now our absolutely worst day is just over three months out.  On that day, we have nine people in the hospital, and two people on life support in the intensive care unit.  Because of what we all do to Social Distance, our 17-bed hospital now has a much better chance to take care of everyone!

We know this new normal may not be a fun practice or one that is convenient.  It’s not your usual routine, and during times of stress we like to be close to our friends and our family members.  Do not revert to your regular routines.  It is so important to stay the course!

Here are some things you can do to cope.  Stay connected to your friends and family through the use of video conferencing.  Check in on loved ones who just need a call.  Have a Google hangout or FaceTime chat.  Exercise indoors or outdoors while maintaining a safe distance from others. Get outside for a walk and refresh yourself with the cool air. We are lucky to have some of the best views in the world just out our front doors.

If you are a “list person” here are our suggested Do’s and strongly advised Don’ts of Social Distancing:

DO:

  1. Work out on your own.
  2. When you need to go out, do what you need to take care of, and get home.  Be efficient!
  3. Call people to talk.
  4. Get out and walk, either with your dogs or on your own.
  5. Arrange an appointment with Behavioral Health if you need help with coping or anxiety.
  6. Get outside. We could all use some Vitamin D!
  7. Email or use social media to connect with friends and family to let them know how you are and find out how they are.

Don’t:

  1. Go out to get coffee, and then stop and socialize.
  2. Have dinner or parties with friends.
  3. Socialize at the grocery store.
  4. Hug or shake hands when you see a friend.
  5. Linger after getting take-out food.
  6. Socialize on Lake Mary Road, the gorge, or in the backcountry.
  7. Have play dates for your kids.
  8. Loiter at the post office.
  9. Work out in groups.

As always, we are here to help. If you need someone to talk to, call our Behavioral Health team at (760) 924-4333 and we will schedule one of our providers to talk with you via video chat.

So please, keep in mind that what you do (or don’t do) makes an enormous difference in how we are going to get through this!  We are all in this together, literally!

Wash. Cover. DISTANCE

Inyo County to Break Ground on New Bishop Building

Inyo County officials and representatives from Wolverine/Inyo LLC will officially break ground on the Consolidated Office Building in Bishop this Friday, March 6, 2020. The public is invited to attend the ceremony – an occasion at least 10 years in the making – at the site of the future building at 1360 N. Main St. (north of Grocery Outlet). The groundbreaking begins at 10 a.m. and will include light refreshments and remarks from County officials and principles for the developer, Wolverine/Inyo LLC. “After some time in the making, we’re excited to bring all of Inyo County’s Bishop departments together into one single structure,” said developer Jim Leslie, principle of Wolverine Interests. “The new municipal building will promote efficiency and pride in the community.”

”Our current Board as well as past boards of supervisors have worked for over a decade to make this building possible,” Board Chairperson and Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley said. “This building is not a monument to county government, but rather an efficient and simple building that will save future generations millions of tax dollars and provide consistent and comfortable working space for our county employees.”

The two-story, 42,000 square-foot building will house in a single location the Bishop operations of approximately 16 departments currently spread across 8 separate locations in the City of Bishop, including Probation, Health & Human Services, Administration, County Counsel, Information Services, Risk Management, Parks, Motor Pool, Solid Waste, Child Support Services, District Attorney, Environmental Health, Veterans Services, Sheriff, UCE Farm Advisor, and the Public Administrator-Public Guardian.

The Independence and/or Lone Pine locations of these same departments will remain in Independence and Lone Pine with their current staff. The Board of Supervisors has been adamant that the new building in Bishop not result in the relocation of any staff or services from the southern end of the county.

The project has been in the works since 2010, when the County determined that renting office space all over the city for its Bishop-based programs was neither financially sustainable nor in the best interest of the public and its employees. With ever-increasing rent and repair and maintenance costs at the different sites – some of which are beyond their useful life and not conducive to healthy, productive working environments or efficient service delivery – the County landed on a plan to build a new facility to better suit the various departments’ needs, improve customer service, and save taxpayer money over the long-term.

“Not only will the new building provide a better environment for our constituents and employees,” said District 2 Supervisor Jeff Griffiths, “but we will also save millions of taxpayer dollars in the years to come.”

The County entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with a developer in 2011, and after several public meetings in 2013, directed staff to move forward with negotiations. Those negotiations stalled out, but were resumed in 2017 and resulted in more favorable lease terms and pricing for the County. County Administrator Clint Quilter and the Board of Supervisors give much credit for the successful negotiations to County Counsel Marshall Rudolph.

“Mr. Rudolph was able to work through some difficult legal situations and worked with the developer to come up with innovative, outside-the-box solutions to move the project forward,” Quilter said.

He and the Board also credited real estate consultant Allan D. Kotin for his expertise in conducting several cost analyses and presenting the Board with options for moving forward with the project. They also noted the tremendous effort put into steering the project forward by former County Administrator Officer Kevin Carunchio, who worked on the idea of a Consolidated Office Building with the Board and public for 8 years.

The Board approved a Build-to-Suit Lease Agreement with Wolverine/Inyo LLC on January 15, 2019. Per the agreement, Wolverine/Inyo LLC will develop the property to the County’s specifications, and receive lease payments from Inyo County over a 20-year period. Title to the property transfers to Inyo County at the end of the 20-year lease. Cost analyses were conducted on other potential locations in Bishop, including the old Kmart Building and the Cottonwood Grove center. These analyses identified the Consolidated Office Building as the best value. The building is expected to generate substantial savings in general. The County will begin saving money over its current leased facility, including maintenance and utilities, in 7 years and lease payments will go away entirely in 20 years

The City of Bishop Has Many Issues They Want to Address

The City of Bishop held a special meeting Wednesday where key members of the City discussed future projects.

Out of a total of thirty-six items, the city employees and council members were asked to rank the projects and goals they would like to see done in order of importance.

The top ten list of most important issues Bishop ranked are as follows:

  1. Housing
  2. A vacant building property tax
  3. Broadband internet access
  4. Making Main Street more walkable
  5. Implementing a mandatory semi truck route outside of Bishop
  6. Banning flavored tobacco and vaping products
  7. Update sign ordinances in Bishop
  8. Redevelopment of Kmart
  9. Creating a strategic plan for city facilities
  10. Creating a strategic parking plan.

Some of the items were discussed in depth more than others.

Councilman, Stephen Muchovej, expressed a desire for the City of Bishop to look at long term goals. He highlighted some of the aging infrastructure as something that needs to be addressed. Properties Muchovej would like to see upgraded include City Hall and the Bishop Police Department building.

One item that received a large amount of attention was the idea of a vacant building property tax, which some members of the council seemed keen on. The proposed property tax’s aim is to forbid companies like Vons, who own surrounding properties next to its business to not sit on a property and leave it vacant. Bishop hopes that by taxing property owners who do not develop businesses, they will create an incentive for land holders to bring in stores.

Ensuring faster internet speeds was another important talking point. Council members discussed the “Digital 395” effort, which is a project that started in 2014. The project saw over 583 miles of high-speed fiber optic laid from Barstow, CA to Reno, NV. The project has allowed for residents in the Eastern Sierra to have access to gigabit broadband.

However, at this time Bishop is not an area with that capability because internet provider, Suddenlink Communications say they still need to put in a piece of equipment that costs about $1,000,000. Bishop’s intended goal is to nudge that process along.

Eastern Sierra Wins Big at Visit California Poppy Awards

Eastern Sierra, Calif. (February 24, 2020) — Earlier this month, the Eastern Sierra triumphed at Visit California’s biennial Poppy Awards contest. This competition honors the best and brightest of California tourism promotion and awards are bestowed in even-numbered years as part of Visit California’s Outlook Forum conference.

To kick off the evening, the Bishop Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Inyo County, Mammoth Lakes Tourism and Mono County walked away with the award for Best Cooperative Marketing Campaign for the collaborative efforts to promote fall colors in the Eastern Sierra.

“I really love that the Eastside was recognized for our cooperative effort on the fall color campaign,” said Tawni Thomson, Executive Director of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. “There are honestly no boundaries between us when it comes to the visitor experience. Our guests identify all of us as the Eastern Sierra and the success of this campaign proves that working together can produce a great outcome.”

The agencies partnered to capitalize on the area’s lengthy fall colors season. The concept was particularly clever, as elevation changes cause the different partners to experience peak colors throughout autumn, which allows the area to market a lengthy season without bringing destinations into competition with one another.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized for our long-standing partnerships to promote the fall season to our visitors,” said MLT’s Executive Director John Urdi. “I am proud of our efforts and even prouder of the results for our Eastern Sierra communities. Winning the Visit California Poppy award for best cooperative marketing program is just the cherry on top.”

Judges declared that the campaign provided impressive occupancy increases across the cooperation and was a great concept that joined competitors in an effective campaign for a low investment. The judges also appreciated the use of multiple marketing tactics that they felt have potential for further applications.

The award was given as a tie with another joint cooperative campaign between San Francisco Travel Association and San Diego Tourism Authority.

Additionally, Yosemite National Park along with Yosemite Gateway Counties — Mono, Tuolumne, Mariposa, and Madera were selected as the winner in the surprise inaugural category, Excellence in Destination Stewardship for their collaborative digital influencer campaign. The funding for the campaign was received as a grant from Yosemite National Park for the purpose of encouraging travelers to arrive on off-peak days or seasons, take public transportation into the valley, and to arrive early if taking your own vehicle.

“Both of these Poppy Awards really affirm the top priorities for all the agencies involved — one, regional collaboration and two, sustainable tourism through stewardship and best practices,” said Alicia Vennos, Economic Development Director for Mono County. “We also share these honors with our local business community and all those who joined the effort and used their own channels to help promote the Eastern Sierra Fall Color Campaign and the best ways to visit Yosemite Valley. I congratulate everyone involved for a fantastic team effort.”

And the final icing on the Eastern Sierra cake was Bishop winning the award for Best Overall Brand Identity (with a budget under $1 million), beating out Visit Carmel and Visit Santa Maria County.

“Our team was so proud to bring home the Poppy for Best Overall Brand Identity,” Thomson said. We’ve really got a great group of local professionals that are passionate about telling Bishop’s story to our guests. We love our Small Town with a Big Backyard slogan as it resonates with locals as well as our guests.”

Poppy winners are selected by a panel of industry marketing experts in nine categories ranging from best public relations campaign, to best digital campaign to best cooperative marketing campaign.

Chair of NIHD Board of Directors Issues Statement on CEO Suspension

Chair of the Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Board of Directors, Jean Turner issued a statement on CEO, Kevin Flanigan being put on paid leave for alleged financial and operational issues.

“Northern Inyo Healthcare District placed its Chief Executive Officer on paid leave, pending an investigation of financial and operational issues. Dr. Kevin Flanigan was notified of this change in status on Thursday evening following a special Board of Directors meeting.

Effective immediately, Chief Operations Officer Kelli Davis will serve as Interim Chief Executive Officer.

NIHD will be contracting with a consultant to conduct a review of the issues of concern. The expectation is this may take several weeks or more.

Decisions like this are never easy, and the Board did not take this action lightly. We are aware of the impacts these actions have on the lives of those involved, and we encourage you to be supportive of your colleagues during this time of transition. We appreciate any questions and concerns you may have. We ask you to be patient with the process and understand that we may not be able to answer specific questions due to the status of the investigation.

I have a high level of confidence in this staff and have faith in our ability to weather this challenge as well. I look forward to continuing to work with everyone.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I thank you for your ongoing commitment to the District’s mission to improving our communities, one life at a time. Together, we have achieved so much, and it is my deepest hope that we will continue to do so.”