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Ninth Case of Coronavirus in Inyo County Confirmed

INYO COUNTY, April 1, 2020 – Inyo County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. James Richardson, received notification this morning from Northern Inyo Healthcare District regarding a positive COVID-19 test for an Inyo County resident. This is the ninth positive COVID-19 case in Inyo County. The patient presented to Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Rural Health Clinic with symptoms associated with COVID-19, and was tested for COVID-19 based on symptoms and other risk-factors.

 

Inyo County Public Health is working to determine the source of the infection, and conducting a thorough investigation to identify potential exposures and notify contacts. At this time the patient is currently isolated at home. As of March 31, Inyo County has 19 tests pending and 63 negative cases. Due to the volume of tests being analyzed currently in California, the turnaround time can take several days.

 

The public must continue to practice preventative measures, such as 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.

 

Please familiarize yourself with Inyo County’s Public Health Orders and CA Executive Order: https://www.inyocounty.us/covid-19/orders-directives

·        Prohibition Of Certain Short-Term Rentals

·        Businesses Operating During COVID-19

·        Self-Isolation & Self Quarantine Order

·        Temporary Prohibition Of Non-Essential Public Gatherings

·        CA Stay At Home Executive Order

 

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.

Students Not Likely to Return to School Campuses This Year

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond released a statement Tuesday regarding the 2019-20 school year.

“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing, it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year. In order to allow schools to plan accordingly, and to ensure that learning still occurs until the end of the school year, we are suggesting that schools plan and prepare to have their curriculum carried out through a distance learning model. This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning.

“With that said, we are doing everything we can to support our schools and their distance learning opportunities for our students. We have been providing webinars, with one coming up this week to specifically focus on serving our students with disabilities in a distance learning model. We have guidance coming out this week to address the concerns of our seniors, and even our juniors, in regards to grading and graduation requirements. We also put out a survey to all districts in the state to determine their technology gaps and are now working to ensure that all students have access to devices and internet if they need it for their distance learning requirements.

“We are in unprecedented times, and it’s hard to tell what the future holds as we are all doing our best to flatten the curve. From what we know right now, our schools will be closed longer than we originally thought, and it will be best if our schools are prepared for that extension, by having their distance learning models prepared to go until the end of the school year.”

Please join State Superintendent Tony Thurmond for a media check-in about his recent recommendation and upcoming guidance from the California Department of Education tomorrow, April 1, at 3:30 p.m.

Due to social distancing guidelines this will not be done in person, but rather virtually. Email communciations@cde.ca.gov by noon to receive login information.

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Northern Inyo Hospital Preparing for ‘Surge’ of COVID-19 Cases

Northern Inyo Hospital gave its weekly COVID-19 update on Monday afternoon, March 30, 2020, with Dr. Stacey Brown taking the lead in updating the media.

“We have eight total positive cases of COVID-19 in the county. Six of the eight cases were confirmed at NIHD, while Toiyabe confirmed the other two. In addition, thirteen of the eighty-one total tests administered are pending,” Brown told members of the media.

There is good news for Inyo County when it comes to testing. The Rural Health Clinic Director said the hospital is receiving coronavirus testing results from a LabCorp facility based in Phoenix, which will greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to determine if a patient has the virus. On average, test results will be available in 2-3 days. Up until recently, NIHD had to send their samples to a testing location in North Carolina, which took about seven days on average for the hospital to receive the results.

Brown also added that testing is expected to get even faster in the coming weeks when the FDA approves use of a high-tech machine called the “Cepheid Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV2 test.”

The RHC director spoke about the new machine saying, “The hospital is still waiting for approval for our in-house COVID testing machine that will be able to do tests in an hour. Approval for testing should happen by around mid-April.”

This does not mean that testing will be available for the general public. Brown says the new testing system will target essential workers first, then vulnerable populations second. “We are going to follow a priority scheme, so the testing for the general public is going to be reduced.  If it looks and smells like COVID, it is probably COVID, so we are not going to use those tests on general public. We are saving the tests for healthcare workers, first responders, and critically ill patients. They are priority number one. Next would be high risk individuals like people with underlying medical conditions and older people.”

Antibody testing is expected to be readily available across the country soon as well. This type of testing will be used to see if those who have already had COVID-19 have built up an immunity to the virus.

Inyo County already has its fair share of coronavirus cases, but Brown expects a surge of cases to happen in the near future. With that being said, Dr. Brown says the hospital is doing everything it can to prepare.  “We are looking at a surge plan for when things get much busier. Right now, though, we are working well within our capacity as a hospital.”

Though there is an expectation from local medical professionals that there will be a vast increase in cases, Dr. Will Timbers, who works in the hospital’s Emergency Room, says the general public is doing a nice job of staying home. This is lessening the amount of viral cases, and also preventing other acute injuries not related to coronavirus. “There are two things that I think should be said,” Timbers remarked. “I think the community at large should be commended for staying home. We have seen a drop in acute injuries also, because people are not going out and instead electing to stay home.”

Don’t Even Think About Price Gouging…

Inyo County District Attorney Tom Hardy wants to remind local citizens of California’s anti-price gouging laws. “The health and safety of our community is everyone’s primary concern right now, and it is gratifying to see the citizens and businesses of Inyo County working together in our current challenging times. But, California’s legislature long-ago implemented a law to protect citizens from price gouging during declared emergencies”.

California law generally prohibits businesses and individuals from raising prices for 30 days after an emergency declaration. Declarations of emergency have been made by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, the Governor, and the President regarding the Coronavirus, triggering the effect of pricegouging laws.

“At this point in time, we are not aware of any incidents of price gouging in Inyo County, and our business community deserves high praise for working long hours to provide necessary goods and services to our citizens,” said Hardy.

Under Penal Code Section 396, it is illegal to charge a price for essential goods and services that is more than 10 percent higher than the price charged immediately before the emergency declaration, a practice commonly known as price gouging. The law applies to consumer food items, goods, or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services, gasoline, and other motor fuels. Price gouging is subject to criminal prosecution and carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Violators may also face civil enforcement actions and penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, plus mandatory restitution.

If anyone becomes aware of incidents of price gouging, they should report the problem to the District Attorney Criminal Investigations Division at 760.873.7987. Reports can also be submitted via email to: inyoda@inyocounty.us.

Inyo Public Health Officer Gives Coronavirus Update

Inyo County Public Health Officer, Dr. James Richardson talked to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon. Richardson gave an update on where things stand relating to coronavirus locally.

“We have been having meetings with local healthcare providers and various industries in the county relating to coronavirus.” Richardson said.

There have been rumors circling around the Owens Valley of local individuals having COVID-19, however, Richardson made sure to debunk those myths. “There have been rumors of positive cases, but right now we have no positive cases.”

Though there are no confirmed cases in Inyo County, that does not mean there are not any hurdles for the Department of Public Health to jump through. Currently, there is a personal protective equipment shortage in the Eastern Sierra.

We are short on supplies of PPE, N-95 masks, and we have expired masks we are using in the meantime. We are ready as best as we can.”

Richardson talked about some of the steps his department is taking to curtail cases of novel coronavirus. He highlighted the four plans in place to deal with an incoming viral crisis: prevention, containment, mitigation, and lock down.

Richardson discussed how testing is the most important thing public health officials can do to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus. “We are trying to do our best to contain any new cases in Inyo County, and we are doing our best to implement testing. We need to test those who are positive [for COVID-19] and isolate them from the public.” Richardson said.

In the present, testing is not as effective as it could be according to the Inyo County Health Officer. There is currently a long wait time to see if a person has contracted coronavirus. “Right now, we are looking at ways to get back quicker test results. We were sending them to LabCorp, but we found out they send the testing back east, so we are working on getting results back quicker.”

In the near future, testing will be conducted in California, which will allow for faster results.

The most ideal situation according to Richardson, would be localized testing. “If we had testing at a local level, we would be able to confirm cases within a few hours to just one day.”

There is no timeline as to when localized testing of COVID-19 will be a possibility.

No School Postponement Planned for Inyo County

Inyo County Superintendent of Schools, Barry Simpson discussed the possibility of closing school Friday morning.

“This is a real fluid situation. We are getting multiple updates from the state and local levels. There are no school closures, but that is subject to change.”

Simpson says Inyo County Schools will make its decision to close school depending on what the department of public health says. “Yesterday, superintendents met with Public health Director, James Richardson, and will follow the guidance the departments put out when it comes to closing school.” Simpson expressed.

The superintendent made it clear that his office is in constant contact with health officials, as well as all superintendents from Lone Pine, Owens Valley, Big Pine, and Bishop Unified School Districts to make sure everyone has the most up-to-date information.

“We have a conference line, and superintendents are having daily check-ins right now. We will be in regular communication.” he said.

Simpson expressed his frustration with having to possibly close school. One reason he does not like it, is because underprivileged youth will be affected.

“We don’t like the closures because of the effect it has on socioeconomically challenged students who rely on meals they may not get at home. We are attempting to keep our schools open as long as we can, but we will close them if circumstances arise.”

More updates will follow as this story progresses.

What Effect Will Coronavirus Have on Local Schools?

Novel Coronavirus is now considered a pandemic according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Public gatherings are being canceled worldwide including concerts, sporting events, church meetings, and even school.

Though there have been no confirmed cases in the Eastern Sierra, that isn’t stopping officials from mulling over the idea of suspending school.

Inyo County Superintendent of Schools, Barry Simpson has been talking to the Inyo County Department of Public Health, to see what direction districts should be taking relating to the possible postponement of school.

Simpson said, “Canceling school is being discussed as a potential measure, but that action is not imminent right now.”

If a local case of COVID-19 is reported, that could obviously change the entire situation as far as measures taken by the Inyo County Office of Education. The superintendent added, “We will determine if there are cases in the area, and we will act accordingly.”

Any decision to cancel school will likely come via instruction from the Inyo County Department of Public Health. However, Simpson says a decision to close areas of education comes down to the individual school districts. “When it comes to closures, it happens locally by each school district, meaning Big Pine, Owens Valley, Bishop, and Lone Pine, superintendents have to make that choice. My job is to make sure everyone has the right information so the districts can act accordingly.”

Spring break is happening next week for students, and the Inyo County Superintendent has instructed district staffs to thoroughly clean all rooms at each school. “We are diligently cleaning schools right now, but the break will allow us to increase the cleaning of all our facilities.” Simpson told KIBS/KBOV News.

The county is also looking at ways to continue education if kids are prohibited from going to school. Though Simpson acknowledged that online education is not ideal due to some students not having access to internet, it that may be one of the only options available if students are forced to stay home.

Superintendent Simpson will meet with other district superintendents and public health officials on Thursday to discuss the next steps as coronavirus cases sweep through the world.

Northern Inyo Hospital Gives Coronavirus Update

Northern Inyo Hospital held a conference call with media members on Monday morning to discuss Coronavirus.

The call included some key figures from NIHD including Mono County Public Health Officer, Dr. Tom Boo, Rural Health Clinic Director, Dr. Stacy Brown, Infection Control Preventionist, Robin Christensen, Emergency Department of Disaster Planning, Gina Riesche, an acting CEO, Kelli Davis.

To start things off, the district gave a rundown of where they currently stand. Dr. Stacy Brown spoke first saying, “We have not had any cases identified in the area. Late last week, we had a meeting and received information from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Center for Diseases Control (CDC) to create prevention plans. We have created a drill relating to what areas we we need to identify and where we need to focus our efforts.”

NIHD says they have taken stock of equipment in order to prepare for a possible outbreak of Novel Coronavirus. The equipment will be used for both patients and staff. Brown believes they are more well prepared as far as medical equipment is concerned. “We feel we have sufficient stock when it comes to treating patients with the virus.”

Infection Control Preventionist, Robin Christensen seconded Brown’s sentiments, emphasizing that the hospital has been checking with its purchasing department to ensure they have enough medical supplies to treat a possible increase in cases.

Gina Riesche, NIHD’s Manager of the Emergency Department and Disaster Planning then shifted the discussion toward what procedures the hospital would need take in the event of coronavirus arriving in the Eastern Sierra.

Depending on the number of cases, the district would set up emergency triage centers outside of the emergency room where treatment can begin. After that, an incident command system would be implemented to help manage the crisis of a coronavirus outbreak.

After the rundown by the hospital, a Q&A discussion between the media and NIH commenced.

When asked about how Northern Inyo Hospital would be able to handle a high number of patients suffering from coronavirus, Dr. Boo said they would be able to call in help from medical professionals throughout the state. “Both Inyo and Mono County are apart of the California’s Region 6 Healthcare Coalition, so we would be able to make a resource request if needed.”

There are many actions an individual can do reduce their chances of contracting the virus. To decrease the likelihood of picking up novel coronavirus, one can wash their hands, practice social distance, and not show up for work when he or she is sick. However, it is one thing to tell a person these tips, and it is another for them to actually put the advice into practice.

NIHD have plans in place to try and encourage people to heed their advice. Brown told the media, “I think educating the population is an important thing. At our next healthy lifestyle talk, I am going to talk about the importance of washing your hands. I will spend about five minutes at the beginning of the talk doing that.”

Brown is not only concerned about what the public is doing to take preventative measures, he is also trying to ensure that healthcare workers are following proper protocol. “From a staff standpoint, we are rolling out instructions to make sure we are using equipment properly.”

Though the Eastern Sierra is a geographically isolated area, Dr. Tom Boo does not believe that to be an advantage when it comes to having less coronavirus cases. “We are pretty connected to the rest of the state and the world. We have people coming and going from all over the world, and travel enhances the spread of disease.”

What Coronavirus Means for the Eastern Sierra

JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM INYO AND MONO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH:

On February 26, 2020, the California Department of Public Health confirmed that a California resident from Solano County was hospitalized with novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and likely caught the illness from someone in the community. At the time this information was released, this was the first person in the United States with confirmed COVID-19 infection who has not traveled outside the United States or had contact with known cases.

Most people who contract COVID-19, have mild disease. Severe illness seems uncommon in children, and no deaths have been reported in children under 9 years old. In some cases, the infection can lead to serious illness or death, particularly in older people with other health conditions. COVID-19 primarily causes respiratory symptoms, fever, cough and fatigue, and may progress to pneumonia. Cold symptoms such as runny nose and sore throat are uncommon with this coronavirus and usually indicate simple colds.

Health officials expect to see an increase in the number of people who catch the virus in community settings. It is time to think about ways to reduce chances of getting the virus and of spreading it to others. The COVID19 virus spreads like the flu, mostly by inhaling the tiny droplets produced by coughing and sneezing in close quarters, and sometimes by getting virus on our hands and then touching our nose, eyes or mouth.

Scientists are working urgently to develop vaccines and anti-viral medications for this new virus, but it will be months or years before they are ready for use. Treatment for this disease, like many viral illnesses, is supportive. Most people who get sick will recover on their own. Patients who are severely ill may need to be hospitalized. Treatment is likely to change over time as we learn more about this new disease.

There are simple things everyone should do now at work, home, school, and in the community to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as flu and common colds:

• Wash your hands frequently using soap for at least 20 seconds and lathering your palms, fingers, fingertips, backs of your hands and under your nails

• When no handwashing facilities are available, disinfect your hands with alcohol sanitizer (containing 60% or more alcohol).

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

• Stay away from others when you are sick, particularly by staying home from work or school.

• Cover your mouth with tissue or your arm when coughing or sneezing (not your hand). If available, you may wear a surgical mask when you are sick to protect people around you.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

• Encourage employees and students to stay home from work or school when they are sick.

• Businesses can encourage sick customers and clients to complete business through phone, email, or other means which do not require face-to-face interactions when possible

• Consider “social distancing” to reduce your interactions with other people, especially if you are older or have medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes or cancer, which increase the chance of severe illness if you are infected with the COVID-19 virus.

• If you are sick with fever and cough or shortness of breath, please let your doctor’s office or hospital emergency room know of your symptoms before you come, so that precautions can be taken to reduce spreading it to other people. Similarly, if you need an ambulance, let the 911 dispatcher know that you have symptoms that might mean COVID-19

Mono and Inyo County public health officials are and will continue to communicate with medical facilities, emergency personnel, schools, businesses and other community resources to provide guidance on COVID-19 and possible prevention measures that can be taken as the situation evolves. For current and reliable information about COVID-19 go to the websites of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; www.cdc.gov ) or the California Department of Public Health (www.cdph.ca.gov).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Dr. Tom Boo, Mono County Public Health Officer tboo@mono.ca.gov 760.924.1828

Dr. James Richardson, Inyo County Health Officer healthofficer@inyocounty.us 760.873.7868