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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.”

Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce Encouraging People to Order Take-Out

Let’s Do Lunch to Go

All our local restaurants are abiding by the dictate from the Governor to close and not serve customers inside. Most of the restaurants are doing pickup and some are even doing delivery.  How about we all have lunch or dinner from a local restaurant during this trying time for everyone..

Alabama Hills Cafe – Pick up and Delivery            760- 876-4675
Yummy yummy breakfast as well.  How about French Toast?

Bonanza Mexican Restaurant –  Pick up and Delivery   760-876-4768
Good Mexican lunch makes the day perfect especially if it includes some great Tamales.

Carl’s Junior – Drive up – and if you are ordering for me I like the old fashion burger. With fries, of course

The Lone Star Bistro – Pick up and Delivery           760-876-1111
They also do breakfast and the Sunrise Sandwich is break my heart good.

Lone Pine Pizza Factory – Pick up and Delivery      760-876-4707
My personal favorite is the lasagna with salad bar

McDonald’s Restaurant – Drive up.  Have you tried their app yet. The Southwest Salad goes down so well especially with the crispy chicken.

Merry Go Round – Pick up and possibly delivery      760-876-4115  
If I get to eat out, here is the best Chinese food between Los Angeles and Reno, and the flat iron steak dinner is excellent as well.

Mt Whitney Restaurant – Pick up and Delivery       760-876-5751
Their soup  on Tuesday is Green Chill Verde and is good enough to rub in your hair. They also do daily specials I am particularly fond of BBQ ribs on Tuesday.. Mmmm Mmmm good.

Subway – Pick up                                                     760-876-1860   
And don’t forget they have breakfast sandwiches every day that make fixing breakfast as easy as making a call.

Death Valley Hosting Naturalization Ceremony

DEATH VALLEY, CA – Death Valley National Park will be hosting a Naturalization Ceremony on March 13th at 11:00 am at the Mission Gardens of The Inn at Furnace Creek. Everyone is invited to attend this special event.

This unique event will welcome the newest citizens to America.  The 20 applicants are from Argentina, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Yemen and have often spent months or years going through the naturalization process.

Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds stated, “Death Valley is a spectacular setting to host this Naturalization Ceremony.  I am honored Death Valley can play a small roll in this important step for our nation’s newest citizens.”

The ceremony is free, open to the public, and does not require registration. However, the standard park entrance fee of $30 per vehicle is still applicable. Those wishing to attend the event should arrive at least 15 minutes early and park at The Inn at Furnace Creek. For a list of programs and lodging options, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/deva.

Inyo County Could Approve New Regulations on Certain Tobacco Products

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors has plans to approve regulations which they hope will restrict adolescent access to tobacco products at Tuesday’s meeting.

Anna Scott, the Inyo County Health and Human Services Deputy Director gave a presentation to the board, and recommended regulating the sale of some tobacco products.

There are three components the department wants to see when it comes to preventing children from purchasing tobacco products. According to county documents,“1) a flavored ecigarette or “vape” ban; 2) a requirement that all little cigars be sold in packs of 20 and cigars be sold in packs of 5 (except cigars that cost more than $5 each); and 3) a requirement for minimum pricing of $8 per pack for cigarettes and little cigars and $5 per cigar.”

Scott says Inyo County’s high school students can easily obtain tobacco paraphernalia, and vape use among Inyo County’s youth is more than three times higher than the state average. The Deputy HHS Director also told the supervisors that according to a survey the department conducted with 9th and 11th graders, obtaining tobacco products is “very easy.”

In order to enforce a ban on these products, Health and Human Services requested the board also adopt a Tobacco Retail License ordinance, which will help create a structure for cracking down on illegal tobacco sales.

The board will not charge retailers for these licenses. Due to available funds in the county budget, the application cost will be covered.

Inyo County zeroed in on the sale of tobacco that costs under five dollars. The big item under five dollars the supervisors wanted to address, was the sale of cigarillos and blunt wraps, including popular brands like Swisher, Zig Zag, and Backwoods. County Health and Human Services officials say that these brands are targeting children with flavors such as grape, cotton candy, and blueberry.

According to Tobacco Control Supervisor, Eryn Clark, the sale of these cigarillos has increased dramatically. “The sale of blunts like Swisher Sweets has grown 280%.” Clark said.

As of right now, it looks like the Board of Supervisors will only implement part of what the Health and Human Services Department wants. There will be no outright ban on flavored tobacco, but that could happen in the near future.

With that being said, the board may vote to increase the price of cigarettes to a minimum of eight dollars per pack, along with cigarillos, which will now cost a minimum of five dollars per package. The cigarillos must also be sold with a minimum of six per pack. Additionally, flavored vape E-liquid will be banned in Inyo County.

DISCLAIMER: The story has been changed. Inyo County has not made the ban official, and it still needs to be voted on.

BLM Bishop Conducting Pile Burns This Week

BISHOP, Calif. – Interagency wildland fire crews from the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office and the Inyo National Forest will be treating up to 70 acres of public lands with prescribed fire at Fish Slough north of Bishop in Inyo and Mono counties to improve wetland habitat. Prescribed fire operations will occur in late February or early March, depending on weather, air quality and staff availability.

The BLM has used prescribed fire as part of a larger strategy to maintain and improve wetland habitats in the Fish Slough Area of Critical Environmental Concern for several decades. Prescribed fire operations, which are scheduled to occur before the spring growing season, will reduce tule accumulations, increase open water habitat for Owens pupfish, and encourage new vegetation growth to support other species dependent on this desert wetland. The BLM is committed to keeping public landscapes healthy and productive.

 

During prescribed fire operations, smoke may be visible from Bishop and nearby communities along U.S. Highway 395 and U.S. Highway 6 corridors, including Mustang Mesa, Round Valley, Swall Meadows, Laws and Chalfant. The BLM requests that the public avoid congregating on or near roadways in the Fish Slough area, which can obstruct fire equipment and emergency vehicles supporting prescribed fire operations. All prescribed fire operations will be conducted in close coordination with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.

 

For more information, please call Heather Stone at the Bishop Field Office, 760-872-5000.

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.

40-Year Old Hiker Found Deceased

NORTH LAKE (INYO NATIONAL FOREST), CA. November 7, 2019 – On November 4 (evening), Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received notification of a missing hiker. The reporting party said that Alan Stringer, a 40-year old man from Huntington Beach, had planned on hiking somewhere out of the Bishop area on Sunday but failed to return home on Monday.
Stringer, who was described as an experienced hiker, did not disclose his hiking plans or potential routes. However, he recently purchased and ice ax and crampons, and participated in mountaineering training courses. Stringer was equipped for day-hiking only; he had an InReach device that he hiked with, but it was never activated. After checking trailheads throughout the Bishop area, Sheriff’s Deputies located Stringer’s vehicle at North Lake shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday a forensic analysis of Stringer’s cell phone activity revealed only one call very early in the morning from downtown Bishop on Sunday November 3 (before his planned hike). Inyo Search and Rescue used aerial support to fly the areas near and around North Lake.
On Wednesday ground teams searched the areas of Paiute Pass, Lamarck Col and Mt. Emerson. Aerial reconnaissance with night-vision capability was used Wednesday night.
Today ground teams will continue to scour the areas near and around North Lake, paying extra attention to Wonder Lake Basin, Lamarck Col, Mt. Lamarck summit, and Mt. Emmerson.  Aerial support will be used again today (H-40 out of Fresno). Sequoia and Kings National Park is running a joint operation concentrating on the following locations: Darwin Canyon and Darwin Peak.
If anyone from the public has seen Alan Stringer (particularly on Sunday November 3) and can provide us with a more conclusive hiking route please call 760-878-0383 option 4. We do not have a conclusive description of what he was wearing but he could potentially be wearing a bright green “puffer” style jacket or a dark green light-weight jacket. His ice ax is lime green. Stringer is 6’04”, 230 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes.

UPDATE– On Nov 7 around 2:30pm Sequoia and Kings National Park located Alan Stringer deceased at the top of the Darwin glacier, near the base of the notch to go up Mount Darwin. Sequoia and Kings will be conducting the investigation and recovery.

Search photos for Stringer SAR
Alan Stringer has been missing since Sunday Nov 3 out of the North Lake area. Tips can be reported to Inyo SO at 760-878-0383 option 4.

Inyo Limits Watering to twice per week

Inyo County revises emergency drought regulations

Public meetings next week will detail Inyo County’s regulations.  The regulations apply to systems operated by Inyo County, that’s Lone Pine, Independence and Laws.  The new standards are restricting watering to two days per week. Even numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday. Odd numbered addresses may water on Thursday and Sunday.

Clint Quilter, director of the Inyo County Department of public works says that for now, enforcement will focus on notification and education, “With the resources we have, what we are looking at initially, is to do a notification type enforcement. If someone tells us, ‘hey my neighbor is watering on the days they are not suppose to’.  We would really go quite a ways to inform that person of the days they can water. If it becomes an issue, then we will go down a different path and have that discussion with the board when it becomes necessary. So now we are looking for voluntary compliance.”

Inyo County has scheduled community meetings in Lone Pine and Independence to provide information on the State regulations, the County’s regulations and how that impacts town water systems consumers.

Public Meetings are scheduled for-

Independence:    6:00 PM, June 9, 2015 at the American Legion Hall, 205 South Edwards Street, Independence, CA 93526

Lone Pine:    6:00 PM, June 10, 2015 at Lone Pine Senior Center Statham Hall, 138 South Jackson Street, Lone Pine, CA 93545

Inyo County Public works is encouraging town water system customers in Lone Pine, Independence, and Laws to attend one of these meetings. For additional information, please contact Inyo County Public Works at (760) 878-0201.

Cover Photo By Gary Young

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Lone Pine Softball falls to Savanna

Lone Pine season ends in CIF 1st round

The Lone Pine Golden Eagles softball season ends with a loss to the #1 seed Savanna high school.  While the season has just ended, Lone Pine Coach Liz Jones is looking ahead to 2016 with great optimism. The Golden Eagles graduate just one senior, outfielder Emma Howe.
Looking to lead the charge next season are several offensive stars.
Lacie Jones finished  first place in the Desert Mountain League with a overall batting average of .641.  Juliann Jones’ .510 average was 7th in league, and Jessianne Joiner was right behind her, finishing 8th in league with a .475 ave.  Katelyn Button ranked 13th with .405 ave. in league play.
Coach Liz Jones says, “We are already looking forward to next year.”
cover photo submitted by Liz Jones. lone pine softball at their wildcard win at Brentwood Academy
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Lone Pine Softball wins Wildcard game

Lone Pine high school softball wins at Brentwood

The Lone Pine Golden Eagles softball team beat Brentwood 6-3 Tuesday in the CIF southern section division 6 wildcard round.  The win advances Lone Pine to the opening round Thursday.  The Golden Eagles will square off with #1 overall seed Savanna high school in Anaheim.

Lacie Jones pitched Lone Pine to the opening round road win.  Lacie Jones allowed just 4 hits, striking out 12.  Coach Liz Jones noted top defensive plays turned in by Kayla Noland at second base, Celia Ray at third, catcher Juliann Jones, Jessianne joiner at first base and Katelyn Button at shortstop.

Offense
Juliann Jones, 3 for 4, 2 run Homerun, Double.
Katelyn Button, 1 for 3.
Lacie Jones, 4 for 4, 2 Doubles, RBI.
Jessianne Joiner, 2 for 3.
Taylor Corona, 2 for 4, Double.

Golden Eagles at Brentwood.  Photo Submitted by Coach Jones
Golden Eagles at Brentwood. Photo Submitted by Coach Jones
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