Rural Health Clinic Director for Northern Inyo Hospital, Dr. Stacey Brown, spoke to the media on Friday, May 15, 2020, and provided the latest on how hospital is managing in its fight against the COVID-19 crisis.
Brown said that the hospital has the capability to test almost anyone who is feeling symptomatic. “The vast majority of people we test are relatively healthy. However, there are some symptoms people show, and we will test them for coronavirus. If someone has a subjective fever, we will test them. The bar is low for testing,” Brown remarked.
Though there is a low requirement when it comes to a person receiving a COVID-19 test, the bar is still not low enough for an asymptomatic person to be tested. Brown said, “We can’t do testing for asymptomatic individuals; it is just not possible at this time.” The reason it is not possible to test those who do not show symptoms is because there are not enough tests available.
It is no secret that the United States is behind the curve when it comes to administering tests compared to some other countries in the world. Brown gave an explanation as to why acquiring a sufficient number of tests has been so difficult at a federal, state, and local level.
Brown said, “There are so many factors involved when it comes to lack of testing. I think we underestimated the impact that COVID-19 would have. It is what it is though, and we have to deal with what we’ve got.”
With that being said, Dr. Brown believes Northern Inyo Hospital will catch up when it comes to having sufficient testing. “I am a cautiously optimistic person. With the amount of regularity that we are getting relating to antibody testing and nasal swabs, things seem to be much more secure now. We aren’t getting much extra testing, but we are receiving tests, which makes me more comfortable than where things were a month ago.”
The discussion shifted toward the importance of wearing a mask when going into public. On Friday, May 8, 2020, Inyo County Public Health Officer, Dr. James Richardson issued a mandatory face mask order for all Inyo County residents who are out in public. When speaking about the mask order, Brown expressed approval for business owners not allowing individuals to enter their businesses without a mask. “I am happy that a lot of the places that are essential businesses have not been allowing entry to customers who do not have masks on,” Brown remarked.
Though appreciative of the public’s efforts in complying with the mandatory mask order, Brown said he has been seeing a lot of masks with valves on them, which defeats the point of even wearing a mask in the first place. “If you go back to why we are masking in public, it is not about inhaling the virus, it is about spewing virus,” Brown said. “One-way exhale valve masks are not the tool for what we call source control. Folks come into the district wearing these valve masks, and they are still asked to cover up when they come into the district. It is not doing the job,” Brown said.
Brown thinks it is necessary that the county provides a way of enforcing the public health order issued by Dr. Richardson. “There has to be some teeth on it [the facial cover order.] We need to trust people to do right thing, but verify that they actually are. There should be mechanism or hotline that the public can call and report businesses who are not complying with the order. There has to be threat of a shutdown or a fine if people do not listen,” Brown said.