KIBS/KBOV Announcements

Mammoth Community Water District Scales Back Services

PRESS RELEASE FROM MAMMOTH COMMUNITY WATER DISTRICT:

District Returns to Risk Level 2 Due to increased cases of COVID-19 in Mono County, the Mammoth Community Water District moved into Risk Level 2, of the Risk Minimization and Outbreak Response Plan on July 21. Risk Level 2, makes operational adjustments, including remote work, to reduce exposure for employees. Staff remain available to assist customers and water and wastewater services will not be interrupted. The District is offering payment plans for customers experiencing financial hardship. The District is dedicated to supporting our staff and community through this exceptionally difficult time, we are in this together.

Current MCWD Information:

  • MCWD’s front Administration Office remains open to the public:All customers must check in at the Administration Building’s front desk and will be directed accordingly.
  • Water Quality: The District’s treatment process prevents transmission ofCOVID-19 virus in water supply.Bill Pay: Customers are encouraged to utilize electronic bill payment: https://mcwd.dst.ca.us/payment-options
  • Experiencing Financial Hardship?Contact the District’s Finance Department at 760-934-2596.
  • Disinfecting Wipes: Please DO NOT flush disinfecting wipes, this includes wipes labeled ‘flushable’. Wipes do not break down and cause clogs in pipes, leading to sewer backups and overflows.

Please contact the District with any questions or concernsat760-934-2596| https://mcwd.dst.ca.us

NIHD’s Interim CEO and Chief Medical Officer Staying Put for One More Year in Roles

Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Board of Directors is postponing its search for a new Chief Executive Officer. The Board is instead opting to extend the service term of Interim CEO Kelli Davis as well as Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Timbers for one year.

The moves follow a June 24 Board meeting presentation on the District’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. Like all rural healthcare facilities across the country, NIHD faces serious deficits and budget challenges due in large part to COVID-19. The District will face a $4.7 million deficit at the end of the current fiscal year, with a projected $10.6 million loss in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

District leaders presented a mitigation plan that calls for some currently vacant staff positions to remain that way. The District also will review major service contracts, refinance its bond debt, and begin other district-wide reductions designed to narrow the deficit gap. Efforts to increase visitation, and ultimately revenue, will be undertaken as the pandemic environment allows. 

Financial Consultant Vinay Behl said revenue is expected to close at $84 million in the current fiscal year, a drop of almost $13 million from the previous year. Behl projects revenue to close at $73 million in the coming fiscal year. How federal and state relief plays into the budget numbers remains to be seen.

Behl told the NIHD Board that he and the NIHD Finance staff took a very conservative approach to the 2020-21 budget. “I can totally understand that no one likes surprises, especially bad ones,” Behl said.

Behl then suggested that the Board consider halting its CEO search, saving the District almost $600,000 in recruitment costs and CEO salary and benefits. “Management led by Kelli Davis has a lot of initiatives in flight,” Behl said. “The team is nimble and agile, and I cannot stress enough how dedicated and diligent your management team is, and I think that should be a matter of great pride.”

Behl said in his professional opinion bringing in a new CEO at this time could be counterproductive to the existing leadership team’s efforts. “Any CEO will have an agenda, and we will see a steep curve in onboarding a new CEO. A leader like Kelli, who is already in the District, who has already proven herself, who enjoys the support of the various teams, well, I would request the Board consider allowing this team to continue its work and suspend the CEO search for at least a year,” Behl said, noting there is just too much at stake to think otherwise. Chief Nursing Officer Tracy Aspel and Interim Medical Officer Dr. William Timbers supported the idea, noting the great collaboration they’ve had with Davis. Both CNO and ICMO, although deferred any final word on extending Davis’ interim service to Davis.

Davis agreed to accept the extension. When asked how this would further impact her role as NIHD’s Chief Operation Officer, Davis acknowledged that realignment of some COO duties would need to take place. While some would go to other chiefs, Davis also noted strong players with the District. “We also have amazing directors, managers, and assistant managers that we could pull into service, especially once we look at the mitigation plan.”

Davis also referenced the importance of the Board approving the request to make the CMO position a permanent one.

“We have a lot of work to do moving forward. Having a resource in a solid executive team is imperative,” Davis continued. “To do the job that needs to be done here, we have to have that, and that is what we are asking the Board tonight. We have a lot of homework here. This is not a job we cannot do, it’s definitely something we can. We need to get the budget in alignment and to address the knowns, the anticipated, and the unknowns.”

The Board had initiated CEO recruitment, signing a search agency contract just weeks ago. Citing their displeasure with the agency’s responsiveness, the Board agreed to try and withdraw from the contract after legal review and consultation with Behl. The Board then unanimously agreed to postpone the CEO search, and later unanimously approved making the CMO position permanent.

Board member Mary Mae Kilpatrick turned the tables on Dr. Timbers. She asked him if he would extend his interim service term to match Davis’ new commitment. Dr. Timbers said he had discussed the possibility with his family and weighed what that would mean to his work as an Emergency Department physician. Looking at a waiting Kilpatrick, he said he would indeed match Davis’ service term.

Board Chair Jean Turner had nothing but praise for the District’s team. “When I think about where you started and what has been accomplished with this team, it makes my head spin. I feel informed, and I feel as if I am now able to truly be part of the team and be able to help. It is astounding, just thinking of all the district leaders that made this happen. I’m sure there were night and weekend hours that went in for us to be here tonight with this much information. I cannot thank you enough, and it clearly illustrates what this team has been doing and is capable of.”

The Board is holding a special meeting this weekend to work with governance expert Dr. Jim Rice. The next regular NIHD Board meeting is set for Wednesday, July 15, 5:30 p.m. These meetings are available via the Zoom video conferencing application to comply with social distancing precautions. Look for agendas and Zoom invites on www.NIH.org.

Bishop Resident Drowns in Crowley Lake

On June 24, 2020, at approximately 4:11 pm, Mono County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and Mono County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel were dispatched to Crowley Lake regarding a drowning. It was reported that a floating mattress blew into the water, and the victim attempted to swim after the mattress. The reporting person witnessed the victim go under the water, and called 9-1-1 when he did not resurface.

MCSO Deputies, Search and Rescue (SAR)Team, Long Valley Fire Department, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and a CHP H-40(helicopter) responded but were unable to locate the victim. On June 25, 2020, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Dive Team arrived on scene. After searching for a few hours utilizing divers and sonar, they recovered the victim from a depth of approximately 16 feet. The victim was identified as Jess Monroe Watts, a 50-year-old male from Bishop.

Home Street Middle School Student Wins Inyo County Speech Contest

Inyo County Office of Education is pleased to announce that Grady Schaniel from Home Street Middle School won first place in the 60th annual Inyo County Speech Contest, for his speech: Toasterphobia. The second place winner was Ashley Fitt from Home Street Middle School with her speech: Dreamweaver. The third place winner was Kaylee Ashley from Lo-Inyo Elementary with the topic: Vaping. Also representing their school were: Evelyn Thornburg and Noah Reade from Owens Valley Elementary with the topics Follow Your Passion and Teleportation – Myth or Reality.

The Speech Contest was sponsored by Bishop Real Estate and completed virtually. The topic was: Causes and Effects of Phenomena, which was further expanded to explain: Phenomena are all around us – something observed in nature, society, culture, social interactions, history, etc. Describe the causes and effects of a phenomenon that is interesting and important to you. Participants submitted a recording of their speech and although this was much different than the traditional in-person event, their creative speeches were enjoyed by those involved in judging the contest.

All speeches were evaluated on content and delivery by a panel of three community judges: Harold McDonald, Jennifer Morales, and Dustin Blakey. Inyo County Office of Education thanks these judges for their expertise and commitment to the contest through all the changes.

In addition, ICOE would like to thank Bishop Real Estate Rasmuson & Associates for sponsoring the contest and providing the winners with trophies and cash prizes.

ICOE would also like to express gratitude to the school coaches for their time, effort and continued support for our students. The coaches were Mark DesRochers of Home Street Middle School, Brandy Rost of Lo-Inyo Elementary, and Vivian Hanson of Owens Valley School.

Congratulations to all the participants!

Bishop Union High School Prepares for Unorthodox Graduation

The 111 graduates from Bishop Union High School will get the chance to receive their diplomas from BUHS Administration over the course of three days next week. Though there won’t be a traditional ceremony in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, students will get the chance to drive to the high school’s parking lot with their family members and receive their diplomas.

This makeshift ceremony will be taking place starting May 26, 2020, until May 28, 2020. A maximum of four family members will be allowed to accompany the graduating seniors.

Graduating seniors will be assigned a specific time to pick up their graduation certificates on one of the three aforementioned dates. There is no specific time relating to when the celebration will start each day, but it will be some time during the evening.

During the three day ceremony, students will be filmed receiving their high school diplomas. After all of the footage is compiled, the high school will post it online for the general public to view on June 5th, 2020.

Highway 168 West Has Reopened

INYO COUNTY — Caltrans has reopened State Route 168 West from its winter closure. The road, which connects the town of Aspendell to Lake Sabrina, was closed for the season on November 26, 2019.

 

While the road is open to motorists, all Californians are reminded that it is critical to stay home during this time. The state is mobilizing at every level to proactively and aggressively protect the health and well-being of Californians, and Caltrans is working to keep roads open for delivery of essential goods and services.  These actions are crucial and there is no doubt that everyone’s collective efforts save lives. #StayHomeSaveLives

 

Caltrans would also like to remind everyone that the beginning of trout fishing season has been postponed until the beginning of June to help flatten the curve and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Mammoth Lakes Cancels Fourth of July Festivities

MAMMOTH LAKES, CA (April 27, 2020) – Due to the timing uncertainty for the modification or lifting of the Governor’s unprecedented Stay At Home Order, along with the state’s subsequent mitigation measures for special events, the Town of Mammoth Lakes and the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Fourth of July festivities.

Cancelled July 4 festivities in the Mammoth Lakes area for 2020 currently include the Annual Mammoth Lakes Fourth of July Parade, Footloose Freedom Mile, POPS in the Park, Mono Arts Council: Mammoth Celebrates the Arts Festival, Mammoth Museum at Hayden Cabin Family Celebration, and the Fireworks Spectacular at Crowley Lake.

“This is a very serious situation and now, more than ever, we must be vigilant about following guidance and directives in order to flatten the curve and to decrease the strain on our local health care system. Physical distancing and other mitigations 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.

“The Town of Mammoth Lakes would like to recognize and acknowledge the many long-standing partners, supporters and sponsors of the annual Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular at Crowley Lake,” stated Stuart Brown, Parks and Recreation Director. “Canceling this generational event was an extremely difficult decision, but in our current environment of uncertainty, safety is our top priority. Next year will be bigger and better thanks to the Crowley Lake Fish Camp, L.D.C., Mono County

Community Services Area 1, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Pyro Spectaculars by Souza.”

“While we know the Fourth of July festivities are always a favorite for tens of thousands of our loyal Mammoth Lakes’ visitors, we appreciate the need to focus on health and safety,” said John Urdi, Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director.

This decision does not come lightly to any of the partnering entities. These measures are being taken to ensure the health and well-being of all Mono County residents and our many loyal visitors. The Chamber of Commerce is aware of the fiscal impacts this will have on the business community and has already begun, in partnership with the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Lakes Tourism, working toward an alternative for the business community, locals, and visitors to celebrate our national holiday in a safe and responsible manner.

Death Valley Vandal Confesses to Defacing Property

DEATH VALLEY, CA – A man has confessed to marking multiple sites in Death Valley National Park with graffiti. Charges are pending. Graffiti that included “Steve & Lacy” was found on rocks, a well, 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.

Park rangers had some leads pointing to the man’s identity, and appealed to the public for more information on April 14. The National Park Service (NPS) appreciates that many people shared the story on social media and contacted the NPS with tips. The NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB) handles tips on cases in all national parks and other NPS sites. The tip line can be reached at: 888‐653‐0009, online at www.nps.gov/ISB, or by email at nps_isb@nps.gov.

The man who confessed said that his acquaintance saw the story on social media and brought his attention to it. “Steve,” a resident of British Columbia, called the tip line himself on April 17. The following day he spoke with the investigating park ranger, confessed, and apologized.

Lacy is blameless – she is a dog.

Charges have not been filed again the man yet. Penalties could include a fine and/or restitution charges. The man’s cooperative attitude will likely be a mitigating factor.

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

This graffiti happened in January 2019 and January 2020. 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 from Beatty.

Coronavirus Testing Results Coming Back Faster for Northern Inyo Hospital

Northern Inyo Hospital gave their weekly COVID-19 update to members of the media on Monday, April 6, 2020.

Dr. Stacey Brown told the media that the hospital is currently functioning at full capacity. “NIH is fully functional for all services at this time. If you break your leg, we are here to treat that,” Brown expressed.

Interim Chief Medical Officer, Will Timbers, shifted the discussion to COVID testing protocols at the hospital. He highlighted false negative tests, which are tests where a patient appears to not have coronavirus, but ends up actually having it. “No test that we do is going to be 100% perfect. We need to make sure to get a really good nasal swab to ensure that we can find out if they have it or not. There are false negatives, where the tests aren’t completely reliable due to limitations in the testing,” Timbers remarked.

Brown added that testing kits will continue to be reserved for essential workers and those with pre-existing conditions. The Rural Health Director said, “The priorities for testing will be for critical staff and critically ill patients. We know the spread of COVID-19 is communicable, so there is no need to test the general public.”

The amount of time it takes for Northern Inyo Hospital to obtain COVID-19 results is becoming more efficient as each week passes. Brown told the media that the hospital is now getting results back in about a day and a half. “Turnaround testing via LabCorp takes about 1.5 days now. LabCorp in Phoenix is doing a really nice job of getting the results to us,” he remarked. When NIHD started testing last month, the turnaround time for lab results was taking anywhere between 7-10 days.

Patients can expect even faster coronavirus testing in the future. The hospital is about one to two weeks away from rolling out their in-house testing, which will take about an hour. “In-house testing is about a week or two off at this point. We are hoping to do in-house testing by the end of the month,” said Brown.

Whether to wear facial covering or not to reduce the spread of coronavirus has been a hot topic of discussion throughout the world, with the CDC now recommending that the general public wear masks after previously discouraging the public from using them. Dr. Brown is encouraging the general public to cover-up. “The CDC came down with recommendations for decreasing transmission in the community by wearing masks. The push on that is to have you protect the rest of the community from spewing out the virus from your mouth. It looks like many people are transmitting coronavirus without showing symptoms, so it is smart to wear masks. My anticipation is that you are going to see the adoption of the masks in our community,” Brown expressed.

The Rural Health Director stated that the community has been stepping up as far as helping out with medical supplies. One such program that Brown says has been quite successful is “project cover-up,” a grassroots effort in which local seamstresses and quilters have created masks for healthcare workers to use. “’Project Cover-Up’ has been a great example of the community stepping up during the pandemic,” Brown said. “So far, we have had over 200 masks donated.”

Dr. Brown is encouraging people to continue to donate medical supplies. “If people are interested in dropping off Personal Protective Equipment donations, you can drop them off at the front of the hospital.”

The Interim Chief Medical Officer, Will Timbers spoke about the possibility of people building up immunity to coronavirus, and if the data he has been examining is accurate, it is a promising sign. “It does seem like with the majority of patients who have COVID, that there is some herd immunity at this point. The data suggests that there are some antibodies that are being built up in patients,” Timbers said.

Antibody testing to see if patients with COVID-19 are building immunity to the virus will be implemented in medical facilities across the world soon. As for testing locally, the public can expect it to be ready some time around May. Dr. Brown said, “Larry Weber, our Director of Diagnostic Services, says there is a rush for antibody testing to be implemented by many companies. Larry and his team have vetted a company that has a good reputation, and that looks very promising. I still don’t see testing happening for a few weeks though. Right now, we are looking at early May.”

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.”