Tag Archives: coronavirus eastern sierra

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.”

Drive-In Testing for Coronavirus Available at Rural Health Clinic

To help identify cases of COVID-19, NIHD has established drive-in testing for coronavirus at the District’s Rural Health Clinic (RHC).

Dr. Stacey Brown, Family Physician and Medical Director of the RHC, said, “We are pleased to announce that the new service line allows for prompt screening for coronavirus through a series
of directed questions by telephone and then subsequent testing for infection on campus if indicated. The drive-in testing concept extends the current Same Day service line to the parking
lot adjacent to the clinic.”

The drive-in helps to keep current patients and medical staff safe from a potential infection since suspect cases safely remain in their vehicles instead of in waiting rooms during testing. “Since coronavirus testing has become commercially available, we can safely obtain a patient sample and send it out of town for testing. This greatly helps the local health department and regional
healthcare partners with surveillance and management of infected patients,” he said.

Dr. Brown said the drive-in operates during regular clinic hours, 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday. RHC nurses and providers will staff the drive-in. Dr. Brown said the drive-in is open to District residents who meet current CDC definitions for screening. Those definitions currently include travel history, documented coronavirus exposure, as well as specific symptoms like fever and cough.

“To safely and efficiently handle patients, the drive-in will function like the Same Day service with scheduled appointment times to see a provider rather than an on-demand traffic jam,” Brown said. “Please do not show up at the clinic in your car without calling ahead of time.”

Eligibility to be seen at the drive-in starts with a pre-screening telephone interview with a clinical staff member. A determination of the patient’s risk status follows and then scheduling an appointment slot for the parking lot if indicated. Patients will be greeted outside of the clinic at the appropriate time by the provider and care team in personal protective equipment (PPE), interviewed briefly, and a nose or mouth swab obtained.

Before leaving, the patients will receive information on protecting themselves and others while awaiting their results at home. Information will be shared with the Inyo County Health Department for community surveillance and follow up as needed. “We hope the turnaround time on the test will be prompt, but the send-out lab may take a while for the result,” Dr. Brown said.

“If you think you might have a coronavirus infection, call your primary care provider first. If your provider thinks you need to be tested and cannot test you there, have them contact the RHC at
(760) 873-2849, and we may be able to help,” Dr. Brown said.

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.

Coronavirus in Eastern Sierra Likely More of a ‘When’ Rather Than ‘If’

Director of Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Rural Health Clinic, Dr. Stacy Brown provided KIBS/KBOV with the latest relating to novel coronavirus in the Eastern Sierra Friday afternoon.

Brown says there have been no local cases of coronavirus identified yet. “At this time, no local cases have been recorded.” Brown said. “We are stepping up our efforts as conditions change to try and contain the virus, and patients may see increased procedures before they even enter the buildings.”

Such procedures include staff asking questions relating to travel history, asking patients to describe symptoms, and checking temperature before they even enter the building.

Though increased precautions are being taken, the Rural Health Clinic Director expressed that hospital operations are currently running at 100%. “We are fully functioning and fully operational, with no limitations of services at this time. There may be a little bit of a delay at times, but right now it is business as usual for NIHD.”

Even with all of the preemptive provisions at the hospital, NIHD is treating a local outbreak of coronavirus as a very real possibility. Coronavirus arriving locally is, “probably not a matter of if, but rather when, so we want to be ahead of the game.”

If for any reason an individual has to go to the hospital for any medical problem, Brown asks patients to not be alarmed when they see staff workers wearing protective masks, clothes, and other equipment.

KIBS/KBOV News will continue to provide updates on novel coronavirus.



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


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).


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