Editor’s note: This is a developing situation and this article will be updated to reflect changing information.
MENDOCINO Co., 3/10/20 — Information about the number of cases of COVID-19 (aka the novel coronavirus), testing availability, local preparations, and state and federal responses has been rapidly evolving. To help keep you up to speed, we’ve put together a lot of relevant information in this article, The Mendocino Voice’s local guide to information about COVID-19, which we will continue to update as information comes in.
We’ve put together a bunch of different resources in this article, but get in touch if you have questions, or tips, or something we should add. You can also find our previous coverage here. We’ve included general information about county resources, tips to stay prepared, healthy, and reduce the virus’ spread, information about nearby cases and preparation efforts, and other helpful guides — click on the links for additional information.
“While we have no cases — it’s coming,” Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan told the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors at their March 10 meeting. Doohan is a board certified family physician, with a PhD in microbiology and currently completing a masters in public health, and previously worked at Adventist Health. Calling COVID-19 a pandemic, Doohan emphasized that the situation was evolving rapidly, and so news could change from morning to afternoon, and praised the county’s emergency operation center.
Doohan stated her top priorities are: expanding access to testing, which currently remains limited and must be conducted in Santa Rosa; considering a ban on large gatherings if Sonoma County moves ahead with that action; and expanding “surge capacity” at local medical facilities in the case of a drastic increase the number of people requiring acute medical attention. She said the county should consider ways to support local hospitals, and additional locations in which to treat patients, including houseless people who may not be able to self-quarantine.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the world and Northern California. At least in California the sharp spike in cases can be attributed to an increased availability of test kits, allowing public health officials to better count cases that were already present.
As of March 10, there have been no cases confirmed in Mendocino County, and two people have who have tested negative for COVID-19. President Trump and other federal officials held also a press conference concerning the coronavirus on Monday afternoon (watch here).
Here are the subjects in this article:
- General information
- General guidelines for the public to prepare and stay healthy
- Mendocino County and California stats
- Previous local coverage and other resources
- Medical clinics, local hospitals
- Information about testing
- Mendocino County jail and law enforcement
- Gatherings and events information
- State guidelines from the California Department of Public Health for elder care facilities, large gatherings, schools, and employers
- Information on local agencies, state and federal COVID-19 response
- The Mendocino County COVID call center at 707-234-6052 will be open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. with bilingual staff, on nights or weekends you can leave a message. The county is monitoring the line and will expand the hours if necessary.
- El condado de Mendocino ha establecido un centro de llamadas al 707-234-6052, y el correo electrónico [email protected]. El centro de atención telefónica está abierto de lunes a viernes de 8:00 a.m. a 5:00 p.m. Con personal bilingüe.
- You can also email [email protected] with questions.
- Here’s additional COVID-19 information on the county’s website, which will be updated as new info becomes available. The webpage also includes all news releases from the county, and general guidance, as well as information for homeless people and houses of worship.
- Mendocino County Public Health Facebook page
- The county will issue weekly press release updates on Mondays
- Additional materials are being produced and some will be translated into Spanish
- Están creando nuevos comunicados de prensa y algunos serán traducidos al español.
- Here is general information from the State of California Department of Public Health in English and en español; CDPH is also issuing daily news updates found here
- COVID-19 information from the Center For Disease Control, and the federal government’s COVID-19 website
- Travel recommendations from the CDC
- Here is information from the World Health Organization
- the Johns Hopkins University COVID-10 information center, including international case tracker
- Complete local coverage from The Mendocino Voice of COVID-19 in Mendocino County
- Twitter list of COVID-19 information accounts compiled by meteorologist Daniel Swain
General guidelines for the public to prepare and stay healthy
- Scientists are still researching COVID-19, and so there is a lot yet unknown — however, public health experts warn that people who have no symptoms may contagious and able to transmit the virus, and may require quarantine for 14 days or longer.
- Don’t shake hands, and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
- Practice “social distancing,” if you are elderly or have other underlying health issues, or respiratory problems, avoid crowds and public events. Avoid contact with sick people.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your face and mouth with your hands, including after touching common surfaces, before eating, and when arriving home.
- The virus that causes COVID-19 is primarily spread through droplets, and can be spread like the flu, so preventative measures and changing “lifestyle practices” like disinfecting common surfaces, washing your hands, wearing a mask when sick and staying home, not sharing utensils, using non-contact greetings, and coughing into a tissue or your elbow will help prevent the spread, slow the progression, and protect more vulnerable communities members.
- Stay home if you are feeling sick!
- The incubation time, that is the time between in infection and the onset of symptoms is an average of 5 days, with almost all patients showing symptoms by 12 days. Quarantines or self-quarantines are lasting 14 days with the assumption that had they failed to show symptoms by that time they were disease free.
- Prepare to stay home if necessary, since some people may be asked to self-quarantine for two weeks or more
- COVID-19 is far more dangerous to elderly people. As of March 9, CDC recommends people over 60 years old prepare by stocking up on groceries, extra medications, and staying home if possible.
- If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including severe, cough, and respiratory difficulties and need medical attention, call ahead so that medical staff and emergency workers can take necessary precautions. Contact your primary care physician or the county public health department if you are seeking testing so safety arrangements can be made.
- More tips here — Guidelines from the CDC about what you should know, include preparation, symptoms, what to do when sick, FAQs, tips for employers, and more
- Mendocino County officials recommend you talk with your family, friends, neighbors, and more vulnerable people about if they are prepared, and how you can assist, especially if they need medical attention or quarantine. This is also a good recommendation for many more remote or vulnerable residents in general disaster preparedness planning, such as wildfire evacuations or planned power shut-offs.
Mendocino County and California stats
Note: please remember information is quickly changing and circumstances may have changed.
- Number of people tested in Mendocino County as of March 8: 2
- Number of positive/negative/pending cases as of March 9: 0/2
- Number of people under previously under self-quarantine/currently under quarantine as of March 10: 3/1
Previous local coverage and other resources
- March 9 Mendocino County press release concerning large events
- March 8 Mendocino County press release concerning testing
- Mendocino County press conference from March 5, 2020 (video)
- Mendocino County and California state of emergency declaration, price gouging info from March 4, 2020
- Mendocino County advice for residents, March 2 article
- First coronavirus cases reported in California, January 26 article
Information about local medical facilities and hospitals
Local clinics and hospitals have been preparing to address the potential spread of COVID-19 within Mendocino County, and anyone experiencing symptoms and needing medical attention is being asked to call ahead to ensure the necessary preparations can be put in place to protect medical professionals and other patients before they arrive.
At a March 5 press conference Jason Wells, the local head of Adventist Health, and other representatives from Adventist said that staff has experience due to regular work with infectious diseases, and that they were working with public health and with the Mendocino Coast District Hospital to coordinate. Staff have been undertaking training around COVID-19, wearing appropriate gear and conducting drills, emphasizing they had practice with their disaster plan due to previous emergencies, and that is “something we are unfortunately very versed in doing.” Staff can triage patients based on symptoms. Adventist Health has increasing cleaning in waiting areas and is offering masks and hand sanitizer at entrances, and working with suppliers to make sure supply chains, including masks and personal protective equipment is available. Anyone with potential symptoms seeking medical care should call ahead to ensure staff can take safety measures.
They also noted that there are severals isolation rooms in emergency rooms and otherwise, as well as airborne isolation rooms being converted to droplet based protocols at each county, and that hospitals can utilize HEPA filters to assist with patient treatment. County officials said that bed space is allocated regionally, and so local medical facilities can coordinate across the region and even across the state, and “that we’re never alone” through a larger system of coordination. If a coronavirus patient needed treatment, hospitals would use airborne isolation rooms, limit staff interactions and log all visitors, and staff are currently trained and have safety equipment. In the case of a “surge” of cases, local hospitals can utilize their disaster plan, and increase capacity through cancelling routine visits and elective surgeries, as well as using staff from the network and other facilities.
Information about available testing
As of March 8, COVID-19 tests can be ordered both through private physicians and the Mendocino County Public Health department, and tests can be conducted at private labs. The state of California has provided financial assistance facilitate free testing for both people with private insurance and those with Covered California. All positive tests results, whether through the county or a private physicians, must be reported to the county.
Public Health Officer Doohan emphasized at the March 10 supervisors meeting that on although commercial testing is available in the U.S., Adventist Health did not yet have access it, and so testing capacity remained limited within the county. Currently, anyone who is tested locally will first have a sample collected by local medical “health partners,” who are using protective equipment, then the sample will be couriered to the closest public health lab, which is located in Santa Rosa. As such, testing remains limited and turnaround time is significant for Mendocino County residents, and anyone seeking a test should first contact public health or call their physician to make arrangements.
However, although the criteria as for who is considered eligible for testing has become less restrictive over the last several weeks, testing kits remain limited overall, and there are a limited number of tests that can be processed daily — although this is rapidly changing. There are no labs within Mendocino County that can conduct COVID-19 tests, but as of March 9, tests ordered by the Mendocino County Public Health department may receive results within several days. Anyone who has travelled to a location with a travel advisory due to a significant outbreak, including Wuhan China, is encouraged to contact the public health department.
A small number people have been requested to self-monitor within Mendocino County, with monitoring by Mendocino County Public Health, three of which who did not develop symptoms during the self-quarantine, and one who is still under quarantine as of March 9. However, there may additional people who have been recommended to self-quarentine by private physicians who have not contacted Mendocino Public Health. On March 5, Interim Public Health Officer Noemi Doohan said that if there were limited tests, and since there were not in-county labs, the public health department would prioritize high risk people with unexplained respiratory problems, or that had come into contact with potential cases, or travelled to outbreak areas.
Two of those previously self-quarantined were on the Westerdam cruise ship, which turned out to not have anyone who tested positive aboard. No one had previously met the CDC guidelines for testing until March 5, when testing requirements were loosened. Dr. Doohan noted that there were additional Mendocino County residents who had travelled to Wuhan province in China, were COVID-19 was first detected, but had not shown any symptoms after 14 days when the county contacted them. According to Mendocino County officials on May 9, there are several other residents currently disembarking from the Grand Princess cruise ship in Oakland, although as of March 9 they had not seen the exact ship manifest and did not know when those residents would actually be returning to the county.
Information about schools
Mendocino County is taking steps to address the potential spread of COVID-19 in schools. Schools have contingency “board approved safety plans,” Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins said during the county’s March 5 press conference. Hutchins cited measures including doubling the available overtime for janitorial staff at Ukiah Unified to allow for extra cleaning of all “touch points,” and training staff along with developing educational materials in case quarantined students need to work remotely.
Several California school districts and universities have been temporarily shuttered after a student, parent, or employee testing positive for COVID-19, and the state has issued general guidelines for school districts to address potential closures related to the spread of the coronavirus.
Information about Law Enforcement and Mendocino County Jail
During the March 5 press conference, Mendocino County Sheriff Matthew Kendall emphasized that additional precautions were being taken in the county jail in coordination with the county’s public health department, and that there are some cells with, “direct ventilation so we don’t infect the rest of the population if we were to have one of these cases come in.”
Kendall also noted, “You wont see our deputies reaching out and shaking hands for a little while” and pointed to a sign that encouraged the public to switch from handshakes to a fist bump, titled, “safer than a handshake, cooler than a wave.”
Information about gathering and events
Mendocino County has not documented any cases of community spread as of March 9, and so the county’s public health officer is not currently recommending the cancellations of any events.
However, in preparation for the potential spread of the coronavirus, county officials recommend event planners should: create a plan to modify, cancel, or postpone large events in the case of a local outbreak; modify, cancel or postpone large events if people are traveling to attend from places with outbreaks; discourage attendance by sick people; encourage social distancing and remote participation through live-streaming; provide prevention supplies to attendees such as sinks with soap, hand sanitizers, and tissues. The county’s March 9 press release on events can be read here.
Information about other county departments and agencies
The county is working on adjusting the general emergency plan to ensure continuity of services within departments, such as developing a plan for at least two back up staff for each department head in case the spread of COVID-19 impacts county staffing, said CEO Carmel Angelo on March 5. In response to questions about preparing county staff, including the independent contractors that serve as the county’s in-home care providers, HHSA Director Tammy Moss Chandler said they were working with those staff and clients along with adult and children’s protective service to prepare, including helping clients develop at home supply kits.
The county has the power to mandate quarantine under the authority of the public health director, and can require people can stay at home, although Dr. Doohan said everyone has cooperated and self-quarantined voluntary so far. However, people on the cruise ships are subject to federal quarantine authority.
The county is also coordinating with state and federal agencies, and representatives of Assemblyman Jim Wood, State Senator Mike McGuire, and Congressman Jared Huffman attended the county’s March 5 press conference to provide updates on state and federal responses, including billions in federal appropriations.