Editor’s Note: If you are presenting with symptoms of COVID-19 you should contact your doctor, or local clinic. If positive your case will be referred to Mendocino Public Health. Alternatively you can contact Public Health’s call center at (707) 234-4052 to be connected directly to the Public Health Communicable Disease Unit.
MENDOCINO Co., 4/24/20 — Supervisor Ted Williams, who represents the Fifth District and is known for his voluminous social media presence, said in a social media post Thursday that he had spoken by phone with a local woman who claimed to have tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In response to the supervisor’s retelling of this conversation, Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan made a statement urging members of the public who may have been infected to contact their doctors or Mendocino Public Health.
Williams later made a second Facebook post, relaying the (again unconfirmed) story of a different person who was confirmed to have COVID-19 in Mendocino County, but whose close relatives were supposedly not tested, though exposed. This person further elaborated a story of being unable to access care, and being improperly informed as to her potential continued contagiousness. Both statements stress the terrible debility and pain that came with the disease, including in one case, a claim of broken ribs from coughing. Williams voiced concerns that these statements (which he emphatically believes to be true, but which we cannot confirm) indicate the possibility that community spread has begun in Mendocino County. Community spread is happening in Sonoma County, and evidence from sewage plants in Lake County indicate that it may very well be happening there too.
In her statement Dr. Doohan said, “If this individual wants to help our community prevent the spread of this disease in our County, she will come forward to Mendocino County Public Health so she can be actively monitored in isolation by Public Health and a contact investigation can be initiated.”
This is an unusual circumstance, and as journalists, we would like to be fully transparent. We have not been able to independently fact-check or verify anything that Supervisor Williams has said in his Facebook posts. We would ideally prefer to have been able to contact these people directly, gather information, and then attempt to fact-check it before publishing. This process is often time consuming and onerous, but we do it because we hope it means that the information we provide you is totally accurate. However, in this case, being that Supervisor Williams is both a public figure and a sitting politician, his posts in-and-of-themselves constitute news. Furthermore, Dr. Doohan’s response to these is also informative. So, though we have not vetted or fact-checked these statements, here they are, along with Dr. Doohan’s statement.
First is the initial Facebook post from Williams, then the statement from Doohan, then William’s second post.
The moment we concluded the KZYX radio show last night, a woman phoned, having heard the hour and my cell number offered. Provoked by discussion about balancing our economic and health needs, she picked up the phone to share her story about surviving COVID-19, but insisted on remaining anonymous (no name, contact details, caller ID). After weeks of unsubstantiated claims and rumors, I was skeptical, but the 85 minute discussion left me without questions of credibility. She did approve of sharing her testimonial. She lives inland and shops in the Ukiah area. No flights, cruises or other travel outside of Mendocino County for months before becoming ill. She became ill in our county with initial symptoms experienced around March 16. The onset was gradual and she didn’t initially believe it could be COVID-19. Visiting her son in the bay area, he became infected and several of his friends became infected. All tested positive to official COVID-19 tests. She learned of her results just five days ago, towards the tail end of illness. Because the test was not performed here, we can’t count it and we don’t have access to the data. This is important to note, because it’s one more way our count under-represents. One of the (young) friends died as a result, in a hospital, connected to equipment for respiratory distress. The caller said they all had different symptoms with only persistent fever in common and noted the CDC symptoms list did not match her personal experience. She did not seek medical help and did not want to be intubated. She described excruciating pain as the worst component, noting she had to force herself to endure the pain of every breath for days. She was told by medical professionals in a bay area county to self isolate and that is what she is doing, the same as our county would direct. She reported being otherwise very healthy without pre-existing conditions and “not old”. She stated that two days ago she would have been unable to make it across the room to engage in the call. Inability to walk and pain were cited as the two greatest challenges of the journey. When we documented our first case on March 18, there was heated discussion about how much location information to share. CEO Carmel Angelo insisted that making specific locations public would encourage some people to not come forward, impeding our ability to contact trace. I’m at the opposite end of the privacy spectrum in that if I test positive, I’ll be on youtube and the radio sharing it with you, but we all have different preferences in regard to privacy. Angelo was right. The distastes for public eyes peering created desire for anonymity, ultimately resulting in reduced public health tracking. Assuming the facts are true as presented, and I have no reason to doubt, this case might qualify as our first community spread. To avert a flurry of questions, I must say, I don’t have more answers than this post includes. She ended by asserting her belief that if we experienced the pain she endured, described repeatedly as “not another flu”, we wouldn’t be focused on re-opening, but instead would be grateful to awaken for another day.
Alicia, thank you for allowing me time on KZYX.
Caller, The Mendocino Voice [we asked Supervisor Williams to add this after he had already posted this] has asked me to share their eagerness to give you an anonymous interview.Supervisor Ted Williams
Here is the statement from Dr. Noemi Doohan, public health officer for Mendocino County:
Supervisor Ted Williams has shared publicly that he has been contacted by someone who has not provided their name or address but has claimed they were tested for COVID-19 in another County and used a non-Mendocino County address for the results to be reported. If this individual wants to help our community prevent the spread of this disease in our County, she will come forward to Mendocino County Public Health so she can be actively monitored in isolation by Public Health and a contact investigation can be initiated. The contact investigation would allow Public Health to evaluate, and potentially test for COVID-19, the people in Mendocino County that she has had close contact with since she first reportedly became ill. Regarding the presence of community spread of COVID-19 in Mendocino County, I am doing everything in my power to protect our County from this danger by putting in place strong Sheltering-In-Place orders, mandating social distancing, mandating the wearing of facial coverings and focusing on containment through case contacts and contact investigations. I have also put in place Blanket Orders for Isolation and Quarantine to make sure people who are sick or exposed stay home or in an Alternate Care Site (ACS) unless they are hospitalized- another important tool for preventing community spread. Preventing community spread depends on the cooperation and collaboration of all people living and working in Mendocino County with the Health Officer orders and the Public Health department.Dr. Noemi Doohan
The Mendocino County Public Health Dept. further noted that:
“The anonymous individual should contact their local health care provider who will report the case information to Public Health or contact the Call Center at (707) 234-4052 to be connected directly to the Public Health Communicable Disease Unit.”
Later in the day Williams made a second post on Facebook describing the story that he heard from another putative convalescent:
With permission, I’m posting another anonymous COVID-19 testimonial from a brave Mendocino County resident. It offers an invaluable glimpse into the accuracy of local monitoring and tracking to date: You know – reading your post on Facebook about Public Health and “real numbers” is so accurate. My significant other got really sick 2 days after I did. Different symptoms than me – but all Covid-19 symptoms. Burning fever, fatigue, hacking dry cough etc. We both went to Public Health for testing, but they chose to only test me since I’d traveled and been exposed. The test was more than a week after I’d returned home from my trip, so of course I’d exposed him during that time. It was clear that we were both equally sick. What’s ironic is that although I was the only “confirmed” case, Public Health monitored both of us daily for symptoms and ordered us both quarantined until they declared us recovered on April 1. Also – So you can get a good picture of how this is being handled in our community – I received a letter via email from the CDC on March 18th saying I’d been exposed. It took over 8 phone calls to Adventist Health, Public Health and the Laws Avenue clinic over the course of 3 days to finally get tested, although they knew that I had both been exposed and was currently experiencing ALL the symptoms. After being declared “recovered” and free from Quarantine April 1 by Public Health (via having been symptom free for 3 days – NOT BY BEING RE-TESTED) I started coughing badly again about 4 days later. On April 5th I visited the ER. We discussed that I’d recently had Covid-19. They did a chest and rib X-ray and discovered that I’d fractured 2 ribs from coughing so hard. I asked if perhaps this was still Covid-19 and they said no – my chest x-ray was clear, I was getting good Oxygen, and it was a “post-virus” cough that would resolve soon. They sent me home with Percocet. The doctor there said to follow up with my regular doctor at Adventist. I called Adventist the next day. They said they’d call back with an appt. the next day. Over the course of the next 10+ days I received three calls from the Practice Manager at Adventist acknowledging that I needed an appt, and that they were “working on it.” Over the course of that week I mostly stayed home because my chest and ribs hurt.On April 16th I was still coughing so hard that I passed out at home, so we returned to the ER. The ER doctor took another chest x-ray and said that my lungs showed a little residual damage from the Covid and I just needed to give it a little more time. He said that my Oxygen was great, so nothing to worry about. They sent me home with Norco. On April 21 I finally got to see a FNP at Adventist. She prescribed Advair, cough syrup with codeine and a huge increase in my Albuterol inhaler. But here’s the kicker….. she said that the ER doctor from April 16th believed I could have either still been sick from Covid or I got it again – and that I was to self-isolate for another 14 days. NOBODY told me that then. AT ALL. In my package of paperwork to take home it talked about Corona virus in general and also proper use of child safety seats. (I don’t even have small children…) I wasn’t feeling great, so I didn’t go out much, but I did go to the grocery store once, to my mailbox, etc. Anyway – bottom line. Public Health numbers locally are skewed. Significant other clearly had Corona virus, and they knew it. I don’t know if I still have it or not since even though I’m “coughing” they aren’t going to retest me. It may be a post-virus cough and it may be a return of Corona virus. Flip of a coin? Who knows…..If there’s community spread you can see why. So much confusion and lack of communication. If this is my experience I have to wonder what the other “positive” cases have encountered.