Editor’s note: This is a developing situation and we are updating this article repeatedly, please scroll down for the original article and more context.
Furthermore: In response to some fears being voiced on Facebook we think it’s appropriate to clarify some points. The assistance of the National Guard has been requested by local officials and state representatives to deliver aid, including coronavirus testing materials, and medical tents to add surge capacity to Round Valley health facilities and also provide a place to segregate out COVID-19 patients from other people visiting the doctor. Neither the state nor federal government have unilaterally demanded access to Round Valley. This is not a request for the National Guard to serve in any law enforcement capacity, and the sheriff is cooperating and aware of the situation. This is akin to when the National Guard brings sandbags to a flood, or water bottles during an earthquake, and is a routine part of the disaster management aspect of the Guard.
UPDATE 4/28/20, 7:10 p.m. — CEO Angelo told The Mendocino Voice that as of late this afternoon of the 175 tests samples collected in Round Valley yesterday, 56 have been processed. Of those 56, 55 samples tested negative and one sample tested positive. That brings the total number of cases of COVID-19 countywide to 12 and in Round Valley to seven.
There is currently no conclusive decision from CalOES or the Cal National Guard as to whether the Guard will be delivering aid to Round Valley. As late as 6 p.m. yesterday it appeared that the Guard would be flying in helicopters with surge tents, test kits, and other equipment. As of now those plans appear to be on hold pending more testing, and then a decision as to whether such aid would be warranted on the part of the state.
We will continue to update as more information becomes avaliable.
UPDATE 4/27/20, 7:55 p.m. — According to Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo, the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) has made a decision Monday evening to delay, or cancel, the aid that was scheduled to arrive in Round Valley via National Guard helicopter tomorrow. Mendocino County personnel managed to conduct 175 tests in Round Valley today, which are being processed at Sonoma Public Health’s laboratory. Results from those tests are expected very soon. It was announced earlier today that the California National Guard had been preparing to send aid in the form of surge tents and other medical and supportive equipment to Round Valley, in response to the sudden spike COVID-19 cases, and the potential for the disease to quickly spread through the Round Valley Indian Tribes Reservation and Covelo.
Angelo said in a brief interview that at 7:20 p.m. she had received word from the state government that the aid would not be coming, and that the state government would instead wait for the results of coronavirus testing that was conducted today to come back, before making a decision about whether to send the aid to Round Valley.
Angelo said that things had been “back and forth” with the state all day, and as recently as 6:45 p.m. word had come that the state was sending aid. Indeed, Supervisor John Haschak posted on his personal Facebook page around 6:30 p.m. saying that the Guard would be sending aircraft with equipment, supplies, and aid to the Round Valley Airport tomorrow morning. As of time of publication this no longer appears to be true.
The County of Mendocino has been in discussions with a variety of state agencies on this subject including CalOES, the California EMS Department, California Public Health, and California Public Health. According to Angelo, the agency that decided to cancel (or delay) the aid was CalOES.
Asked about the role of Mendocino County’s representatives in the legislature Angelo said, “Senator McGuire has been our biggest champion, and has been Round Valley’s biggest champion, in getting additional resources to assist tribal health in response to this event.”
In a brief phone conversation Supervisor John Haschak Said, “I think with the outbreak that we’ve had certainly we need more testing and that’s going to be the critical factor…to keep the community safe — the longer they wait the more chance it has of spreading.”
Speaking about the local government’s capacity to deal with the crisis, and conduct sufficient tests, Haschak called the 175 tests a good start, but added that, “We need the full resources, we need the isolation and quarantine tents to be set up — we need the testing capacity to be really increased and we need their ability to put that together.” He also thanked Senator McGuire for his assistance in procuring resources for the county.
WILLITS, 4/27/20 — Substantial testing efforts are underway in Round Valley and the California National Guard will be bringing supportive equipment to the Round Valley Tribes Indian Reservation, sometime in the next few days. The local county government has sent 10 county workers, including medical personnel and clerical support staff to Round Valley in an effort to perform up to 200 tests, and conduct contact tracing investigations, after six people in Round Valley contracted the coronavirus last week.
As of this afternoon the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mendocino County still stands at 11.
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall noted in a brief phone interview that he wanted to advise the residents of Mendocino County of the possible presence of military vehicles, or aircraft, in the county in advance, in an effort to remain transparent. Though the past weeks have given rise to a great many fears and theories concerning the possible imposition of martial law or the like, it should be noted that in this case, the Guard is coming with pandemic supplies to aid the Round Valley Indian Tribes.
Currently the six confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Covelo are restricted to one family, and though it is possible that members of that family were out and about before they became symptomatic, since developing symptoms they have all be isolated, according to county officials.
However, given the close knit and isolated nature of the Round Valley and Covelo community, there is concern that the virus could spread rapidly, and as such the tribal, county and state governments are in close cooperation to deliver more resources and equipment.
The National Guard* will likely be traveling up U.S. Route 101 and SR-162 or potentially flying into the Covelo Airport with a Blackhawk of Chinook helicopter. They will be bringing surge and quarantine tents, as well as a triage tent for the Round Valley clinic, which will allow the clinic to continue operations while segregating potential COVID-19 patients. Such tents have become common the world over, and were set up at the three hospitals in Mendocino County. The Guard will also bring complimentary equipment and the ever elusive coronavirus testing cartridges which are necessary to perform the tests.
Though the Round Valley Indians Tribes clinic has procured an extremely rapid testing machine, that allows for same day tests, that particular kind of machine only works on people who are already beginning to present with symptoms, according to Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo. As such the county government has has dispatched the 10 county workers, mostly from the Health and Human Services Department, to perform nasopharyngeal swab tests, which will be driven promptly Sonoma County Public Health’s lab for testing. Those workers hope to perform up to 200 tests, though CEO Angelo noted that doing that many tests in one day would be extremely difficult. The crew will be given proper personal protective equipment (PPE), but are not receiving any kind of hazard pay.
That crew will also be conducting contact tracing, trying to figure out who may have been exposed to the virus, and focusing their tests on those people that may have had exposure. Angelo also explain in a brief interview that the family had likely contracted the virus in the Bay Area, and that two members of the family made trips to the Bay, with three separate instances of travel to the Bay to visit family.
(Some photos of the tests being conducted in Round Valley)
Speaking of the cooperation between the county government and the Round Valley tribal government Angelo said, “They knew that we wanted to help them and they absolutely were very gracious in wanting our help.” An attempt was made to contact Tribal Chairman James Russ, but he could not be reached by the time of publication.
Third District Supervisor John Haschak said in the brief interview that there had been a “soft promise” of an additional 2000 tests “for the community-at-large” from the state government. Both he and Angelo praised the cooperation of the state government. Asked for comment State Senator Mike McGuire’s office had not responded as of time of publication.
Haschak also noted that, “There’s a lot of high risk factors [in Round Valley], the closeness of the community, everything, the high incidence of diabetes. I think those are all high risk factors that elders in the community were concerned about.”
*A note on the California National Guard. Though the National Guard is a reserve component of the United States military, each state’s national guard is considered to be the militia of that state, and a such the Governor of California acts as the head of the California Guard, within the state.