MENDOCINO Co., 5/18/20 — Mendocino Public Health has announced the name of the church involved in the transmission event which resulted in the 14th confirmed case of COVID-19 in Mendocino County; announcements have also been made about increased testing happening in Redwood Valley, Mendocino College, and Fort Bragg.
Free COVID testing will be provided by Public Health tomorrow, May 19, at Eagle Peak Middle School in Redwood Valley from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. In addition the City of Ukiah is conducting a round of free surveillance testing at Mendocino College, on Wednesday and Thursday, which will be drive-up and walk-up. Fort Bragg is also conducting a round of tests by appointment, though they are targeting frontline and essential workers, and their testing schedule has been largely filled up. (More specifics about testing below)
On Mother’s Day, May 10, a live-streamed church service was conducted at the Redwood Valley Assembly of God (RVAG) church. The service appears to have only included three people: the pastor, Jack McMilin who lists Lucerne as his residence on his Facebook page and who has been hospitalized at Ukiah Valley Medical Center with COVID, a female singer, and the person filming. The service was live-streamed to Facebook, and a video of the event remains on the RVAG Facebook page. In the video the pastor and the female singer both sing, and are separated by what looks to be more than six feet of space.
When the announcement was first made by Public health on Sunday county officials did not release the name of the church or infected people, asking instead that the church voluntarily come forward. Public health officials are now asking anyone who may have been in contact with people connected to the church or service to seek testing, saying, “If individuals have recently visited the Assembly of God church in Redwood Valley, or have come in contact with individuals involved in the live stream service production on Mother’s Day, we encourage you and your close contacts to get tested for COVID-19.”
They add, “Any individuals who have recently visited the Assembly of God church in Redwood Valley, or participated in the Redwood Valley Assembly of God Mother’s Day live stream, (including close contacts) are urged to come for this free testing if they are not sick, or to contact their medical provider and seek medical attention (call ahead) if they are sick.”
RVAG has confirmed that McMilin was hospitalized with COVID, and Mendocino Public Health has stated that three people involved in this service have been confirmed to have COVID — one of those people is a Mendocino County resident who counts as the 14th case, while McMilin and the other person are Lake County residents. Based on the information given by Public Health it is unclear whom the vector was, or even if one of these people was a vector, or if they all were infected by a fourth unidentified person.
McMilin’s condition currently not public. McMilin made a post on on the RVAG Facebook page on May 11, which has a photo of a woman holding a sign that says, “Why can we go to Walmart but not to church!??” McMilin also has another video posted of the Wednesday Bible study, in which he does not show any obvious symptoms of the disease such as cough or labored breathing. In a different post on a related page a congregant confirms that McMilin is in the hospital with pneumonia.
Redwood Valley: Free testing is being offered tomorrow, Tuesday, at Eagle Peak Middle School from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and people connected to RVAG are urged to come in for a test. This testing is of the surveillance variety with the goal of catching community spread early, and asymptomatic cases — if you are ill you are advised to contact your doctor and make an appointment, informing them beforehand of the illness so that precuations may be taken.
Ukiah: The City of Ukiah will be conducting tests at Mendocino College (though it is outside of city limits) in cooperation with Mendocino County. Ukiah has 100 tests avaliable Wednesday and 100 avaliable Thursday, and will be conducting drive-up tests on a first come first serve basis beginning at 9 a.m. until the tests run out.
Tami Bartolomei, Office of Emergency Management coordinator for Ukiah, explained that the tests are of the nasopharyngeal variety, and that the city has 200 sample kits. She said that accommodations will be made for people who walk up, but that drive-up is safer. The tests are being provide through Mendocino County Public Health and she was unsure where the actual testing will be processed, but noted that previously tests have been processed at UCSF.
She added that the city is partnering with Adventist Health who are providing nurses, and that 11 paramedics with Ukiah Valley Fire have also been trained to assist. In addition North Coast Opportunities will be providing assistants for the clerical and non-medical side of things.
Said Bartolomei, “Anybody should come, unless you’re feeling ill, or you have a cough…we can’t test if a person is not feeling well.” She said people who are ill should contact their physician. This testing is also of the surveillance variety, and part of the statewide effort to raise testing capacity to a level that will allow close monitoring of potential community spread, and thus speed reopening.
People who test negative will not get a notification, people who test positive will be notified within two to five days. People will be asked to leave a phone number to be contacted, and likely a name and birth date.
Fort Bragg: In Fort Bragg another 200 tests are being conducted, by appointment, and the slots have already largely filled up. Fort Bragg is taking a more targeted approach and has directly contacted employers of essential businesses to attempt to test essential and frontline workers who are most likely to have been exposed to the disease. Fort Bragg’s tests are also coming through Public Health.
Tabitha Miller, Fort Bragg’s city manager, explained that this kind of survellience testing not only has the advantage of catching community spread early, but that when negative results come back it, “reinforces to our community that things are good.”
Here is the press release from Mendocino County Public Health:
Health Officer Update Regarding 14th Case and Redwood Valley Surveillance Testing
Post Date: 05/18/2020 1:43 PM
On Sunday, May 17, 2020, the Health Officer issued additional information regarding Mendocino County’s 14th COVID-19 case and the two other related cases from Lake County. Public Health has determined the 14th case was exposed to COVID-19 at an inland Mendocino County church on Mother’s Day, May 10, a day where a live stream service with singing was recorded. At the time of that press release, the County did not release the church information to protect privacy. The church has since announced on social media that the pastor of the church has been diagnosed with COVID-19. If individuals have recently visited the Assembly of God church in Redwood Valley, or have come in contact with individuals involved in the live stream service production on Mother’s Day, we encourage you and your close contacts to get tested for COVID-19.
Free COVID-19 testing will be offered by Mendocino County Public Health on Tuesday, May 19 in Redwood Valley at Eagle Peak Middle School from 7:00 am – 2:00 pm. Any individuals who have recently visited the Assembly of God church in Redwood Valley, or participated in the Redwood Valley Assembly of God Mother’s Day live stream, (including close contacts) are urged to come for this free testing if they are not sick, or to contact their medical provider and seek medical attention (call ahead) if they are sick.
Mendocino County is continuing its case investigation and contact tracing for the 14th COVID-19 case. Mendocino and Lake County Public Health are working together to reach any other individuals who have been exposed to this outbreak.Mendocino Public Health
Supervisor Ted Williams also made the following statement:
The pandemic has been a learning experience for all of us. The recent cases involving Assembly of God church in Redwood Valley highlight our fragility in riding the line of adequate precaution. I personally do not feel comfortable dictating how churches may operate, but I do hope we can partner to protect the most vulnerable members of society. Neither returning to normal nor sheltering indefinitely are prudent. The long horizon necessitates transitioning from extreme sheltering to operating with new safety measures. I’ve yet to meet a public official in our county who is not concerned about interfering with the rights of the people. Threats of legal action over limits on group singing, whether in church or other venues, do not provide the best path for joint engagement in brainstorming solutions. We have an opportunity to collaborate towards upholding freedoms while respecting the needs of our health-compromised and elderly neighbors. Many commercial media companies, by their nature, will hype any message capable of selling advertisements. Nevertheless, for those who end up in the intensive care unit, no matter the statistical rate, the experience is far from hype. I encourage anyone who could have been in contact with the mentioned church to be tested. Your test could save a life. If privacy stops you, reach out to me anonymously and we’ll find a path forward. Our best hope for protecting health and the economy will come from working together.
Here’s our previous coverage: