UPDATE 8:15 p.m. — Mendocino Public Health had released a new health order which goes into effect tonight at midnight and will further loosen restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the order here, see a redlined version highlighting differences with the past order here, and see Public Health’s press release below.
The order results from loosening of structures made at the state level by Governor Newsom, which are now being enacted at the local level, and is not the result of Mendocino County enter the latter phase of “Stage 2,” an even greater relaxation of restrictions which is expected to go into effect late next week.
According to the Public Health Office, businesses that will be allowed to operate (as of 11:59 p.m. tonight) include:
…businesses which do not generally require close customer contact, and can provide services while maintaining appropriate social distancing from customers or the public, such as laundromats, dry cleaners, other laundry services, auto repair shops, car washes, landscapers, pet grooming, and dog walking
…businesses for which service provision may necessitate entry to private residences or community facilities, but [at which] social distancing can still be maintained, such as residential and janitorial cleaning services, HVAC services, appliance repair persons, electricians, plumbers, other mechanical tradespersons, handypersons, and general contractors.Mendocino Public Health
Business that still won’t be allowed are those at which close contact is still necessary, and these include hair and nail salons and other similar businesses.
UKIAH, 5/15/20 — A further loosening of shelter-in-place (SIP) restrictions and a major expansion of testing capacity are coming to Mendocino County in the next couple weeks. Today at a press conference delivered via social media CEO Carmel Angelo and Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan announced that because Governor Gavin Newsom had made some changes to state level SIP restrictions, the health officer would also be releasing a revised local health order either late today, or sometime tomorrow. These new relaxations could mean the resumption of animal grooming, and landscaping, among other things, though more will be clear once the new order is issued.
As of late this afternoon confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) remain stable at 13 in Mendocino County, with the overwhelming majority of those people recovered, and no deaths. Nationally 88,500 people have died as a result of the disease, over the last three months, with 1,858 deaths yesterday. And earlier today a group of about 20 protesters met in front of the courthouse in Ukiah, demonstrating for greater reopening in California.
(Here is the video)
However, even greater loosening of restrictions will follow soon thereafter, as Doohan plans to complete the “attestation,” a document demonstrating the Mendocino County has met certain COVID-19 prepraredness benchmarks set by the state — by the middle of next week, thus allowing this county to progress into the later half of the state’s “Stage 2” of the reopening plan. These new openings may include in-store retail shopping, limited dining-in at restaurants, new opportunities for kids to play together, and a new idea of a 12 person stable group composed of a more than one family that can come into more frequent contact, something referred to as a “bubble” and sometimes described colloquially as a “pod.” Such bubbles could for instance carpool together, or in another example given by Doohan, build a fence together and work on each-others’ land.
What’s more, new details about the OptumServe testing were revealed, namely that the company would be setting up a testing facility at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds, that testing would be available on an appointment, as well as limited walk-up, basis, and that those tests would become available sometime in the next couple weeks. The statewide goal of this testing is to allow all Californians to get tested, and Doohan noted that this will allow for some frontline workers to be retested periodically, people such as grocery store cashiers and paramedics.
California is currently in Stage 2 of a statewide four stage “Resilience Roadmap,” with Stage 1 having been the most restrictive shelter-in-place regime we were under for the past couple months, and Stage 4 marking the end of restrictions due to the pandemic, something that is not likely until a vaccine has been developed and widely enough distributed. Within Stage 2 there are gradations, which are occurring at different rates in different localities, with some counties quickly jumping to the least extensive implementation of Stage 2, some still working on fully developing “attesting” to their capacities, and some, such as Los Angeles County, committing to very strict lockdown measures remaining in place at least through midsummer.
Mendocino County has progressed into Stage 2 along with the rest of the state, but has not yet submitted an “attestation” that demonstrating critical benchmarks and allowing the county to loosen even more restrictions, while still safely combating the virus. Those benchmarks include: stabilizing the number of new cases and deaths from COVID-19 (something Mendocino has easily done), demonstrating a plan for contact tracing and case investigation, demonstrating surge capacity at hospitals for the eventually of a spike in cases, have sufficient reserves of PPE, having communication and public health guidance in place, and having at least 15 tests per 10,000 residents per day available, with an eye towards making that 20 per 10,000 eventually. On this last question Mendocino still falls short, but will very soon meet that mark with the arrival of the OptumServe testing facility.
That facility is being provided by the state, through the California Department of Public Health and the state’s contract with OptumServe. Sometime before Monday news of the exact timeline is expected to be released. When the testing facility does arrive it will be set up at the fairgrounds in Ukiah, and testing will be done on an appointment bassies, with some walk-ins allowed. The goal is to be able to test everyone in Mendocino County eventually. The tests will be free, though people with health insurance will be asked if they have insurance that will cover the cost. Tests will be of the nasopharyngeal variety, in which a swab is somewhat intrusively stuffed up the nose, to the region at the back of the nose and throat where the virus most prolifically multiplies. Those samples will most likely be driven to San Luis Obispo where the OptumServe lab is. Priority will be given to frontline workers, and at risk populations. And it is important to remember that this testing capacity will at first largely augment the “surveillance” testing done in the county, in which people who are not presenting symptoms are given tests to see if the virus is circulating within the community even among asymptomatic people.
The allocation of this testing comes after some struggle and lobbying on the part of local officials and our state representatives. Angelo noted in the press conference that she believed the call-to-action letter writing campaign had had some effect, as the voices of people in Mendocino County were finally heeded.
Doohan also thanked the California Department of Public Health, in conjunction with UCSF, for doing training in contact tracing and case investgation. She said that North Coast Opportunities (NCO) has been coordinating volunteers to be trained in the work.