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UPDATE 5/13/20, 9:30 a.m. — Adventist Health has stated that they tested 54 staff members who came into contact with the sick nurse. Of those tests 32 have so far come back negative and the remainder are pending.
MENDOCINO Co., 5/12/20 — A traveler nurse working at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Fort Bragg has tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and staff at the hospital, now operated by Adventist Health, are being tested for the virus. Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan announced the situation during her presentation at the Board of Supervisors’s meeting this morning (which is ongoing). Doohan said she was made aware of the situation last night.
During the same presentation Doohan also said, “It is my opinion as health officer that this outbreak has gone underground in the town of Covelo.” She added that Public Health would be offering free anonymous testing in Covelo tomorrow, Wednesday.
The health officer explained that the nurse is a “traveler nurse,” who resides in Oregon and travels to Fort Bragg for work. The nurse will therefore not be officially counted with the 12 other confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mendocino County, as they are not a resident. However, there is apparently a risk that the nurse may have been infectious while working in the hospital, and Adventist has begun testing hospital staff and doing contact tracing. The hospital staff tests are pending.
In a statement Adventist Health explained the nurse had been tested out-of-county, and that they are presenting with mild symptoms and recovering at home. Adventist is conducting extra deep cleaning, per CDC guidelines, and has had additional safety protocols in place since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Thirty tests were performed in Fort Bragg yesterday and are being processed at the Ukiah Valley Medical Center which has a COVID-19 testing machine, and is also an Adventist hospital. Results are anticipated soon. During questioning Dr. Doohan emphasized that the situation in Fort Bragg remains very uncertain.
In Covelo recent contact tracing work has brought to a light a person who was in contact with the infected Round Valley family, and who later fell ill, but who has not come forward for testing. This person appears to be in the town of Covelo, not on the Round Valley Indian Tribes Reservation. Doohan said of the Tribes’ efforts, “They’ve done a very good job of containment on the reservation.”
There is reason to believe that this potentially sick person was isolating, but Doohan noted that Public Health had been unable to identify the person. She emphasized that anonymity is an important tool for public health officials, because many people are worried about having their status as infected widely known. Said Doohan, “This is one of the reasons that I have not released information about cases to say exactly where they are because then they wouldn’t trust public health.”
Instead, Public Health will be returning to Covelo tomorrow to conduct free anonymous COVID-19 testing, asking people only for a phone number, that they may be called to be informed of their test results.
While questioning Doohan, Supervisor Ted Williams who represents portions of the coast but not Fort Bragg, said that he had spoken to family members of someone affected by this potential outbreak, and that there were concerns about the practice of having traveling nurses, who might act as vectors.
Doohan explained due to the shortage in staffing across the nation, quarantine restrictions for healthcare workers have been relaxed by the CDC, “It is not required by the CDC to quarantine individuals who are heath care professional who’ve had an [high risk] exposure even.” She elaborated that it is common in rural communities, including Mendocino County, that many healthcare professionals travel into the community to work. She highlighted this fact as a reason why Mendocino deserves more testing from the state, calling it an “equity issue.”
Here is the statement from Adventist Health which is now operating the Mendocino Coast District Hospital:
Tuesday May, 12, 2020 (Fort Bragg California) — Yesterday, we were notified that one of our team members tested positive for COVID-19. We are in the process of notifying and testing those who may have come in contact with the team member, including staff and patients. The impacted staff member was tested out of the county and therefore was counted as a positive case in that area and will not be counted in Mendocino County case counts. The employee currently has mild symptoms, did not have to be hospitalized and is currently recovering at home.
After learning of the positive test results, we immediately notified and worked very closely with the Mendocino County Public Health Department and they are currently performing additional contact tracing.
As an added precaution, we have performed additional deep cleaning and disinfection of the areas that the employee worked out of following CDC guidelines for infection prevention.
Additionally, the hospital has been following safety and infection prevention procedures for the past several weeks as part of mitigating the spread and protecting patients and staff, including:
- Universal masking required in all areas of the hospital
- Maintaining social distancing
- Practicing hand hygiene including utilization of hand sanitizer
- Conducting screening for all staff and visitors to rule out fever, cough or shortness of breath prior to entry
- Limiting visitors to reduce foot traffic and contact
- Performing additional cleaning and disinfecting of all areas, including waiting areas
As health care professionals continue the frontline fight against COVID-19, we are thankful for community members who continue to shelter in place and adhere to the prevention guidelines outlined by public health officials. The safety of our staff and our patients remain our priority. Rest assured that we continue to take additional precautions to provide a safe environment to care for our community.