COVID TESTING & VACCINE INFO: For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and masking, contact the Mendocino County Public Health COVID19 Call Center at (707) 472-2759 or visit their website here. You can read our ongoing coverage of the pandemic here, and find the current county COVID-19 data here.
UPDATED 7:45 p.m. — A little additional information has come to light. The County of Mendocino has confirmed that three people have been hospitalized as a result of this outbreak of COVID-19.* Adventist Health has clarified that two people are hospitalized at Ukiah Valley Medical Center, one of them a Mendocino County resident, and the other pastor Jack McMilin who is a Lake County resident. A third person, who is a Lake County resident, has been hospitalized in Lake.
MENDOCINO Co., 5/22/20 — On the eve of major reopening in Mendocino County — including the resumption of in-restaurant dining and in-store retail shopping — a large outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been discovered in connection with the Mother’s Day service at the Redwood Valley Assembly of God church. Six new cases of COVID have been confirmed in Redwood Valley bringing the total number of cases in the county to 21.
In addition, there is now some suspicion that there may an outbreak at the workplace of the man who was Mendocino’s 15th case. That workplace is in Sonoma County and testing is being offered to Mendocino Co. residents who work there, but who reside here.
In a Friday afternoon online press conference Mendocino County Public Health Officer Noemi Doohan, and Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo stressed that with these new outbreaks and with the additional reopenings, as well as the Memorial Day Weekend, the coming days and weeks will be a risky time for Mendocino County.
(Watch the press conference below)
Asked if a major outbreak could lead to a renewed lock-down, Doohan said she remained hopeful, but that if the number of cases began to strain the county’s medical infrastructure, then she would be forced to reinstitute a strict shelter-in-place.
“If we have people defying the health officers orders, in other words coming, together having parties — if businesses do not comply with the orders…[then] this weekend could be disastrous for us,” added Doohan.
Said Doohan, “I plead with you to please support your health officer; please support the public health orders.” She explained that safety, hygiene, and public distancing efforts, that have been for the most part well followed by the residents of Mendocino, are the chief reason that that Mendocino County has so far avoided substantial outbreaks of the disease, but that with reopening such efforts have become more important than ever.
Doohan noted that early in the pandemic she had anticipated that the pandemic would come to Mendocino in late May, and she asserted in the press conference that this appeared to be coming true. She went on to say that with reopening she expected to see a much greater number of cases in the coming weeks.
“I think as we go out into the summer we’re going to see more outbreaks,” said Doohan.
Angelo concurred, noting that urban and suburban counties were hit earlier, but that it was inevitable that the disease would also come to rural areas, “We have to reopen, we have to consider the people in this community…our goal as is yours is to have an improved quality of life. We need to do that but we need to do that safely.”
The six new cases were announced at the press conference. The information had been received only this morning, as the results of mass testing in Redwood Valley had become available. The initial three cases of COVID were announced last week, in connection with a live-stream taping of a church service, which included singing, at the RVAG church. One of those cases was a Mendocino resident. The other two were pastor Jack McMilin and his wife, both Lake County residents. McMilin remains hospitalized at Ukiah Valley Medical Center, but has not apparently required a ventilator. The six new cases are in isolation.
The additional six cases in Mendocino are connected with these initial three, and contact tracing is occurring now in an effort to understand the flow of the virus and if more people are infected. Doohan said that if you were among the hundreds tested in Redwood Valley, but have received no notice that you are positive — then you tested negative. People who test negative are often simply not informed.
Exactly how the initial three became infected remains unclear, but Doohan did say that it is now suspected that there may have been a fourth person at the church during filming.
As to the possibility of reverting into a forced lockdown, Doohan said that would be the case, if “we have so many new cases that it’s straining our healthcare system…and we cannot stay ahead of the increasing number of cases that’s when we’d have to go backwards.”
*Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that all three people had been hospitalized in Mendocino Co.