Editor’s note: Dr. William Miller, chief of staff at the Adventist Health Mendocino Coast Hospital, is writing weekly reports concerning the COVID-19 situation on the Mendocino Coast. We are pleased to be running his health column, with details on the medical fight against the pandemic. The views shared in this weekly column are those of the author, Dr. William Miller, and do not necessarily represent those of The Mendocino Voice or of Adventist Health.
On Friday, March 14th, Mendocino County moved from the most restrictive tier, Purple, of the State’s COVID containment plan, the so called “Blueprint for a Safer Economy”. We are now in the somewhat less restrictive Red tier. This is happening because of lower COVID positivity rates on surveillance testing in our county as well as statewide vaccination rates in underserved populations. Here is a run down of what we can do in the red tier:
- Grocery stores: May now admit 100% capacity.
- Retail stores: May now admit a max of 50% capacity.
- Museums: May now have indoor activities with a max of 25% capacity.
- Places of worship: May continue to have indoor activities with a max of 25% capacity.
- Movie theaters: May now have indoor activities with a max of either 100 people OR 25% capacity, whichever is fewer.
- Gyms: May now have indoor activities with a max of 10% capacity.
- Restaurants including Wineries, Breweries and Distilleries serving meals: May now have indoor activities with a max of 100 people OR 25% capacity, whichever is fewer.
- Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries (where no meal is provided): May continue to operate outdoors. Patrons must make reservations, staying for a max of 90 minutes.
- Bars (where no meal is provided): Must remain closed.
- Masks are still required in the community when persons are unable to maintain social distancing. Masks are NOT required when in the open and maintaining greater than 6 feet distancing, such as when walking on trails, bike riding, jogging, etc.
Another big difference is that hospitals and nursing homes can start having visitors again. The rules are slightly different for each, however, for both, any person who is actively ill with COVID symptoms or who tested positive for COVID within the previous 14 days will be asked to postpone their visitation. Here are the specifics for Mendocino Coast:
- AHMC Hospital: One visitor per patient at a time (except for end of life visits in which all next of kin may enter). No time limit or appointment necessary. Visitors must remain masked at all times. Following Adventist Health’s desire to make our hospitals more welcoming and create a more nurturing and healing environment, we are eliminating visiting hours. After hour visitors will enter through the emergency room entrance.
- Sherwood Oaks Nursing Home: Visitors must schedule their 30 minute visits in advance; for Thursday through Monday, a maximum of 2 visitors at a time, with no more than one visit daily for each family member. Masks must be worn by all visitors and the resident during the visit and remain at least 6′ apart with brief physical contact allowed if both visitor and resident have been fully vaccinated. Pre-visit testing for COVID will not be required, but is encouraged.
Looking forward, what will it take to go to the next lower tier, orange? The tier system is complicated, perhaps needlessly so. However, that seems to be the way we do things in California. We must wait a minimum of 3 weeks in a tier before moving to a lower tier and maintain the lower tier’s metrics for two consecutive weeks. The positive test metric is 1.0 – 3.9 new cases per 100,000 population or 2.0-5.9 daily new cases per 100,000 population if the state meets its health equity goals described below.
The metrics are relaxed somewhat if the entire state meets its health equity goals of vaccinating underserved, at risk populations. The goal of 2 million vaccinations in this category was reached last week which helped us move to the red tier. The next goal is 4 million vaccinations to underserved, at risk Californians, which will help us move to orange.
If you are interested in a more detailed examination of the tier system, please go to the California Department of Public Health website: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/