MENDOCINO Co., 7/29/21 — A 73 year old man from Willits was reported dead Wednesday as a result of a COVID-19 infection, marking 51 pandemic deaths in Mendocino County so far. A total of 45 new cases were reported Monday, including infections confirmed over the weekend, with 18 additional cases Tuesday and 12 more on Wednesday for a local total of 4,658, according to Mendocino County Public Health.
The delta variant – twice as contagious as older strains of COVID-19 and likely behind the surge in Mendocino County – has led public health officials across the country to consider once again changing course in response to the COVID virus that has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States. Mendocino County public health officials and some local jurisdictions are returning to masking recommendations as a way to slow the current surge.
Echoing Dr. Doohan and county officials at last week’s COVID update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations on Tuesday “for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.” The CDC added that preliminary evidence shows that “fully vaccinated [people] who do become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others.” They recommend getting “tested 3-5 days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and [wearing] a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.”
Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that California will require vaccinations or regular testing for state and healthcare workers. And late Wednesday, California Department of Public Health recommended universal masking for all individuals in all public indoor settings with special guidance for businesses, venue operators and hosts. CDPH noted that some exemptions would be made:
“The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:
– Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
– Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
– Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
– Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.”
For everyone else the CDPH recommends they wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
Across Mendocino County, towns such as Point Arena and Fort Bragg followed suit yesterday, issuing public statements recommending all residents and visitors wear masks. Fort Bragg City Manager Tabatha Miller said in a statement “this is a simple step that both fully-vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can take to protect themselves.”
Recommendations are not mandates, and it is up to state and local officials to implement it. Brian Bender, City Manager for the City of Willits, addressed the new masking recommendations at Willits’s City Council meeting Wednesday evening with a wait-and-see attitude. Bender said that while masks were not mandatory at City Hall, staff are required to wear a mask if engaging with the public. Beyond that, Bender said Willits was waiting to hear more details from county public health officials next week.
Anne Molgaard, Transition Director for the Public Health Branch of Health & Human Services, was reached by phone Wednesday afternoon. She told The Mendocino Voice that there were no known outbreaks in the county and cases were due to “community spread.” Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Andrew Coren will present the latest COVID-19 update to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday August 3.
“He’ll be discussing exactly what his recommendation is, which is now followed up by the CDC and also kind of qualified by the state order for certain areas,” Molgaard said. “Is anything going to change in Mendocino? Well, nothing’s going to change until at least Tuesday but there will be a discussion at the Board [of Supervisors meeting] about all this.”