Update 8/17/21 — Another person has died from Covid-19, read the latest here.
MENDOCINO Co., 8/16/21 — A 63-year-old Willits woman has died from COVID-19, according to a press release Monday from Mendocino County Public Health, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus to 55 countywide. This is the third death from the virus reported so far in August. The press release says, “the individual in question was not vaccinated but had multiple underlying comorbidities.”
Since the month of August began, Mendocino County has experienced a record breaking number of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, including a daily peak of 95 cases last week, prompting health officials to issue new masking mandates, which went into effect August 10. You can read more about that here.
Mendocino County reported 65 COVID-19 cases since Friday, August 13, bringing the total to 5,332, according to Mendocino County Public Health’s Facebook page. Twenty-six people are currently hospitalized, five of which are in the ICU. There are 91 people currently in quarantine. At the August 9 press conference, Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren noted that 95% of people in Mendocino County who are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated, which is 12 times the rate of those who have received the vaccine, and unvaccinated residents comprise 88% of all local cases. “Please take the shot for you, for your family, and for your community,” Coren urged residents.
On Friday, Dr. Coren provided an overview of the extent of the current surge on the North Coast and across Northern California, noting that Mendocino County is not the only county in the region to be experiencing record high numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations, but that Humboldt, Lake, and Del Norte are also in a significant surge above the statewide average of positive cases per day. Coren said that the situation in Mendocino County had “significantly worsened” with an average positive case rate jumping from around 38 daily new cases per 100,000 residents per day on average two weeks ago to an average of more than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents per day last week.
During the meeting, Coren stated that “we don’t see an end to that” ongoing surge. So far, contract tracing has determined that the increase in cases has been primarily driven by community spread, not specific outbreaks. He explained that there have been circumstances where restaurant or retail workers may have come to work while positive for COVID-19 although asymptomatic, but still able to spread the virus. Both the rate of residents getting vaccinated and the number of residents seeking tests have increased over the last several weeks.
Coren noted that this regional uptick in cases and hospitalizations, the vast majority of which are among unvaccinated people, has resulted in an increased number of patients being transferred into Mendocino County hospitals from Humboldt and Lake counties, and a number of Mendocino County residents being transferred to regional hospitals. The increase in hospitalizations has also put a strain on staff, with Adventist Health hospitals in Mendocino County implementing new visitor restrictions as of August 12, with special exceptions. The hospitals will also be requiring staff to be vaccinated or regularly tested.
Mendocino County has some additional surge capacity that can be implemented should hospital beds become full, and could potentially continue to transfer patients elsewhere. However, an increase in hospitalizations also means a strain on staffing, which in other parts of the country with greater COVID-19 numbers has led to less availability of medical care for non-COVID patients.
As of Aug. 9, 62.1% of those eligible to receive the vaccine in Mendocino County are fully vaccinated, which is 54.3% of the total population, and of those over 12 years of age who are eligible, 72% have received at least one dose. Coren explained that due to the increased transmissibility of the delta variant, scientists had increased the previous estimates regarding the amount of vaccinated people required to control the virus from 70% to now 85-90% of a population being fully vaccinated to effectively eliminate the spread. In Mendocino County, Coren said that more Latino and “lowest resourced” residents had been vaccinated than the statewide average, but “it’s still not enough.”
New statewide and county requirements will be coming into effect in the upcoming weeks, which will require all health care workers, school staff, firefighters, emergency medical workers, other first responders, and state government workers to provide proof of vaccination or take regular COVID-19 tests. Coren has recommended that local employers implement similar policies, and said the county was planning to release a similar policy that private employers could use as guidance soon.
To address the current surge, county public health officials have requested additional help from the state, as well as community volunteers, to assist with ramping up vaccination and testing opportunities around the county in the coming weeks, and Coren noted that testing is up as much as 300% in some places. The county is also continuing other support programs such as contact tracing, the call center, and the “Great Plates” program, which delivers food to seniors using local restaurants. People needing assistance with food or housing due to COVID-19 should contact the call center, and those interested in volunteering should contact North Coast Opportunities volunteer network.
A number of community events planned for the coming weeks have been cancelled in the last few days due to public safety concerns during the ongoing surge, including the annual Blackberry Festival in Round Valley, the KindBud Campout planned for Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, as well as other smaller events and in person meetings. Other event organizers have requested that attendees wear masks and show proof of a recent negative test, such as at a recent festival also at Black Oak Ranch.
Schools are reopening this week, and like many other places experiencing a COVID-19 surge, Mendocino County is seeing an increase in the number of positive and symptomatic cases amongst children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Coren warned that households with young children and older or immunocompromised family members should maintain extra caution with masking and social distancing to prevent infections.
Coren reiterated the following guidelines: If you have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 for over 15 minutes during the course of a day, and you are unvaccinated, you should get a test and quarantine. If you are similarly exposed but are fully vaccinated, it is recommended that you do not need to quarantine, but remain careful about exposing others, and to get a test three to five days after exposure. If it turns out you are fully vaccinated but infected, you should formally self-isolate as it is still possible to infect others.
You can watch the full press conference from August 13, 2021 here:
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.