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.
UPDATE 8/24 — The county’s 59th death was announced today, the second in two days the fifth reported since August 16 — see our latest update here.
MENDOCINO Co., 8/23/21 — Mendocino County Public Health announced two additional deaths from COVID-19 since Friday: a 41-year-old woman from Willits, and a 66-year-old woman from Redwood Valley, both of whom were unvaccinated. That brings the overall number of people lost to COVID-19 to 58, with eight of those cases since July 29 and three in the last week. The county also announced an additional 124 cases after the weekend, bringing the county’s daily average positive case rate to more to 60 new cases a day on average over the last week.
Mendocino County, along with Humboldt, Lake, and Del Norte counties, have seen significant case increases in the last month, putting a strain on regional hospitals. Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren said on Friday that intensive care unit (ICU) capacity was at 12.5%, and positive case rates and hospitalizations have significantly exceeded last winter’s peak.
Current new cases are primarily attributed to community spread, although cases have been reported at retail and restaurant locations, as well as what Coren called a “tightly controlled” cluster of cases at the county jail announced last week, and two cases at healthcare facilities. The county has issued announcements for individual businesses when a person with COVID-19 has interacted with the broader public. “If you have symptoms, please stay home and get a test,” whether or not you are vaccinated, Coren told area residents.
Adventist Health, which manages the three hospitals in Mendocino County, has been experiencing ongoing strain due to the continuous increase in COVID-19 cases, and announced today that non-emergency elective in-patient surgeries would be temporarily rescheduled to save beds for COVID-19 patients. There are currently 19 people in the hospital, a decrease from last weekend, and 8 in the ICU, and last week Mendocino County was granted a waiver to more readily transfer patients to out-of-county hospitals as needed due to the surge.
Coren emphasized that 95% of current hospitalizations are unvaccinated people, and that it is putting the community at risk, noting this will make it hard to find beds for patients with “heart attacks and other kinds of things.” Mendocino County hospitals restricted visitors on Aug. 12 and last week Adventist Health representatives said they had requested additional nursing staff.
State workers, school staff, health care workers, fire fighters, emergency medical personnel and law enforcement will be required to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing according to new county and state policies, and Coren said he was developing guidance for local businesses to implement similar policies. There is a current indoor masking order in the county, and Coren emphasized that attending gatherings is an “individual choice at this point,” suggesting residents may want to avoid large gatherings due to the scale of the current surge.
Mendocino County schools opened last week, and Coren said that positive cases were found at three different schools out of 53 in the county. He explained that due to state protocol, which also requires staff to be vaccinated or tested regularly and masking, contact tracers would be able to selectively quarantine any exposed students to avoid shutting down entire classrooms due to positive cases. Schools will be requiring weekly testing for staff and some students, especially those involved in sports, and will use rapid testing upon entry for students showing symptoms.
Coren said he expected vaccine approval for children under 12 in the next two months, and asked parents to make sure they had sent in any necessary forms for testing and other protocols. He also said the county had developed a set of guidelines for student sporting events that included recommendations for not only players but attendees.
Vaccinations have been increasing in the last several weeks, and 54% of county residents have received two doses. The county has been increasing vaccine pop-up clinics and testing opportunities, as well as the call center staffing. Coren said that immunocompromised people who may be eligible for a third dose booster should contact their health care provider before going directly to a vaccination clinic. Today, the Federal Drug Administration issued full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, and Coren said he expected a vaccine being developed specifically for the delta variant to be available in the next month.
Due to the ongoing wildfires across Northern California, Coren recommended that residents consider the balance of COVID-19 exposure and wildfire smoke exposure when planning activities outdoors on smokey days.
Here’s the video of the August 20 press conference, along with the slideshow: