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.
MENDOCINO Co., 9/21/21 — Mendocino County reported one additional Covid-19 death today, four on Monday, as well as two additional deaths on Tuesday, September 14, with 26 occurring during the most recent surge. This means that a full third of the overall total of 75 fatalities over the course of the virus has occurred since July 29. To counter the surge, the county released a new order requiring all businesses serving food and beverages indoors to post green, yellow or red signs announcing their policies around vaccinated staff and customers. Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren announced the new order Monday, explaining that it will go into effect November 1, 2021.
The most recent report of fatalities from the virus over the last week include a 94-year-old vaccinated woman from Ukiah; a 68-year-old unvaccinated man from Ukiah; a 66-year-old vaccinated woman from Gualala, who had multiple comorbidities and had traveled to Riverside County; a 79-year-old unvaccinated man from Ukiah; an 85-year-old woman from Ukiah, vaccinated with multiple comorbidities; a 98-year-old vaccinated woman from Ukiah; and a 96-year-old vaccinated man from Fort Bragg. There have been 12 deaths from Covid-19 in the county this month, including the youngest people to die from the virus.
An additional 56 positive new COVID-19 cases were announced today, with 13 people in the hospital and another eight in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The county’s current vaccine breakthrough case rate is 339 cases out of a total of 50,500 vaccinated people, putting the local vaccine efficacy rate at 99.329%. According to Coren, last week the county’s test positivity rate was at 10%, and the county is looking to expand testing opportunities.
During a presentation to the Board of Supervisors on September 14, Coren noted that while the county’s average daily case rate has been declining — it is now at 53.47 for the weekly average of daily new cases per 100,000 people on September 21 — hospital and staffing capacity in Mendocino County and the North Coast region remains a serious problem and that “staff is exhausted.” Local hospitals have vacillated between none or very few staffed ICU beds for several weeks, despite requests for state staffing assistance, which so far has only resulted in the addition of one respiratory therapist. The vast majority of hospitalized patients and fatalities are amongst unvaccinated people, Coren emphasized.
The Monday announcement from the county about the recent Covid-19 deaths states: “We are definitively experiencing a recent surge in deaths, perhaps associated with Labor Day,” reported Dr. Andy Coren, Mendocino County’s Public Health Officer. “While several of this recent group were vaccinated, they were elderly and with many comorbidities. Overall, however, vaccines are proven effective.” Public health officials have warned residents to take caution when attending events that put them in contact with those outside their household, and Coren has asked residents to continue to follow public safety guidelines through the upcoming fall and winter holidays.
The new county public health order released today will require restaurants and other businesses selling food and beverages indoors to put up green, yellow, or red signage that aligns with their requirements for staff and customer vaccinations by November 1, which Coren has described as akin to a consumer safety label on grocery items. Businesses who require staff and customers eating indoors to be vaccinated should use a green sign, those who require staff vaccinations but not customers should use a yellow sign, and businesses who are not requiring vaccinations for customers or staff should use a red sign (see full order below). Masks are mandated to be worn indoors at all businesses unless customers are actively eating or drinking.
Workers in a number of different industries are required to be vaccinated or regularly tested due to state and federal mandates, and Mendocino County plans to implement a similar requirement for workers including health workers, school staff, county employees, law enforcement, and emergency responders. During last week’s supervisors’ meeting, supervisors discussed the financial and logistical difficulties with implementing regular testing for employees who are not yet vaccinated, and whether said employees should be charged additional costs for health insurance so as to lessen the burden on the county and employees who had been vaccinated. (Watch the full meeting here).
According to William Schurtz, the county’s human resources director, initial estimates are that there are approximately 275 to 300 county employees who are not yet vaccinated. Some departments have a much higher percentage of unvaccinated employees, including social services, general services, probation, and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. Most other departments have reported unvaccinated employees “in the single digits.” The Sheriff’s Office is using testing services through the jail’s private medical contractor Naphcare. Coren confirmed that the majority of employees requesting vaccination exemptions did not claim a medical reason. He said those claiming medical exemptions comprised only “a small percentage” of unvaccinated county staff.
Due to the current limited availability of rapid tests, the county has requested a six-month supply directly from a manufacturer so as to facilitate ongoing employee testing due to the required statewide order, but the current supply of rapid tests will run out the week of September 27. The new supply of rapid tests, purchased directly from Abbott, will not arrive until October 15. The county will also need to consider the ongoing costs of staff time and tests, as well as potential travel time to a testing site if necessary, which will vary depending on test availability, frequency, and employee location. Over the next six months, these costs could range from $8 to $100 per test, an estimated cost of $80,000 to one million over six months, plus an $375,000 in employee costs calculated at a rate of one 30 minute appointment per employee — which would change if travel time is included.
Ultimately, supervisors decided to delay implementing the policy to further determine the future availability of rapid tests, and consider a proposal for recouping some of the financial costs of testing unvaccinated employees via proposed changes to the county’s health care plan for those specific employees.
Many of the current cases have been traced to restaurant and retails establishments, and the most recent announcement concerning local outbreaks on September 14 included the Safeway in Willits, Sherwood Oaks and Redwood Cove skilled nursing facilities, and the Hospitality House shelter in Fort Bragg, Coren stated. He noted that the current policy is that public health will issue an announcement concerning Covid-19 cases and outbreaks when it is determined that person may have had contact with the general public, but not in other cases, as opposed to earlier in the pandemic when announcements were determined by the number of cases involved in an outbreak.
There have also been a significant number of cases in the Covelo area, and Coren explained that Round Valley Tribal Health, with training from the California Department of Public Health, has been providing subcutaneous monoclonal antibodies for residents.
Tthe Pfizer vaccine has been shown effective for children 5- to 12-years-old, but additional third shot boosters of the Covid-19 vaccine are still only recommended for people with specific medical conditions and not for the general public. In recent presentations, Coren has noted that the county is planning to increase vaccination opportunities in the coming months to ensure unvaccinated residents, those who may need third shot boosters due to specific medical conditions, and children will have ample opportunities to get the vaccine. He has also requested additional volunteers to assist with the effort. Those interested should contact North Coast Opportunities, Inc.