Update: Tuolumne County Exceeds State COVID-19 Case Mark, Closures Likely
Update at 7 p.m.: With Tuolumne County having met one of the metrics for the state county monitoring by having 108 cases per 100,000 population, as detailed in the article below, Clarke Broadcasting contacted Health Officer Dr. Liza Ortiz regarding how likely it is that the county will make the state’s “watchlist.” She predicts, “I’m pretty certain that we’re going to make the list in a couple of days here. We have certainly had enough transmission over the past two-ish weeks that it’s been significantly higher than before.” Dr. Ortiz added, “We know that our neighbors are experiencing incredibly high rates of transmission, so we know that there is more danger today than there was at the beginning of this pandemic.”
Dr. Ortiz added further clarification as to what impact this could have on the county related to closures. “Additional business sectors would have to move to outdoor only. We would have to add some additional sectors to be outdoor only, including personal care services and hair salons and most non-essential critical infrastructure offices. It also means that a school district in that county cannot open for in-person instruction at the beginning of the fall semester.” Also, closed would be gyms, places of worship, ceremonial gatherings (weddings and funerals), and tattoo parlors.
One common charge being made for the rise in cases is that visitors from surrounding counties continue to bring the virus to our doorstep. Dr. Ortiz rejects that argument, stating, “We have many, many cases. The majority of the cases are community transmission. It is in our county.”
Dr. Ortiz also does not tie the county’s climbing case numbers to one event or clusters, the latter which is typically workplace-related. “With community transmission, it’s been incredibly difficult to tie any of these cases to any one particular event. A lot of people have done quite a lot of things that are not recommended, so there has been a lot of exposures for most of these cases.”
Once on the state’s watchlist, the only way to get off is to reduce the rate of community transmission and less hospital utilization by coronavirus positive cases for three consecutive days, informs Dr. Ortiz. To achieve that, she says, residents need to stay home and use a key and proven tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“Masks are incredibly important. We recommend that people not go out in public unless necessary, but obviously there are some necessary circumstances and you should have a cloth face covering on at that time,” advises Dr. Ortiz.
Original post at 4:55 p.m.: Sonora, CA – For the first time Tuolumne County’s coronavirus case numbers have surpassed the state’s benchmark metric for monitoring counties and threatens possible closures.
Public Health officials released a written statement with this breakdown of the county’s current numbers. “The number of new cases today brings our county’s 14-day case rate to 108.88/100k (108 cases per 100,000 population), exceeding the 100/100k mark, which is one of the metrics for the state’s county data monitoring program. If we remain at this case rate for 3 consecutive days, we will be added to the state ‘watchlist’.”
Other metrics for the watchlist used by the state include the number of coronavirus hospitalizations, hospital bed availability, and the case positivity rate. Public health officials warn that when a county is on the watchlist for three consecutive days, “they must implement more restrictive closures and mitigation measures as determined by the state, including schools starting the year with distance learning only.”
Since there is a delay in state reporting, the county may not appear on the watchlist immediately, which means that no action will be taken until the county is officially on the list and has gone through the established process with the state, according to health officials.
Currently, the total number of positive cases in the county is 117 with eight new cases identified today, as reported here.