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Managing Tuolumne County’s COVID-19 Case Surge

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Sonora, CA — With the spike in positive COVID-19 test results and hospitalizations, the County of Tuolumne Office of Emergency Services (OES) continues to work with the local hospital, Adventist Health Sonora. So far, Tuolumne County OES Coordinator Liz Peterson says the focus is on messaging. Specifically, the OES Preparedness Plan calls for crisis and risk communications as a critical component of the response to the current state of public health emergency which includes a travel ban and a curfew as detailed here.

The OES fully supports Tuolumne County Public Health’s message to follow the prevention guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 which are:

  • Practice physical distancing at all times. Keep 6 feet space between yourself and others who are not part of your household. Stay in your household bubble!
  • Wear a face-covering in public.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Avoid gatherings of any size with people who are not part of your household.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel and limit your outings to essential tasks.

Defeating COVID-19 requires collaboration between state government, local governments, research universities, technologists, citizen scientists, and other members of the public.

During emergencies Public Health will turn to DHV (Disaster Healthcare Volunteers) for the COVID-19 response, volunteers may be needed in the event Public Health needs to activate an Alternate Care Site, Family Assistance Center, or Responder Respite Center. Details on how to sign up were released here. OES is working with Adventist Health today on the scope of a request for additional medical volunteers. We will release the details as soon as they are available.

Hospitals say they’ve spent much of 2020 creating surge protocols, and they’re ready to rely on them if the current surge gets worse. We reached out to Adventist Health and Tuolumne County Public Health but no response has yet been given. In California the Medical/Health Mutual Aid System is facilitated by grouping counties, referred to as Operational Areas, together to form six Mutual Aid Regions. Tuolumne County is part of Region IV. The San Joaquin County Administers EMResource for the Region, other counties in Region IV include Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Yolo. Mariposa, and Merced are in the Inland Region V.

Hospital administrators make daily decisions about what procedures they can perform based on how many COVID-19 patients are coming in, how many ICU beds they have open and how many providers are available to staff them. The Adventist Health system currently shares resources within its many hospitals including staff like doctors and nurses. The hospital is using a surge tent to triage patients. A triage evaluation determines the degree of urgency of wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment for the multiple patients they are caring for. Details are in the news story here.

Each Hospital has plans that may call for converting sections into areas that can isolate airborne contagious individuals such as COVID-19 positive patients and/or expand intensive care areas if needed. The general plan for the area also features opening the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento into a facility that can manage patients. The facility was made available in April but was not used, currently, there are 244 beds in warm status, meaning if they are needed they can be made ready to accept patients. Peterson confirms transportation from Tuolumne to Sacramento is possible if needed but a domino effect transferring patients between hospitals is also a possible strategy.

It has been reported that vaccines for COVID-19 are seeking emergency approval and may become available soon. Notably, Tuolumne County updated a plan back in May 2018 to dispense medications to the entire Tuolumne County population. All counties are required to have and update the plan and the document is available to the public here.

The language of the document uses words like “provided” and “given to the general public.” There is no plan to penalize or track those who choose not to show up for vaccines. Importantly no decision has been made to activate this plan yet.

The state reports the COVID-19 homeless impact on Tuolumne County as 21 rooms that are all occupied currently and have been since August 3. Before then 50 rooms were available with 34 occupied. The rooms are funded by Project Roomkey which was detailed here.

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