County expands COVID-19 tracing team after 2 cases linked to mass gathering
Nevada County public health officials have expanded their case investigation and contact tracing team in response to a continued increase in COVID-19 cases, with at least two cases having been linked to a large July Fourth weekend gathering in the San Juan Ridge area.
The event — an estimated 150-person, three-day dance festival — is the first known local instance of COVID-19 cases related to a large public gathering.
“This is not the first instance of cases connected to a social gathering outside of one’s household,” Public Health Director Jill Blake said in an email. “Many of our local cases have been connected to social gatherings, however, to our knowledge, this is the first instance of cases being linked to a for-profit gathering and a gathering of this size.”
In a statement posted to Facebook, event organizer Joshua Swahe apologized to the community for holding the festival and said he would donate profits from the event to local nonprofits and community organizations. He also said several similar, and even larger events are still going on within the county, which influenced his decision to organize the event.
This past weekend authorities broke up a 300-person music party on public land above Spooner Summer near South Lake Tahoe. Organizers were cited by federal authorities.
“If I knew beforehand that anyone outside this gathering would get sick because of us, or that community spread would happen, I absolutely would not have helped create it,” Swahe wrote.
The county lists the high likelihood of exposure at a mass gathering or delayed detection of a case from a mass gathering as a scenario that indicates increased risk and could necessitate stricter measures to control the spread. The inability for the county to trace contacts for more than 20% of cases is also listed as a potential trigger, along with more than 10% or more symptomatic contacts not getting tested within 48 hours of symptom onset.
While Swahe has said he is cooperating with public health officials, according to Blake, the county does not know who attended the event or the number of attendees who have gotten tested.
“We contact and follow those who have positive test results and their close contacts,” Blake said. “Since we do not know who all attended the event, we only know that a case is connected to the event or to someone who is connected to this event if they disclose that information to us.”
According to Blake, the cases linked to the event are secondary, meaning close contacts of people who attended the event tested positive.
“Because we do not know who attended the event, we do not have a way of identifying how many of them may have been tested, but we strongly encourage everyone who attended the event to get tested,” she said.
Since mid-June Nevada County has seen a jump in cases, adding 173 since June 15 and averaging just under five new cases per day.
“Everyone’s behavior makes a difference, and will, to a great extent, determine our case rate, threats to vulnerable populations, and whether or not our economy can stay open. Even if someone is taking every recommended precaution, they may still get sick, and they should not be blamed or shamed,” Blake said. “However, people who knowingly engage in high-risk behaviors, who do not abide by the quarantine and isolation orders, are risking the overall health of our entire community, including our economic health.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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