‘Follow the state precautions’: Top Nevada County health official doesn’t anticipate a return to shutdowns in wake of Delta variant (VIDEO)
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Nevada County, the county’s top health official says that he does not expect any shutdowns like those imposed in 2020.
However, he added that California’s latest public health directive will likely mean more masking, more testing for the virus, and a push to increase the number of immunized persons.
As of this week, Nevada County reached 16.1 positive coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, up from just four cases per 100,000 in May, according to county Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann. The 16.1 figure is the highest daily case number that Nevada County has seen since case numbers spiked between November and December. Additionally, Kellermann said that the number of coronavirus tests taken coming back positive has rapidly increased, from a low point of 2.1% at the beginning of June to 9.2% at present.
Before June 15, when California ended its tiered system of COVID-19 restrictions, Nevada County would have been placed in the “purple” tier of restrictions, as the threshold for the purple tier was 10 per 100,000 people — significantly lower than the county’s current 16.1 figure, Kellermann said.
The number of people getting tested in Nevada County is also increasing, the doctor said. The county’s testing sites were operating at just 18% capacity when cases were low in late May/early June, but the testing centers reported that they were now operating at 100% capacity as of this week.
Despite these trends, Kellermann said that he will not recommend any further business closures or advocate a return to the lockdown policies of 2020, but instead expressed that increasing the number of vaccinations in the county, as well as compliance with new state guidelines regarding masks and testing, would be key to keeping down hospitalizations and deaths resulting from the virus.
“We’re not going to be closing schools, businesses, bars, churches, none of that,” Kellermann said. “Just follow the state precautions. Wear a mask and get immunized.”
Kellermann said the extremely contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus poses a threat to public health. By some estimates it’s 50% more contagious than the original strain of the virus and has been driving an increase in cases both statewide and nationally. However, the vaccine has exponentially lowered the risk of death from COVID-19, making it relatively safe for businesses to continue to operate and for people to gather in most social settings, he added.
On Wednesday, California health officials announced that all Californians, regardless of their vaccination status, should wear masks in congregate indoor settings — reversing previous guidelines that had stated people who have been vaccinated did not need to wear masks. Kellermann recommends that Nevada County citizens comply with the state directive, calling it a small inconvenience for slowing the spread of a virus that can be deadly, especially to those who are older or who may suffer from underlying health conditions.
“It’s the compassionate thing to do,” the doctor said about wearing masks indoors. “It’s really not much to ask of people. Instead, I’d advocate some respect for what is a very contagious bug … what bothers me is the lack of respect and collaboration about this that I see. We need to realize that this virus knows no boundaries of political or economic persuasion, so we should come together as we always have on issues like this.”
In addition to changes in guidelines regarding masks, the state’s directive on Wednesday also added new stipulations regarding COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated people.
For those working at acute health facilities, such as hospitals, anyone who is not vaccinated will now be required to undergo testing for the virus twice a week, Kellermann said. Outside of health care centers, anyone working at or residing in a congregate indoor public facility — such as homeless shelters or state government facilities — will now be required to undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.
NO CHANGES TO FAIR
The new guidelines are not expected to delay or cancel the Nevada County Fair, according to Patrick Eidman, CEO of the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
While the fair is preparing to host possibly up to 100,000 people this year, commonsense safety measures will be implemented to ensure the health and safety of fair-goers, and county health officials have not recommended canceling the event, Eidman said.
“We’re very closely watching and monitoring state and county guidelines … we’re working closely with the county public health department on this … obviously we’re a large event, but we’re committed to keeping this community healthy and safe,” Eidman said.
Attendees to the fair will be encouraged to be vaccinated, or submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering the event, Eidman said, and those who are not vaccinated will be strongly encouraged to wear masks at the fair.
Additionally, masks will be provided to those without them, and the county is working to set up more hand washing stations than usual to ensure that attendees can stay sanitized and healthy, Eidman added.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com
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