Jessica Cejnar / Friday, April 3 @ 5:05 p.m. / Community, Emergencies, Health, Local Government

Del Norte's First COVID-19 Case Unrelated To Travel, Origin Currently Considered Unknown, Public Health Officer Says

Though Del Norte's first confirmed COVID-19 patient doesn’t appear to have contracted the virus via travel, the county public health officer says “it’s probably wrong to presume community spread” until there are more cases.

“We’re still classifying the case as unknown,” Dr. Warren Rehwaldt said during a press briefing Friday on the county’s response to the ongoing pandemic. “It’s big news and there’s a different feel around the community this morning, but it’s not really unexpected. I expected a case sooner than this.”

Del Norte’s first confirmed COVID-19 case doesn’t change Rehwaldt’s message. People still need to shelter in place, social distance and wash their hands, he said.

The use of masks has also become the “new normal,” Rehwaldt said, urging residents to figure out a way to make their own masks and leave the professional-grade masks for medical providers.

Rehwaldt was joined by Gerry Hemmingsen, chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, and Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore. Both praised those working in Del Norte County’s Emergency Operations Center, assuring residents that they’re gearing up for the worst, though hoping for the best.

Hemmingsen urged business owners to take the economic injury survey facilitated through the Economic Resiliency Task Force branch of the Del Norte Office of Emergency Services. The survey asks local employers how many staff they’ve had to lay off and how much revenue they’ve lost as a result of the pandemic.

There’s also a payroll protection plan employers can apply for that offers 2.5 times the amount eligible of a business’s average monthly payroll, Hemmingsen said.

“It’s about a two-page very simple form to fill out with about a page and a half of instructions,” he said. “And if you keep your employees working through the end of June, that could turn into a grant.”

Inscore also urged local business owners to visit Del Norte OES’s business support page, noting that webinars are being planned to walk them through the payroll protection plan application. Those spearheading those webinars will be able to answer their questions, Inscore said.

At an emergency City Council meeting last week, the Crescent City Council approved contracts with Rob Holmlund, owner of Eureka-based Malex Consulting, and Chuck Wolfe, president of Claggett Wolfe Associates, to offer support to local business owners during the pandemic.

Using $140,000 in a grant from the Gill and Ann Hess Foundation, the Wild Rivers Community Foundation, the Caldwell Clan Fund and the South Fork Big Flat Fund, Economic Resiliency Task Force is also offering up to $5,000 in no-interest loans to local businesses who employ staff members or less.

“We’ve got a whole team working to help you get through this,” Inscore told the community Friday.

Inscore and Hemmingsen echoed Rehwaldt’s message of the importance of social distancing, washing hands and staying home. Hemmingsen also touched on the use of masks.

“If you’re out and about and you’re wearing a mask and somebody else is not, it reminds them ‘I want to do social distancing,’” Hemmingsen said. “‘I want to stay away from this guy because he could be sick.’”

Officials continue to test for other COVID-19 cases. In Del Norte County as of 2:22 p.m. Friday, 89 tests have been administered; 75 are negative and 13 are pending, according to the Public Health Branch.


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