Jessica Cejnar / Friday, March 27, 2020 @ 4:58 p.m.
County Order Prohibits Lodging Facilities From Housing Vacationers During COVID-19 Emergency
To prevent the novel coronavirus from potentially overburdening the local healthcare system, Del Norte County’s public health officer issued an order Friday limiting the use of hotels and vacation rentals.
The order is similar to actions taken by Brookings and other coastal communities, Dr. Warren Rehwaldt said during a news conference Friday. The conference included Sutter Coast Hospital CEO Mitch Hanna, Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore and Gerry Hemmingsen, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
Rehwaldt said local emergency personnel and public health officials felt it was important to move on the restriction of hotels and vacation rentals quickly. The order, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, discourages unnecessary travel, he said.
“There’s a high demand of travelers coming from out of the area and out of state,” Rehwaldt said. “People may be trying to flee their own areas affected by COVID-19, but at the same time they might be bringing it with them.”
According to Rehwaldt’s order, county parks are closed to camping except for hosts or other people expressly authorized by the county for stays 30 days or longer.
Short-term rentals, including vacation rentals or homestay lodging are prohibited in Del Norte County until the emergency ends.
Hotels, motels, RV parks and private campgrounds are also prohibited from housing anyone for less than a 30-day period, though it does make a few exceptions such as if a county resident is allowing a family member or roommate to self-quarantine in their home.
The order also closes pools, spas and other public bathing facilities.
There are currently no COVID-19 cases in Del Norte County, according to the Public Health Branch. As of 8:24 a.m. Friday, 46 tests were administered. Seven are pending and the results for 39 have returned negative.
Meanwhile, to limit potential exposure to the virus, Sutter Coast Hospital has issued restrictions on who may visit its patients, Hanna said. Only those visiting end-of-life or obstetrical patients or whose children are in the hospital may enter the facility, he said. Other visitors aren’t allowed, according to Hanna.
Effective Friday morning, Sutter Coast Hospital is also taking temperatures of its staff and sending anyone with a fever of more than 100 degrees home, Hanna said. The goal is to prevent infecting other staff members, he said. Those working close to patients will also be required to wear masks, Hanna said.
The 49-bed hospital is planning for the worst, though it’s fortunate not to have seen COVID-19 cases so far, Hanna said.
“The surge plan plans for an additional 20 beds in the event we should need those,” Hanna said, referring to the predicted surge of COVID-19 cases. “Our triage tent is in anticipation of a surge. Hopefully that will not come, but we’ll be prepared if it does.”
The tent will be deployed if the emergency room is overwhelmed, Hanna said. COVID-19 patients will be kept outside until it is confirmed that they should be hospitalized or if their illness can be managed through self-care at home, he said.
If people think they have been infected with COVID-19, they’re encouraged to call the hospital’s RN Advice Triage Line at 866-961-2889.
“When patients call that number, they will be speaking with a registered nurse who will provide them with information on the appropriate level of care given their symptoms,” Hanna said. “In some cases, that may just be how to manage symptoms at home. In other cases, we’ll be directing them to the appropriate level of care within the community.”
Sutter Coast Hospital will also have the ability to test for COVID-19, Hanna said, with “fairly quick turnaround times.” He said he hopes to have that capability up and running by Monday.
Though he wasn’t at the press conference, Tedd Ward, Director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, said its transfer stations will offer special hours specifically for seniors and others who are most at risk for serious illness from the virus.
At the Del Norte County Transfer Station in Crescent City, those hours will be from 8 a.m.-9 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. At the transfer stations in Klamath and Gasquet, hours reserved for seniors and those at-risk will be from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Sunday and Wednesday.
For businesses and Del Norte’s economy in general, Hemmingsen noted that the U.S. Senate and Congress approved the COVID-19 stimulus bill, which promises relief to citizens as well as state and local governments.
Hemmingsen also urged businesses to visit the Del Norte Office of Emergency Service’s website, click on the COVID-19 link to find more resources and assistance.
“People are here to help; please use the resources being provided,” he said. “It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together and we must do our part to flatten the curve. Follow the recommendations of the public health officer and continue to use and practice good hygiene.”