Jessica Cejnar / Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 @ 1:06 p.m.

(CORRECTION) Pelican Bay Inmate Tests Positive for COVID-19; Disease Activity This Week May Impact Del Norte's Position On State 'Blueprint'

UPDATE, 4:29 p.m.: There are no active COVID-19 cases among Pelican Bay State Prison's inmate population. The case that showed up on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Tracking page on Monday was the result of a recurring data error from June, PIO Terry Thornton told the Outpost.

The story below is the story that was originally published.


Pelican Bay State Prison reported the first COVID-19 case among its inmate population, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Monday.

The single confirmed case at Pelican Bay is one of 1,083 active cases among CDCR’s inmate population as a whole, according to the department’s Population COVID-19 Tracking page. In the last two weeks, 965 new coronavirus cases were reported, according to CDCR.

According to CDCR’s COVID-19 Employee Status web page, there are 38 cumulative confirmed cases of coronavirus among Pelican Bay staff. Of those 38, 19 are back at work, according to the web page.

Though he wasn’t aware of the new inmate case at Pelican Bay, Del Norte Public Health Officer Dr. Warren Rehwaldt told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Monday that local health officials are keeping an eye on the number of COVID-19 cases that are reported this week.

Even by new state metrics instituted for smaller counties, the more than 20 cases reported last week could have put Del Norte County into the substantial tier on California’s four-tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy, Rehwaldt said.

Under this new metric, if smaller counties have 15 or more novel coronavirus cases for two weeks in a row, they will move to a higher tier on the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Released in August, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy ranges from the lowest at minimal to the highest at widespread. Moving into the substantial tier, the second highest, could force the closure of some non-essential businesses.

For large counties, progression on this blueprint depends on the number of new cases reported per 100,000 population and the percentage of positive tests.

For Del Norte County, before the new metric for smaller counties was instituted, if more than seven cases in a week were reported to the state, the county may have had to institute stricter safety measures.

“They’ve us away from that case calculation metric of per 100,000,” Rehwaldt said. “The reason was they recognized in small counties that even one case could be magnified and put a county into a tier that, operationally, wouldn’t make any difference.”

But, Del Norte County’s public health officer, said he isn’t “overly concerned.” Since most of last week’s cases are connected to a single family, Rehwaldt said, he was confident that Del Norte County could convince state officials that reinstating stricter safety measures was unnecessary.

“Operationally, the key thing is, is it impacting our medical system?” Rehwaldt told the Outpost. “Are any elderly people being effected and are we losing people — are people dying? None of those things have changed. It could change overnight, but so far, everything else is pretty much status quo.”

According to the county’s COVID-19 Information Hub, two new positive cases were reported to Public Health officials on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases in Del Norte County to 23.

One new case — a contact to a known case — was reported on Saturday, Rehwaldt told the Outpost. No new cases were reported Sunday, Rehwaldt said.

Del Norte has had a total of 169 COVID-19 cases, three hospitalizations and one death since late March.


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