Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Oct. 16 @ 2:32 p.m.
Expanded COVID-19 Testing Should Be Available in Del Norte Next Month; Public Health Officer Discusses Halloween Festivities
The public will likely be able to take advantage of expanded COVID-19 testing capabilities in Del Norte County within the first two weeks of November, according to the county’s public health officer.
The partnership between Del Norte and Humboldt counties and United Indian Health Services is expected to make for a faster turnaround time for test results. But Del Norters will still be able to take advantage of the Verily testing site Monday and Tuesday at Del Norte High School and on Wednesday at Redwood Hotel and Casino in Klamath, Public Health Officer Dr. Warren Rehwaldt told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Friday.
“We’re going to ask them, Verily, to continue to come at least through the end of this month and probably through the end of their contract,” Rehwaldt said adding that Verily’s contract with the State of California expected to expire at the end of November. “There’s no harm in having two sites.”
In an update to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Rehwaldt said health officials may begin the new testing system at local nursing homes on a trial basis. Though partners in Humboldt and at UIHS are working hard to establish the new testing system, a firm start date hasn’t been established yet.
Meanwhile, Del Norte County will most likely stay in the moderate tier on California’s four-tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy. After experiencing 21 new COVID-19 cases last week, Rehwaldt had said the imposition for stricter safety measures on local activity and businesses in the community was contingent upon the number of cases reported this week.
With only about five or six reported this week of Friday, Rehwaldt said he doesn’t foresee any problems in the immediate future. Even if there were the number of cases to cause concern, Rehwaldt said he was confident to be able to make the case to the state not to force Del Norte to the more restrictive tiers on its Blueprint.
“In this case we certainly would because we had 21 cases, I think, last week. About 15 or 16 of them were contacts,” he said. “In some measure, we like to think if we get a lot of contacts from a trace it’s a measure of contract tracing working because we’re identifying folks before they get out.”
Small counties in California move into more restrictive levels on the Blueprint for a Safer Economy if they have 15 or more new novel coronavirus cases each week for two weeks in a row, Rehwaldt said. Moving into the second and first tiers would force many indoor businesses to close.
In an update to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Rehwaldt said with Del Norte schools bringing students back on campus, the 15 to 16 cases that were reported to the Public Health Branch last week wasn’t unexpected.
However, most were centered on families and family contact and weren’t connected with school reopening, Rehwaldt said.
“I want to emphasize the importance of being careful if you travel out of the area,” he said. “It’s a risky proposition in a lot of places in teh country that are much more active diseasewise than our part of California.”
On Friday, in a letter to the community, Rehwaldt addressed Halloween, noting that the California Department of Public Health doesn’t recommend trick or treating due to it being risky for people to mingle. Rehwaldt urged people to check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines on Halloween and the risk for COVID-19.
Though some counties have released health orders restricting activity on Halloween, Del Norte County hasn’t, Rehwaldt said.
“We prefer to recommend that people consider the risk to them and plan accordingly,” he said. “There are a number of households with elderly persons or other high risk persons who should not be answering the door for trick or treaters. Likewise, there are families that have high risk persons in their homes, who should not be taking children from door to door this Halloween season.”
Anticipating that people will trick or treat anyway, Rehwaldt suggested packing candies five days ahead of Halloween in small gift bags and keeping them in a box outside their door. Urge trick-or-treaters to take a bag by themselves, without touching the other bags, and remain masked, Rehwaldt said.
Rehwaldt also urged parents to look for places that have packaged their candies into individual bags.
Adult Halloween parties are a riskier proposition, Rehwaldt said.
“The State of California still bans generalized gatherings of adults for that purpose,” he said. “If, however, you can see a way to limit a party to three households, keep it outdoors and still use COVID protection measures, such parties are no longer strictly forbidden under the new guidance from the state health department.”