Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 @ 1:21 p.m.

Half Sutter Coast's Patients Are 'COVID-Positive,' Hospital CEO Says; Fair Rep Says Cost of Canceling Could Have Been Huge

With half its patients "COVID-positive," Sutter Coast Hospital receives help from the state. File photo: Andrew Goff

With more than half its patients positive for COVID-19, Sutter Coast Hospital has received help from the state to obtain additional staff as it works through its largest surge of cases since the pandemic began.

The California Emergency Management Services Agency has helped supply additional staff and equipment for onsite COVID test and vaccination as well as monoclonal antibody infusions to treat patients, hospital CEO Mitch Hanna told county supervisors Tuesday.

The hospital has also erected two tents, one to house more med-surge beds and the other near its emergency department to triage patients, Hanna said.

“Our current case level is driving some of the highest surge levels to date requiring emergency response efforts,” he said. “Our teams are highly trained and our focus remains on serving our patients and prioritizing the safety of our committed staff and to continue to adjust our operations as needed. It is important the public knows that the hospital is prepared and is managing the current surge in hospitalizations, and to come to the hospital for care as needed.”

Hanna also reiterated the hospital’s warning last week to avoid large public gatherings, mentioning the Del Norte County Fair, specifically.

“It’s unfortunate the fair was already planned. I think that train was too far down the track,” he said. “I suspect as a result of that we’ll continue to see more cases come through the hospital.”

Del Norte County saw 72 new community cases over the weekend as well as nine new cases amongst inmates at the jail and at Pelican Bay State Prison, the Public Health Branch reported Monday.

There 17 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the county. There are a total of 231 active cases in the county as of Monday.

If the local surge in coronavirus cases had occurred two or three weeks ago, the 41st Agricultural District may have made a different decision with regards to the fair, board member John Pritchett told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Tuesday.

According to Pritchett, the fair board had discussed the surge in COVID-19 cases and whether it should cancel the fair. But if board members had decided to cancel it the cost to the fair and its vendors would have been huge, Pritchett said, though he couldn’t put a dollar figure on it.

Pritchett noted that children who sell at the Junior Livestock Auction would also have been impacted had the fair board decided to cancel the event. It could also have been a problem for Paul Maurer Shows, which was contracted to run the carnival that weekend.

“There’s a good chance we would have never seen those folks again,” Pritchett said. “If we had canceled with the state saying you don’t have to and the state not coming in and saying you must close like they did in 2020, I don’t know if they’d ever come back.”

Pritchett said fair staff tried to keep people as safe as possible. There was hand sanitizer, thousands of masks provided as well as events such as the rodeo dance being held outdoors.

“People generally stayed outside and hopefully they took advantage of the hand sanitizer, hopefully they took advantage of the masks — we saw quite a few people wearing masks, though probably not as many that should have,” Pritchett said. “We were really stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

On Tuesday, before appointing Dr. Aaron Stutz to replace Dr. Warren Rehwaldt as the county’s public health officer, supervisors urged the community to “be the fix.”

“Today we’re going to appoint a new public health officer, but he should not expect to come in and be the fix,” District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey said during her board report. “We need to rally together to be the fix and do what we can to slow the spread.”

Starkey asked for the public health officer to resume COVID-19 updates on each agenda of the Board of Supervisors until November.

“The projections are that we are in this for at least two months,” she said. “We need to buckle down and make sure we do our share.”


Statement from Sutter Coast Hospital CEO


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