Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Jan. 26 @ 1:22 p.m. / COVID-19
Third Del Norte County Resident Dies Of COVID-19; Public Health Officer Talks Vaccine, Relaxing Safety Measures With Supervisors
A third Del Norte County resident has died from COVID-19, Dr. Warren Rehwaldt told supervisors Tuesday.
The latest death was a woman of “moderately advanced age” with significant health issues, the county public information officer told the Wild Rivers Outpost. She died at Sutter Coast Hospital last week, according to Rehwaldt. He said the hospital informed him of that death late Monday.
“We express condolences from our department to the family and friends of that individual,” Rehwaldt said Tuesday.
Public health staff is expected to finish vaccinating those in the Phase 1a category, including local healthcare workers such as hospital, emergency medical technicians and nursing home staff, this week before moving on to seniors especially those 75 and older. But roughly 5,000 people make up that population and Del Norte county is getting an average of 200 to 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine a week, Rehwaldt said.
Del Norte County’s ultra cold storage freezers have been calibrated and are able to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which must be kept at negative 70 degrees Celsius. This means Del Norte can receive those doses directly, but it may take a couple of weeks for that to occur, Rehwaldt said.
“We won’t know the answer for literally a couple weeks whether the state will start to direct ship to us,” he said.
The trickle of vaccine arriving in Del Norte County hasn’t stopped public health staff from planning mass vaccination events with help from volunteers, Rehwaldt said.
Primary care clinics also want to vaccinate their patients. Though there aren’t enough doses to supply that need, Rehwaldt said those who know they’ll be eligible to receive their shot should reach out to the Public Health Branch or their own provider.
“We’re going to be setting up a call center even as we speak to handle the volume of calls,” Rehwaldt said. “They should call the Public Health department or their primary care office directly. Either route should work. When we can get vaccine we can give to them we’re going to start calling those folks back.”
Rehwaldt also took questions from supervisors Valerie Starkey and Chris Howard on the recently lifted regional stay at home order and Del Norte County’s status on the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
Starkey asked how long it could be until the county moves from the most restrictive Purple Tier, which indicates widespread viral activity in the community.
Howard referred to the Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 12 approval of the “Healthy Communities Resolution” which called for a local approach to COVID-19 safety measures, and asked what the community needs to do to get to that less restrictive Red Tier status.
Howard also pointed to state metrics for movement along the Blueprint for a Safer Economy that made exemptions for counties with fewer than 106,000 residents.
“Now that the regional approach has basically been stayed, where do we fall now in what was, just four months ago, an order for populations under 106,000 to have an exemption and more of an ability to craft our own future?” Howard asked.
Del Norte County will have to live with being in the Purple Tier, though it doesn’t make sense, Rehwaldt said. He noted that restaurants and food service hasn’t been a driver of COVID-19 activity in Del Norte, but he said he isn’t in a position to make that call.
When answering Howard’s second question, Rehwaldt said the exemption granted to smaller counties was to keep them from dropping into a more restrictive tier unnecessarily.
“It was a good idea,” he said. “The problem was when it was set up, (the state) didn’t envision how it would work backwards. If you’re in a lower tier, can you use the same exemption to move up a tier? No. You have to meet the stricter criteria everyone else has to adhere to in order to move up out of the (Purple) tier.”
For Del Norte County to move from the Purple Tier to the Red Tier on the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, it has to average less than two cases a day and sustain it for about two weeks, Rehwaldt told the Outpost on Monday.
COVID-19 activity in Del Norte County is declining, which is a good sign, Rehwaldt said.
On Monday, one new case was reported to the Public Health Branch, according to the county’s COVID-19 Information Hub. There are currently 17 active cases in Del Norte County.
As of Monday, the county has seen a total of 874 cases since the pandemic began.