Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, Nov. 2 @ 11:12 a.m. / COVID-19
Despite Extending Mask Mandate, Del Norte Public Health Officer Gives Blessing to Christmas Parade, Swim Lessons
Del Norte County’s public health officer gave his blessing to the annual Christmas Light Parade and has also given Crescent City the ability to offer the Cultural Center for community events.
But Dr. Aaron Stutz cited last year’s increase in COVID-19 cases that began around early to mid-November as one of the main reasons he is extending a mask requirement for workplaces and public settings.
“We see that happening now — cases not quite decreasing to the level that I had hoped probably because of the change in weather,” Stutz told the Crescent City Council on Monday. “I’d like to extend the mask mandate just a little bit further (through) this holiday season so we can squeeze as much usefulness as we can.”
Del Norte County had 53 active COVID-19 cases as of Monday, according to the county’s COVID-19 Information Hub. Twelve new cases were reported to the Public Health Branch over the weekend and two people are at Sutter Coast Hospital with complications related to the coronavirus.
According to Stutz, a significant number of new cases has occurred in individuals younger than 20.
“Lately this has been the case all over the state and country — increasing numbers in young people partly due to school (being) back in session as well as the Delta variant in general and the fact that most of those younger people are still not vaccinated,” he said.
“One update on that front: The FDA did approve the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11 for emergency use authorization. Those are now available and the ordering capability for that vaccine supply started a couple weeks ago.”
Meanwhile, the county has broken the 50 percent mark when it comes to vaccinations, according to the California Department of Public Health. Currently, 6.7 percent of the county’s population is partially vaccinated against COVID.
Stutz told City Councilors that the vaccination rate is one metric he used to decide the status of the mask mandate. He said he wants 55 percent of the community vaccinated before he decides to relax the mask requirement.
Another less stringent metric is Del Norte’s community transmission status with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Stutz, the community had moved to the CDC’s orange tier showing substantial transmission only to fall back into the red, or high community transmission, category.
“I recognize that number for us can shift around because of our small population and so that’s one of the less important metrics for me personally,” Stutz said. “I’d just be happy for us to be in the orange tier for several weeks, that would be sufficient for me.”
Crescent City Manager Eric Wier announced that because the Christmas Light Parade is outdoors, given the current case numbers, community partners like the Downtown Divas and the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce can begin planning for it.
The city will also work toward opening the Cultural Center to “certain events,” such as Del Norte High School’s annual Madrigals Dinner, Wier said. According to Wier, “restaurant-style procedures” should be followed. These include guests wearing masks if they’re walking around the venue, but permitting them to be removed when sitting and eating.
Crescent City has also resumed swim lessons at the Fred Endert Municipal Pool, Wier said. Offered to the community for free courtesy of the Del Norte Healthcare District, the lessons have been well attended, Wier said.
“The policy is the lifeguard actually teaches the swim lessons from the deck and the students, if they’re able, then follow those instructions, or, if they need assistance, then parents go in the water with them,” he said.
School swim lessons will begin next week, Wier said. They’ll be in their class cohorts and will distance from each other as much as they can, he said. Instructors will also be able to assist them from the water, according to Wier, adding that Stutz felt lessons were safe “given our current circumstances at this time.”
The pool’s showers will also be open to members two at a time, Wier said.
However, Stutz couldn’t yet give a definitive answer on whether reinstating the pool’s recreational swim sessions was safe.
These two-hour blocs are open to anyone with a pool pass and usually draw between 30 and 45 kids and their parents, Wier said. The pool’s slide is also open with a lifeguard stationed at the bottom, he said.
“It’s basically a play time, typically mixed family groups in close quarters, which is why we decided to not allow it with the high transmission rates we’d been seeing,” Wier said. “We’d talked about trying to put a limit on it, but the only problem from an operational standpoint is there’s no way for families to know if we’re at capacity or not. Someone might drive from Brookings or Smith River only to find we’re at capacity.”
Stutz said his initial inclination is that the recreational swim program could be safe, but he said he’d like to consult with his colleagues in other communities.
“In this environment, even though we’re in the red, our numbers are looking pretty good,” he said. “I don’t know that community pools like this have been recognized as spreading events.”