Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 @ 8:20 p.m. / COVID-19
'If You're Positive, Please Stay Home'; COVID-Positive Individuals Coming Onto School Campuses and Into Pharmacies, Education and Health Officials Say
(Updated at 10:03 p.m. to correct Joseph Swiderski's name.)
(Updated at 10:05 p.m. to include most recent number of COVID-19 deaths.)
Three to four COVID-positive students has led to Del Norte Unified School District quarantining nearly 300 until the end of next week, Superintendent Jeff Harris said Thursday.
Speaking at a weekly briefing hosted by Crescent City on the ongoing coronavirus surge fueled by the Delta Variant, Harris said he’s heard of positive students and staff members coming to school. Parents and family members who recently tested positive for COVID-19 have come on campus to pick up a child, he said.
“Almost one-tenth of our students will be going home until their quarantine is over,” Harris said. “If we have a positive student or staff member, they have to isolate per public health directive. If you’re positive, please stay home. Don’t be out in the community.”
Harris’s report to the community, coming about four days into the 2021-22 school year, came as 45 new cases were reported to the Del Norte Public Health Branch, including two among the county’s incarcerated population.
Del Norte County has 196 active cases as of Thursday and 22 people in at Sutter Coast Hospital, according to the county’s COVID-19 Information Hub. The county’s death count from COVID-19 is currently 25 — two more deaths were reported Thursday, according to the Public Health Branch.
During Thursday’s briefing, Harris also said he had heard reports of people flouting the county’s mask requirement during Del Norte High School’s first football game of the season last Friday.
“I know our community cares about our kids. I know our community cares about our staff,” he said. “If we continue to have positive cases, if spectators are choosing not to mask, we may be required to limit attendance at games either by the league or by public health. We don’t want to do that.”
Del Norte County’s public health officer, Dr. Aaron Stutz also spoke about COVID positive patients moving about the community, including visiting pharmacies and Walmart to pick up prescriptions and shop.
“If you’re COVID positive or you’re on quarantine, you cannot be going outside your house to do your shopping,” he said. “You cannot go to the pharmacy to (fill) your prescriptions. Please make other arrangements. Don’t engage in normal behavior. It’s not acceptable in this environment.”
According to Stutz, “this environment” includes a county that had a test positivity rate of about 14.98 percent between Aug. 20 and Aug. 26. This means for every 100 people, 15 percent are turning up positive for COVID-19, he said.
As for hospital admissions, the seven-day average for the week of Aug. 20-26 was about 2.1 patients per day, up from 1.4 patients per day the previous week, Stutz said. He noted that though Del Norte County’s case rate may be leveling off, he expects hospitalizations to continue to increase.
The number of patients in the intensive care unit has also increased during the week of Aug. 20-26, Stutz said. Between Aug. 20 and Aug. 26, an average of 7.3 patients were in the ICU, up from 5.8 patients the week prior.
Deaths also increased by 40 percent, Stutz said. Del Norte County saw seven COVID-related deaths between Aug. 20-26. The week before five people died of COVID, he said.
“Of the seven deaths we’ve had since the 23rd of August, age ranges from 50-70 years old,” he said. “I didn’t mention this last week, but the age range for three deaths from Aug. 16-22 was 30-64 years old. We had a 30-year-old person who succumbed to COVID during the prior week.”
According to Stutz, seeing younger patients die of the novel coronavirus is unusual and speaks to how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is.
Stutz referred to an infographic Sutter Coast Hospital CEO Mitch Hanna shared, showing that 12 out of 20 patients in the hospital with COVID as of Wednesday were under 65. Stutz also noted 60-70 percent of the county’s senior population was fully vaccinated.
“Those people are fully protected by the vaccine,” Stutz said.
Hanna also noted that 90 percent of COVID-positive patients in the hospital are unvaccinated. Of the eight in critical care, 88 percent are unvaccinated. Five out of those eight are under age 65, according to Hanna’s infographic..
Five COVID patients were on ventilators as of Wednesday, according to Hanna. Four of those five are unvaccinated and three of those five are under age 65.
A further infographic showed that 11 patients died of COVID-19 at Sutter Coast Hospital in August. Seven were under age 65. None were vaccinated, according to Hanna.
“I’m mentioning this I think for obvious reasons,” Hanna said. “When people say, ‘Why should I get the vaccine?’ People who have the vaccine are getting COVID, but the difference is in the criticality of their condition.”
Hanna shared other statistics relative to Sutter Coast Hospital. In August, the hospital administered 610 vaccinations at its community clinic and tested 2,222 people for the novel coronavirus.
The hospital also administered 198 monoclonal antibody treatments, Hanna said.
Crescent City Manager Eric Wier also participated in the community briefing and was asked to refute claims by former Del Norte County supervisor Roger Gitlin who claimed on Facebook that the refrigerator truck outside Wier’s Mortuary was empty.
Wier said mortuary manager, Joseph Swiderski, reported that Wier’s is still beyond capacity.
“When the truck was coordinated through the county Office of Emergency Services we were hoping we would never have to use it,” Wier said. “The numbers we saw, the death rate, it's really overwhelmed our resources. The truck is needed, the truck is running and the truck is currently in use. Talking to Mr. Swiderski, he would love for that truck to not be there. These are our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors. But, unfortunately, we need that as a community as well.”
Swiderski also asked Wier to pass a message on to the community.
“‘Please consider getting vaccinated,’” Wier said on behalf of Swiderski. “We’ve all seen the numbers tonight — 100 percent of deaths were unvaccinated people.”
For more information on vaccines and testing resources, visit Del Norte County’s COVID-19 Information Hub. For more information about DNUSD's COVID-19 related resources, visit www.dnusd.org/familyresources.