The Trinity County Board of Supervisors held a special session Monday, March 23, to ratify a proclamation confirming the existence of a local emergency in Trinity County due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county’s interim Director of Emergency Services Elizabeth Hamilton issued the proclamation on March 19 while the board was not in session. It says in part that the emergency conditions created by the global health pandemic “are deemed likely to exceed the services, capabilities, personnel, equipment and facilities” of Trinity County.
In seeking the board’s ratification of the proclamation Monday, she said its adoption is a strategic route that will enable the county to qualify for reimbursement toward its ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus situation.
It follows a March 3 presidential declaration of a national
emergency; a March 4 declaration of a state emergency by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and a March 13 declaration of a local health emergency by the Trinity County Health Officer David Herfindahl.
As of Tuesday, March 24, 30 COVID-19 tests have been conducted on Trinity County residents to date with zero testing positive for the illness. Twenty-two have returned negative results and eight are still pending. Depending on which outside labs the tests are sent to, it takes between two and four days for results to come back.
Trinity County Public Health Nursing Director Marcie Jo Cudziol said the county has activated its emergency operations center to disseminate public information and assist with planning and logistics. It is working with other service providers throughout the region to acquire more personal protective equipment for health workers here as well as more test kits.
Cudziol said the county also has the capability to monitor the status of all regional hospitals at any point in time to know where beds may be available to accept patients from Trinity County should the local facilities become overwhelmed.
There is no intensive care unit available in Trinity County.
She thanked the local population for adhering to the stay-at-home orders issued last week by the state, saying that doing so “is so important to contain the spread. The potential to spread the virus without symptoms is still unknown, but people are testing positive with no symptoms.”
She reiterated general public health advice to wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face to help contain the spread, adding droplets containing the virus can live on plastic and metal surfaces for up to six hours and on cardboard for 45 minutes.
People should wipe surfaces with disinfectant before touching them, and she said masks are helpful in containing the contagious droplets and creating a barrier.
Board members voiced several other concerns they are hearing from their constituents.
“People think ‘stay at home’ means ‘go on vacation,’” Sup. Judy Morris said, noting small communities that are gateways to popular recreation areas like Trinity County cannot absorb the impact of people flooding into their stores and health facilities “if something goes south.”
“It’s a good time to stay home, walk your dog and enjoy your own area,” she said.
Sup. Keith Groves said the north Trinity Lake area is seeing a large influx of second-home owners taking up residence here as they flee the Bay Area, posing concerns to the full-time residents of communities like Trinity Center and Coffee Creek.
Trinity County Director of Environmental Health Services Kristy Anderson reported that last Friday, March 20, the county issued mandatory orders for bars and restaurants to close except for take-out or food delivery.
She added that the county has also been in contact with other businesses including gyms and resorts inviting tourism.
“Over the weekend, there was a call-out encouraging people to come here and recreate with us. That concerns me and a lot of others I’ve heard from,” Morris said.
Groves noted that many resorts in his district make reservations a year in advance. He added that many who come to recreate or enjoy their second homes here “don’t read the paper or know anything about what’s going on locally except to come here and have fun. How do we reach them?”
Trinity County Office of Emergency Services Manager Ed Prestley urged any members of the public who have suggestions or concerns to please contact him. Informational outreach efforts so far include posting fliers at general stores and post offices and issuance of a county press release on Fridays and Tuesdays with the latest updates posted on the county’s website at www.trinitycounty.org. The public information line at the Office of Emergency Services is 623-1116.
Sup. Jeremy Brown asked about the local food supply, saying the natural foods store in Willow Creek is having trouble receiving shipments because rural routes are not a high priority for distributors right now, “and the shelves at Holiday are wiped out.”
Prestley said he has heard the same thing about shipment priorities being the larger stores in urban areas and he will take it up at the regional or state level if necessary. He said Holiday Market has indicated that shipments “are hit or miss,” but the plan is to continue on and he hasn’t heard of any significant food shortages.
“The stores were really getting wiped out this weekend and staff people told me it was because people were coming up from Redding to shop for supplies, really frustrating the locals, especially those who can’t go to Redding to shop,” Morris said, adding “people from out of town using our stores to stockpile is making people here very nervous.”
Sup. Bobbi Chadwick said Hayfork stores have been experiencing the same issue “of a lot of out-of-towners coming to shop. People here who’ve lived through fires know how to ration ourselves, but out-of-towners don’t live by the same concern. Do we need to set limits? ID preference? I don’t know how to address it.”
Prestley advised store owners to be watchful of those buying up multiple items at a time and remind them to get only what they would normally buy.
“People need to buy only what they can use. Don’t stockpile. The world is not ending. Supplies are coming and milk has a shelf-life anyway,” he said.