In a briefing to the Trinity County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 17, Public Health Nursing Director Marcie Jo Cudzoil explained Trinity County’s sudden jump from the state’s orange tier of COVID-19 restrictions to the most restrictive purple tier in just one day.
The change was announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday, Nov. 16, affecting multiple counties throughout the state including Trinity that as of Tuesday had a total case number of 83, including 31 active cases and one current hospitalization.
In Trinity County, “we have rapidly gone from about five COVID cases a week to an average of five to eight a day. The state change is that counties now go immediately into the tier” of restrictions mandated by their positivity test rates. There was previously a three-day period for businesses to comply with greater restrictions, but that has been shortened to 24 hours.
Trinity County’s positivity test rate was 10.3 percent on Monday, Nov. 16, immediately placing it in the purple tier. In addition, Cudzoil said the state’s masking mandate was changed, allowing exceptions only for people traveling alone in their vehicles, or working alone in an office space, or while eating and drinking. Masks are not required for outdoor activities six feet away from anyone else, but it is required to carry a mask in case you need to put it on. Some medical exemptions are also allowed, but in those cases, an alternative face shield is required.
Cudzoil also reported challenges to its testing programming, saying the threshold of 160 tests a day is difficult to maintain and if it isn’t, the testing resources are transferred elsewhere.
“Rural communities in general are struggling to meet the state requirements for testing,” she said, adding efforts are ongoing to address the testing needs in Trinity County. It was also successful in obtaining assistance of two state-level investigators to help with contact and tracing efforts.
“Please clarify that the purple tier is a state mandate. It was not done at the local level or something we have any control over,” said Sup. Bobbi Chadwick.
“The governor made it clear. The state’s case rate if growing so rapidly, we’re at a worse place than when the pandemic started. The concern is we don’t want to overwhelm the hospital systems and for vulnerable persons to lose their lives,” Cudzoil said.
She added she understands the concerns local businesses have with the tighter restrictions, “but this pandemic will affect every business, person and entity if we don’t do something now. We are trying to mimic herd immunity through masking, social distancing and closing bars. I can tell you the outbreaks we are seeing are due to gatherings, especially in Hayfork, but some in Weaverville. We are in purple because we have widespread community spread. That is a fact. And if we push back, then we lose funding and there’s no resources to pay for the response.”
Sup. Judy Morris asked why the county went straight from the orange tier to purple, skipping the red tier in between.
“Other than the 10.3 positivity rate, the (state) change is you accelerate and jump over the next tier. There used to be a 10-day window at one tier before moving to the next, but that window is gone now and Monday we went to purple,” Cudzoil said.
“It’s a big shock to our business community, particularly the restaurants who could manage reduced indoor capacity under the red tier, but outdoor dining only now is hard to accomplish going into winter. It’s a worry and the fourth quarter is a big quarter for them,” Morris said.
Sup. Keith Groves asked about hospitalizations and Cudzoil said Trinity Hospital does not admit COVID patients because it has no ICU and it has a skilled nursing facility to protect. Cases occurring in Trinity may be admitted at either Mercy or Shasta Regional hospitals in Redding where Cudzoil said “the crisis level is rapidly increasing. Other hospital impacts happen when they can’t take patients for other care like trauma and cardiac emergencies. The impact is substantial.”
“There’s only one zero left on our county dashboard and that’s deaths,” said Sup. Jeremy Brown who added he hopes that number stays there and believes Trinity County residents have done well in changing their lifestyles to take the risk seriously.
“It’s been very challenging for our staff and local residents. I hope our restaurants can increase their to-go food options and maybe we can find some incentives to help build that momentum,” Brown said.
Sup. Chadwick commended the county’s COVID response team for the job they are doing.
“Some people see it as saving lives and others think it’s an infringement of their rights, but you have done your job and stayed the course despite constant obstacles thrown in the way. You find a way around or through,” she said.