Both a regional and nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases has led to local schools going back to distance learning, the state ordering a curfew and many Californians weighing the risks of being with distant family this Thanksgiving.
Virtually every graph showing COVID-19 growth in the U.S., in all states and many counties, show a steep increase in new cases over the past two weeks. Trinity County’s numbers follow suit and as of early last week, Trinity County was among the majority of California Counties whose infection rates put them in the most-restrictive purple tier. At the most recent meeting of the Trinity County Board of Supervisors, it was noted that Trinity County went from having about five cases a week to having about eight confirmed new cases per day. The overall number of cases in Trinity County topped 100 by mid-week.
On Friday, Nov. 20, the total number of cases jumped from 103 to 113 when, according to the county website, there were 41 active cases and three people had been hospitalized. While there have been five total hospitalizations, 72 people have reportedly recovered. As many as 3,897 people have been tested and 3,522 have tested negative.
Trinty County reported its first COVID-19 case on May 9.
Trinity County Public Health Branch also wants to alert the public regarding potential exposure related to two separate Pool League events in The Diggins bar in Weaverville and Rock Slide Bar & Grill in Burnt Ranch. If you or anyone you know was in The Diggins in Weaverville after noon on Sunday, Nov. 1, and/or the Rock Slide Bar & Grill on Nov. 8, between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m., you may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Public Health asks the public to monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19, consider getting tested, and reach out to your health care provider if you develop symptoms.
They also ask that all individuals that have been exposed to please self-quarantine and get tested. TCPHB wants to remind all residents that self-quarantine and self-isolation are essential in helping to control outbreaks and community spread. This proactive step can assist in preventing further spread until the TCPHB Surveillance and Control Team (SCT) can provide official quarantine and isolation orders. Self-quarantine and self-isolation resources are available at:
Affected schools respond
“As many of you have probably heard, we have a positive case of COVID-19 at Trinity High School,” Principal Sandy Coatney wrote Nov. 20. “Students and staff in close contact are in the process of being notified and will be on 14-day quarantine. The whole school is not shut down, but due to so many teachers out, we will be going on distance learning until Nov. 30 and resume in-person instruction on Dec. 1.”
A letter that went home to parents at Junction City Elementary School Friday noted that while parents, teachers and students had done their best to wear masks and observe other common safety protocols, COVID is here.
“In light of the current surge of cases in our county, and with the number of our families dealing with contact and unknown infection, we are choosing to move to a modified distance learning program for the three weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break,” the letter reads.
Supt. Christine Camara said Friday that as they were picking their kids up, every parent who was briefed on the changes felt they were a good idea and were receptive to them. According to the letter, each kid will be assigned a specific day of the week to come to school in person. On that day, they will work closely with teachers and staff.
“This will limit the number of kids on campus each day to just a couple kids in each class, and it will be a way to ensure quality education while we are on distance learning,” the letter reads. Camara explained by phone that the model will also keep kids in smaller peer groups so to lessen exposure to the entire school.
A letter posted to the Trinity County Office of Education Facebook Page Thursday said there have been no outbreaks at schools and districts are working within the guidelines to keep students safe.
“Here at TCOE, we know just how important it is to keep our schools in Trinity County open to in-person instruction as the best way for students to learn. This is also important for parents who have to work and don’t have child care for students learning from home. Even in the “purple tier,” we can keep schools open to in-person instruction because they have already been open since August,” the letter states. “We also know how important families are to all of us. We ask you to please be safe and follow health guidelines over the upcoming holidays so that schools can continue in-person instruction into the new year.”
While it also said there have been no outbreaks at schools, COVID still found some students.
“However, some students have tested positive due to outside exposure. Because of this, and because of quarantining guidelines, at least one school had to close temporarily due to a lack of staff available to teach (and there is a shortage of substitute teachers available as well),” the post reads. “We need your help to keep schools open to in-person instruction by following all safety protocols in the community.”
Sharing during the holidays
The Centers for Disease Control is also urging people to forego traditional Thanksgiving gatherings in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last seven days,” according to the CDC website. “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”
One way the CDC recommends seeing family this year is online, because while it won’t replace seeing them in person, it’s immeasurably safer.
“Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household poses the lowest risk for spread,” its website notes. “Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit. This can include family members, as well as roommates or people who are unrelated to you.”
However, if you still choose to travel or host out-of-area guests, the center recommends the same social distancing, handwashing and outdoor interactions that have been publicized all year. In fact, the CDC, Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization all recommend a long list of ways to minimize one’s chances of contracting the virus. See any of their websites for more information.
Those still considering traveling out of the county for the holidays may also want to take a look at the Johns Hopkins Resource Center (which Time Magazine recently named a top invention of 2020). From the entire planet to any U.S. county, one can find COVID-19 data for any geographical area.
In fact, the CDC itself recommends checking out an area’s COVID statistics before going there. For example, If one wants to travel to Stockton, in San Joaquin County, they will find that as of Friday, the county has had 24,335 confirmed cases, including 164 new cases in one day, and has seen 505 COVID deaths during this pandemic. San Joaquin has 110 ICU beds, 1,334 staffed beds and has a 2.08 percent fatality rate among infected persons.
Governor imposes curfew
An announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office Friday essentially ordered those in purple tiers not to congregate after 10 p.m. Newsom, along with the state Department of Public Health, ordered all non-essential work, movement and other gatherings to stop nightly at 10 p.m. Such gatherings are allowed to resume at 5 a.m. The order will remain in place until Dec. 21.
“This Limited Stay at Home Order will reduce opportunities for disease transmission with the goal of decreasing the number of hours individuals are in the community and mixing with individuals outside of their household. In particular, non-essential activities conducted during 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. are more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition and reduced adherence to preventative measures such as wearing face coverings and social distancing.”
For information about what businesses may remain open and under what restrictions, go to https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/
Flu vs. COVID-19
As if COVID wasn’t already creating anxiety in many Americans during the holidays, it should be noted that seasonal flu is also expected in winter months. It’s believed that COVID-19 can be spread starting about two days before one develops symptoms.
“If someone is asymptomatic or their symptoms go away, it’s possible to remain contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19,” according to the CDC.
The flu is typically contagious for about 24 hours before symptoms appear. Older kids and adults with the flu are most contagious during the first 3-4 days and may remain so for about a week. Both spread from person to person, mostly through infected saliva droplets and into the recipient’s lungs.
Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause medical complications in older adults, people with underlying conditions (particularly heart and lung-related) and pregnant women. According to the CDC, kids are at higher risk with the flu and older adults, those in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are at higher risk with COVID-19.
While the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are said to be similar, COVID adds a few particular symptoms that make it stand out. The most outstanding COVID-19 symptoms are the loss of taste or smell, confusion, pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face, exhaustion that makes it hard to stay awake and new confusion.
If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention, but most experts recommend simply staying home. If your provider determines your illness to be mild, you can stay home and treat it in a manner similar to the flu. Getting rest, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter medications like Tylenol may help get you through, according to the CDC. While doing so, separate yourself from others as much as possible and check out the CDC’s recommendations regarding house pets and COVID-19.