As volunteers from Listos California community emergency preparedness handed out free disposable masks and hand sanitizer to business owners in Corning and Red Bluff on Tuesday in response to COVID-19, the Tehama County Board of Supervisors was getting an earful of information from county Health Services Executive Director Val Lucero about the disease, its spread and impact on the community.
The spread of COVID-19 in Tehama County “comes down to the social gatherings that continue to occur indoors and outdoors,” Lucero said. “Individuals are being unsafe, not wearing masks and practicing social distancing, going to these gatherings, be it birthday parties or barbecues, contracting the virus and then introducing into their households and work places.”
She said her agency has done individual COVID-19 testing at homes and the entire household has come back positive.
On Tuesday the county had 246 confirmed positive COVID-19 tests out of 6,311 tests conducted. Of that number71 were under either quarantine or isolation with currently hospitalized and one death.
Lucero explained the confusion concerning the discrepancy between COVID-19 data on the state’s website and on the county’s website.
“The Tehama County Public Health website has the most up-to-date and accurate COVID-19 data for our county,” she said. “The state’s website has a lag time that is making it inaccurate compared to the actual and current data. That fact is causing a lot of confusion for a lot of people.”
Supervisor Steve Chamblin said he has been receiving call from people wanting to know why there is a difference between the state’s and the county’s data.
“They are afraid no one knows what is really going on. I appreciate you (Lucero) explaining this to us,” he added.
With Tehama County’s COVID-19 numbers and percentages on several levels being over the state’s watchlist threshold, Lucero said she suspects the county will probably be placed on the watchlist once the state updates its county-level data and website.
Concerning schools in the county, she said if schools open before, or if, Tehama County is placed on the watchlist, the schools can stay open unless COVID-19 transmission rates dictate otherwise, and that will be on a school-by-school basis and case-by-case basis.
“If the county goes on the watchlist before a school goes back into session, then that school will be required to teach with distant learning only,” Lucero added.
After Tehama County health officials meet with state health officials this week, school superintendents across the county are meeting with Tehama County public health officials on Thursday for the sharing of more updated and accurate information.
“This is being difficult,” said Corning Union High School District Superintendent Jared Caylor. “We want to do what is best both academically and health-wise for our students and staff.”
Tehama County Public Health Officer Dr. Richard Wickenhauser has joined forces with the newly establish Rural Association of Northern County Health Officer Rancho in an effort to address the groups concerns with the state’s across-the-board levels of control.
The association sent a letter to Gov. Newsom making an argument for indoor dining for restaurants in the nine rural counties the group represents, Lucero said.
“Per our local data, we haven’t seen the transmission of COVID-19 associated with any indoor dining. Now bars are a completely different animal. Outdoor dining is not always a viable option here because of the summer heat,” she explained.
Supervisor Dennis Garton questioned the possibility of the public being made aware of COVID-19 hot spots in the county.
Lucero said the problem with the public dissemination of that type of information is patient privacy rights.
“We have been working on that type of data for our own information,” she added. “But one of the problems I have with making that information public is that it might hurt businesses. And the fact is, our transmission rates are going up due to social gatherings, not businesses.”
The Listos California volunteers, in association with Corning Community Foundation, said their efforts to distribute free disposable masks and hand sanitizer during Tuesday’s event at Corning and Red Bluff high schools, and other upcoming events, is to help already extremely stressed small businesses in the community wade through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is incredibly important that businesses have access to the equipment necessary to protect their staff and customers,” said Listos California volunteer Tony Cardenas.
The effort was made possible through local and state government agencies and economic partners, such as 3 CORE, Tehama County Business Recovery Task Force, chambers of commerce, Corning Rotary Club and more.