Plans to reopen Yuba-Sutter schools for in-person instruction are on hold once again after local COVID-19 cases spiked dramatically in the past week, including record-breaking numbers over the weekend and on Monday.
The largest single-day increase the Yuba-Sutter area had seen up until this past weekend was on Aug. 13 when there were 69 new cases that day. This past weekend, the area saw 72 cases on Friday (52 cases in Sutter County), 89 cases on Saturday (75 cases in Sutter County), 94 cases on Sunday (58 cases in Sutter County) and 100 cases on Monday (80 cases in Sutter County).
Bi-County Public Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu sent out a memo to local school leaders on Monday ordering all Yuba County and Sutter County schools to pause where they are currently at in the process of reopening, an action she said was necessary to prevent an impending crisis for the community.
“The rate of increase in cases is now alarming, including many cases noted in schools, (so) I have asked all Sutter County and Yuba County schools to pause their elementary in-person schooling wherever they are currently. For grades 7th-12th, they should revert back to distance learning,” Luu said. “There are small groups of students such as special education students who can remain for in-person schooling if they qualify under the cohort guidance.”
Luu said the area’s COVID-19 positive cases increased at an alarming rate in the past seven days, and public health officials are being notified on a daily basis of cases involving school teachers, staff and students. Based on contact investigations, her team is confident that the latest surge in cases is due to social gatherings for the holidays, the latest being Halloween.
Once community transmission is under control again, the resumption of in-person schooling will be considered, Luu said.
“We understand that this is a big commitment from all involved – parents, teachers, students, superintendents, and school boards,” Luu said in a memo sent out Monday afternoon. “However, schools are only as safe as the community where they are based. We are all in this together and we are at a critical juncture where if we do not act promptly, we may be too late to control the latest surge.”
Luu said the local emergency department is seeing a rapid increase in the number of people seeking medical attention for COVID-19. Compared to previous weeks, she said, the majority of people were in their 20s to 40s, but there has also been a concerning uptick in elderly people seeking care.
“We see on social media people fixating on the hospitalization rate, claiming that with a low number of hospitalizations, practicing the tenets should be more lax,” Luu said.
“Look at how quickly the hospitalization rate jumps. And remember, many of these COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized need care not just for a few days, but for weeks and sometimes months. This is of course, on top of all the other reasons someone may become hospitalized, leading to concern for our fragile healthcare system, as we’ve been saying since day one.”
The number of confirmed cases increased by 100 on Monday, bringing the area’s total to 4,017 cases.
Fifteen people were hospitalized as of Monday evening, while 28 residents recovered from the virus. A Sutter County resident in their 70s with an underlying medical condition died Monday. A total of 23 Yuba-Sutter residents have died due to COVID-19.
Luu said it’s clear that everyone is fatigued and frustrated by COVID-19 restrictions, but the tenets are for the greater good and are not arbitrary. She said contact tracing has indicated that the area’s massive spikes in case counts have come from social gatherings like weddings, dinner parties and Halloween parties.
“People say they don’t want to be ‘told’ how to celebrate Thanksgiving or that they shouldn’t have gatherings,” Luu said. “Really, the choice is up to you all. But as you can see, your individual actions aren’t only affecting you, but they are affecting the people you dance alongside at weddings, people you are having dinner with, people you work with, and all their family members who now are bearing the burden of being infected with COVID-19.”
Even the most well-intentioned person could pass the virus to their loved ones or friends, as up to 40 percent of new case transmissions are due to asymptomatic transmission, Luu said. Practicing the tenets both at home and in public are meant to minimize and break the chain of transmission.
“The case counts are already skyrocketing and we are nearing an impending crisis for our only hospital,” Luu said. “The time to be responsible and act prudently is now.”