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36 cases, community spread only in Ukiah Valley, bars and lodging opening soon

Cocktail hour will end a little earlier than it used to.

June 10, 2020 — The Optum Serve covid-19 testing site in Ukiah is booked up for the next few days, according to Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan’s update to the Board of Supervisors yesterday. To keep the testing site in the county, there need to be 132 tests per day, five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday.

Of the 36 positive test results in the county as of yesterday, seven of them have been detected at the Optum Serve site. 

While the county could lose the site if it’s underutilized, Doohan is hoping it gets used enough to open another one on the coast, since that’s where more cases are likely to crop up once tourism gets going again. For now, though, the Ukiah Valley is the only part of the county with known instances of community spread.

One case was traced back to a graduation party on May 30, where guests were reportedly not wearing facial coverings or practicing social distancing. Doohan urges anyone who attended a party at that time, under those conditions, to get a free test at Optum Serve.

Another function of testing is to provide data which Doohan says increases the accuracy of the modeling. Currently, modeling shows that thousands of lives were saved in the month of May by  shelter in place orders. But it also predicts another peak in cases, right around Labor Day, as schools are typically opening up. Doohan said she would work with local education experts to develop opening plans, but she expects them to take the lead in crafting strategies about how to run their operations safely. 

Another useful piece of information that could be derived from accurate modeling is what effect opening tourism could have on hospitalizations and deaths.

A new shelter in place order is expected this Friday, and she gave a few hints about what it would contain. That is the earliest date that any more reopening could take place, according to the governor.

Doohan is considering allowing bars to open, as long as they close by 8pm, before people are likely to have had enough drinks that they forget to follow pandemic safety measures. And when she gives orders that allow lodging to reopen, she will probably tell the operators that they can only offer a third of their rooms at any one time, so they can accommodate sick visitors and their families.

Several emails to the board of supervisors this week argued for opening up campgrounds. And a bar owner and two lodging operators who were able to make comments on the phone outlined safety protocols they were prepared to follow in order to get back to work. The pandemic response has cost the county government an estimated $8 million, with $6 million spent on various measures, and $2 million in lost revenue. 

Tom Lucier owns Diggers Bar and NO Grill in Willits. Because he doesn’t serve food, he hasn’t been able to join the reopening of dining establishments. He told the board he’s gotten some assistance, but, “We would like to be able to open. It’s been almost three months for us, and the pockets just aren’t deep enough.”


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