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BoS discusses covid, other disasters

December 9, 2020 — The Board of Supervisors spent the whole morning yesterday on the novel coronavirus update, with reports from Dr. Coren and Dr. Doohan, high-level hospital staff, and the CEO of Redwood Community Services, who reported on the outbreak at Building Bridges, the homeless shelter and day program in Ukiah. Yesterday, 37 new cases were reported countywide, and the day before, another covid patient died on the South Coast, bringing the death count up to 24.
Jason Wells, the president of Adventist Health in Mendocino County, assured the board that, with cross-trained staff and ventilators, the hospital could bring its current sixteen ICU beds up to 45. The state is only counting sixteen beds in its calculations of the county’s contribution to regional ICU capacity. Currently, 10% of the hospital’s workforce is out on medical leave, but Wells is confident that the 23-hospital system could rely on highly trained National Guard personnel if the surge demanded it. The best case scenario is that vaccines will arrive in the county in a week or two. Adventist Health Medical Officer Dr. Bessant Parker told the board that healthcare personnel caring for covid patients in the emergency department would be first in line for the new vaccine, followed by ICU staff, then those on the regular medical and surgical wards. Coren said the county has purchased one deep freezer that will be suitable for storing the Pfizer vaccine, but that there may be a delay in the delivery. In the meantime, he said the hospital is willing to share its refrigeration capacity with the county.
Victoria Kelly, the CEO of Redwood Community Services, reported that staff and clients of Building Bridges are in quarantine or isolation. Eight clients who tested positive are isolating hotel rooms. Everyone else who was on the premises when the outbreak started has been determined to be a close contact, and has been quarantining on site since Thursday. Public health conducted PCR tests yesterday, and testing is being carried out twice a week until everyone tests negative. RCS and the Adventist Health Street Medicine team are still offering services, and Plowshares has been providing some of the meals. None of the staff has tested positive at this time.
In an off-agenda item, Supervisor John McCowen and Supervisor Ted Williams brought forward a resolution to prioritize available county resources to assure effective enforcement of local health orders. Williams cited Facebook complaints about large gatherings, and McCowen relayed reports of people working out inside gyms. John Martire, the head of the Special Investigations Unit, said his office had gotten 23 calls for service in the month of November. He added that he regularly hears about violations days after the fact, and insisted that his office does prioritize complaints about large gatherings.
The board also adopted a hazard mitigation plan for other disasters, which must be updated and approved every five years in order to receive FEMA hazard mitigation grants. The county, the four cities, and the Mendocino Office of Education participated in the plan, which identified the top hazards facing the area, and pointed the way to a variety of grant programs to preemptively reduce damage, largely by investing in infrastructure. Wildfire ranked highest on the risk matrix, squarely in the middle of the highly likely probability with catastrophic impact, followed closely by earthquake. The plan lays out mitigation actions, priorities, which agency is responsible, and whether the actions can be covered by the existing budget or if other sources of revenue should be sought out.
The board also agreed unanimously to adopt an urgency ordinance to clean up fire debris and remove hazard trees from private properties that were damaged during the August Complex and Oak fires. Thirteen owners of damaged properties have signed right of entry agreements with a state-funded debris removal program, three have made private arrangements, and 14 have taken no action. The ordinance allows the county to declare those properties a nuisance and a health hazard and to abate the nuisance. The ordinance will appear on the consent calendar to be formally adopted next week, after county counsel fine tunes some language about the definition of hazard trees on private property.

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