County enters "omicron blizzard"

Jan 11, 2022

January 10, 2022 — The county has entered the “omicron blizzard” that’s affecting the rest of the country, according to Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren. 

The only known outbreak at this time is at the jail, where fifteen staff and two inmates have tested positive. 

There have been 45 exposures at schools, but Coren declined to shut down the Fort Bragg school district after extra-curricular activities resulted in positive tests, saying he did not think it was warranted at this time.

Northern California does lag behind the southern and central regions of the state, and omicron, while highly transmissible, appears to be less severe than previous variants. But Coren explained that he is hesitant to be optimistic yet, because the long-term effects of the disease are still unknown.

And people keep dying from the virus. As of last week, 106 people were reported to have died from covid in Mendocino County (updated to 109 as of January 10). A new health order, effective February first, adds booster verification to vaccine or testing requirements for emergency and law enforcement personnel, and now includes those working in dental offices and pharmacies. Another health order, also following state and national trends, shortens isolation or quarantine periods from ten days to five days for people who have tested positive or had a close contact with someone who did — provided they test negative and wear a surgical grade mask for the remaining five days. N95 or medical masks are highly recommended, and indoor masking orders statewide  have been extended to February 15. Coren also said he has closed a previous masking loophole in the local protocol, which allowed people who are presenting or performing for a vaccinated audience to take off their masks. That is no longer the case.

The main strategy for carrying on with a semi-normal life, in terms of employment and social engagements, is testing. But tests, particularly rapid tests, are in short supply. Even PCR tests are running low. Coren said the county distributed 14,000 rapid tests before the holidays, and that local school districts got their allotment ahead of many others in the state. But employers can impose testing requirements beyond those issued by public health departments. State orders are often based on CDC findings and are duplicated in local orders. Testing requirements, sometimes even for those who are fully vaccinated with all three shots, can leave people scrambling for a test they need to get back to work but can’t find.

Rapid tests only became widely available to the general public in the US a few months ago. Now their scarcity is just the latest in pandemic-related supply chain woes.

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