| SierraSun.com

Tool to notify people of vaccine eligibility to launch next week

In order to increase the pace of COVID-19 vaccine distribution to those at greatest risk, the state is prioritizing individuals 65 and older to receive the vaccine as demand subsides among health care workers.

“There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “Individuals 65 and older are now the next group eligible to start receiving vaccines. To those not yet eligible for vaccines, your turn is coming. We are doing everything we can to bring more vaccine into the state.”

Those in Phase 1A – health care workers and long-term care residents – remain the highest priority to receive vaccines. Demand for the vaccines continues to far exceed supply.

“With our hospitals crowded and ICUs full, we need to focus on vaccinating Californians who are at highest risk of becoming hospitalized to alleviate stress on our health care facilities,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, Director of the California Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer. “Prioritizing individuals age 65 and older will reduce hospitalizations and save lives.”

Following a bipartisan letter from nine governors including Governor Newsom on Jan. 8, the CDC announced changes to its vaccine plan including making more of the coronavirus vaccine supply available to all states. Along with the increase in vaccine supply, the federal government encouraged states to expand the pool of those eligible to receive the vaccine to individuals 65 and older.

The Governor also announced a new system to let people know if they are eligible to receive a vaccine, and if not yet eligible, to register for a notification via email or text when they are eligible. That system is expected to launch next week. A second phase of that system will help counties, cities and others run mass vaccination events. This will include a way for eligible members of the public to schedule their vaccination appointments at those events. Community vaccination events are only one way for eligible Californians to receive their vaccines. When available, the public can also go to their doctor or pharmacy to receive the vaccine.

Governor Newsom has aggressively led the state to increase the pace of vaccine administration. At the direction of the Governor, the state has tackled the problem with a multi-pronged approach, including:

1. Increasing the number of people who can provide vaccinations by more than 100,000 health care professionals

  • Added 36,000 dentists to the pool of health care providers who can administer the COVID-19 vaccines. The state has already received anecdotal reports of dentists actively administering vaccines after completing the required COVID-19 training.
  • This expansion comes on the heels a similar waiver in late December allowing pharmacy technicians overseen by licensed pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines. There are 69,000 pharmacy technicians in California.

2. Directing Resources, Driving Commitment

  • The Governor’s office has convened meetings with leaders across the public and private health care system and received commitments to cooperatively accelerate the pace of vaccine administration.

For more information on the state’s efforts to distribute a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in a fair way to everyone who wants it, visit the Vaccinate All 58 webpage: https://covid19.ca.gov/vaccines.

Source: California Department of Public Health

COVID-19 cases rise by 9% in Nevada County

As of Thursday morning, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nevada County was 2,808. There are 243 new cases since Thursday, Dec. 31, indicating a 9% increase.

Of the 2,808 total cases, 2,138 have been released from isolation and 620 are presently active. There have been 50 deaths by COVID-19 in Nevada County, zero in the last week.

According to the California Department of Public Health, of the 50 deaths the county’s had in total, over half have come from elderly care facilities. Golden Empire and Crystal Ridge Care Center reported the first round of vaccines have been distributed to their workers and residents. Spring Hill Manor Convalescent Home expects to complete the first round of vaccinations by today, and the Tahoe Forest Hospital skilled nursing facility reported it will complete its first round Jan. 15.

Nevada and Placer counties are now in a fifth week of a shelter-in-place order scheduled initially to last only three weeks. The government has strongly advised community members to wear masks and socially distance to mitigate the rising cases of COVID-19 and impacted ICU units across the country.

As of Thursday morning, Placer County reported 15,015 COVID-19 cases, indicating a 11% rise in cases since last week. The 1,465 additional cases reflect a slowing in the surge in the region. The county death toll is 132 — seven of which took place in the last week.

Placer County data may not reflect up-to-date totals.


(As of Thursday morning)


Number of COVID-19 cases: 2,808

Number in western county: 1,915

Number in eastern county: 893

Number of active cases: 620

Number hospitalized: 12

Number of recoveries: 2,138

Number of deaths: 50 (0 in the last week)

Number tested: 35,538


Number of COVID-19 cases: 15,015

Number in East Placer: 547

Number in Mid-Placer: 2,106

Number in South Placer: 12,032

Number of recoveries: 11,390

Number of deaths: 132 (7 this week)

Number tested negative: 214,870


Nevada County COVID-19 stats continue positive trend

Most Nevada County skilled nursing facilities will complete their first round of vaccinations by the end of this week.

According to officials at Golden Empire and Crystal Ridge Care Center, their first rounds of vaccinations are now complete, which includes residents and health care workers.

Spring Hill Manor is scheduled to administer their vaccinations Friday. Tahoe Forest Hospital skilled nursing facility has started its process and expects to wrap up the first round by Jan. 15.

Officials at Wolf Creek Care Center could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Skilled nursing facilities are the highest priority for vaccinations, and are administered through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program that uses CVS and Walgreens staff to handle the vaccination logistics free of charge to the facilities.

Skilled nursing facility residents and staff will have follow-up doses administered three weeks after their initial dose.

Congregate living facilities have been one source of COVID-19 outbreaks and account for most of the county’s 50 COVID-19 related deaths.

As of Wednesday, there have been 22 resident deaths at Golden Empire and 11 at Spring Hill Manor. There have been fewer than 11 resident deaths at each of the county’s other three skilled nursing facility.

There have also been fewer than 11 deaths at three residential care facilities for the elderly: Atria Grass Valley, Brunswick Village, and Eskaton Village Grass Valley.

Due to privacy concerns, the state does not give exact figures for deaths and cases when there are fewer than 11 and more than zero.


The latest state data shows the county has continued its slight decrease in case and positivity rates for the third consecutive week.

Case rates fell to 24.2 new cases per day and positiity rates lowered to 7.7%, after reaching highs of 54 new cases per day and 11% positivity one month ago. Both COVID-19 risk level indicators have declined each week since.

The county’s positivity rate lowered enough to meet the threshold for the red, or “substantial,“ tier, but case rates are still three times the requirement for even the most restrictive tier, or purple tier, designation.

The latest released data covers the week from Dec. 20 to Dec. 26, so any transmission caused by holiday gatherings would not yet show up in the statistics.

“While we are working on getting ready for wider distribution of vaccines, it is absolutely imperative that we all continue to wear a mask, social distance, and support our businesses by ordering takeout and shopping judiciously,” Nevada County Board of Supervisors Chair Heidi Hall said in an email.

“Those who continue to ignore these public health mandates are recklessly putting others in danger, and adding to the stress of our health care workers. We need to hold the line so we can get to a full and safe re-opening later this year.”

The Sacramento region remains under a stay-at-home order, with regional intensive care unit capacity at 11% Wednesday. The region’s alternative care site at ARCO/Sleep Train Arena had 25 of its 244 beds active, with 17 in use and eight ready to accept patients. The remaining are in “warm status.”

The state has yet to release four-week projection data that will determine when the regional order could be lifted.

John Orona is a Staff Writer with The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. To contact him, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

Tahoe Forest Hospital named in opioid care honor roll

Tahoe Forest Health System is pleased to share that Tahoe Forest Hospital has been named a recipient of the 2020 California Opioid Care Honor Roll by Cal Hospital Compare. Tahoe Forest Hospital was among 53 California hospitals recognized for their progress in addressing the opioid epidemic.

Cal Hospital Compare, a nonprofit organization providing Californians with objective hospital performance ratings, released its first Opioid Care Honor Roll this year, which recognizes hospitals for their progress and performance promoting safe and effective opioid use, providing treatment for patients with opioid use disorder, and providing access to naloxone to prevent opioid overdoses.

All California adult, acute care hospitals were invited to participate in the 2020 Opioid Care Honor Roll program, and 89 hospitals voluntarily submitted data sharing their progress on efforts to address the opioid epidemic. Tahoe Forest Hospital was among 53 of the 89 hospitals that achieved performance standards for opioid care.

“This recognition reflects our continual efforts to improve the quality of care to our patients with opioid use disorder,” said Harry Weis, President and CEO, Tahoe Forest Health System. “At Tahoe Forest Health System, we are fully committed to providing access to addiction treatment and reducing opioid-related deaths in our community.”


About Tahoe Forest Health System

Tahoe Forest Health System, which includes Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, CA, and Incline Village Community Hospital in Incline Village, NV, offers 24-hour emergency care, urgent care, primary and specialty health care clinics including Tahoe Forest Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Commission on Cancer (COC) accredited cancer center, the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center, and the Joseph Family Center for Women and Newborn Care. With a strong focus on high quality patient care, community collaboration, clinical excellence and innovation, Tahoe Forest Health System is a UC Davis Rural Center of Excellence. For a complete list of physician specialties and services, visit www.tfhd.com.

Source: Tahoe Forest Health System

Nevada County introduces long-time local Dr. Scott Kellermann as Public Health Officer

Dr. Scott Kellermann
Submitted photo


Beginning January 1, 2021, long-time Nevada County physician and former chief of staff for Sierra Nevada Hospital, Dr. Scott Kellermann will be joining the County of Nevada as Public Health Officer. While Dr. Kellermann will begin his role as Public Health Officer on the first, his contract will formally come before the Nevada County Board of Supervisors at their January 12th meeting to officially appoint him to the vital public health role.

Kellermann is well known locally for his work in Uganda, where he founded a hospital, nursing school and development program.

Dr. Kellermann received his medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine with a Master’s in Public Health and Master’s in Tropical Medicine. He was an intern at USC/LA County Hospital and a Family Practice resident at UCLA. Currently, Dr. Kellermann is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and an assistant clinical professor at California Northstate University College of Medicine in Elk Grove, California. He is a Senior Consultant for the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID), through the National Institute of Health and UC Davis. CREID research will attempt to identify novel viruses and prevent future pandemics.

“I look forward to engaging in public health in Nevada County, particularly with an immunization campaign to end the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said incoming Public Health Officer Dr. Kellermann. “I look forward to giving back to Nevada County the kindness and generosity that has been shown to me.”

“We are extremely grateful to Dr. Richard Johnson who has served with us as our Interim Health Officer since June. His experience as a local Health Officer and his vast experience in emergency preparedness and response served our community very well,” said Nevada County Public Health Director Jill Blake. “Dr. Kellermann’s deep community roots and breadth of experience as an MD will also serve us well. We look forward to this next chapter bringing Dr. Kellermann on as our Health Officer alongside Deputy Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet as we work to provide a safe and equitable COVID vaccination process to Nevada County residents.”

About Dr. Kellermann

After practicing medicine in Nepal for 2 ½ years, Dr. Kellarmann moved with his family to practice medicine in Nevada County. He thoroughly enjoyed his two decades of Family Medicine on Zion Street in Nevada City. He was Chief-of-Staff at Sierra Nevada Hospital and served two terms on the Sierra Nevada Hospital Board. In 1987, he and Drs. Chargin and Dawkins purchased Miners Hospital on Zion Street converting it into an outpatient facility to medically assist those less fortunate. It has subsequently grown into the Western Sierra Clinic, the largest provider of medical care in Nevada County.

In 2001, he and his wife Carol relocated to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda to work with the Batwa pygmies. Over the next decade, he founded the 175 bed Bwindi Community Hospital, which is ranked one of the finest hospitals in East Africa. He also founded the Uganda Nursing School-Bwindi, with a current enrolment of 400 nursing students, recognized as one of the leading nursing schools in Uganda. He founded the Batwa Development Program, with a focus on educating Batwa children. The Batwa Development Program is overseen by the Batwa and is helping extricate them from their cycle of poverty. The Kellermann Foundation was initiated by Nevada County residents to support the work at the Bwindi. These projects would not have been possible without the assistance of the citizens of Nevada County.

Dr. Kellermann has written chapters for medical textbooks and has published multiple articles in medical journals regarding diseases of the tropics. He has been honored with: Rotary’s Service above Self Award, New York University’s – Excellence in Public Health Award, American Medical Association’s – Excellence in Medicine, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine- Outstanding Alumni and the Wisdom in Action’s Unsung Hero of Compassion Award presented by the Dali Lama. In 2017-2018 he was a Fulbright Scholar teaching tropical medicine in Africa.

Source: County of Nevada

Tahoe Forest Health prepares for COVID-19 vaccine

With recent news of the first COVID-19 vaccine, the community may have questions about what we know so far about the COVID-19 vaccine and its availability to the local Truckee/North Lake Tahoe community.

The national COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is in the early stages, and supplies of the vaccine are very limited. Healthcare workers and Skilled Nursing Facilities are the first group to receive the vaccine, and others, including community members, will be in the months ahead with no date known at this time. As production and availability of the vaccine increases, we anticipate being able to offer the vaccines more broadly under appropriate public health guidelines. As hospitals help to vaccinate a greater percentage of the population over the next several months, it is vital that all California residents remain vigilant about adhering to stay-at-home orders, as well as masking and social distancing.

Over the coming weeks, California’s hospitals will begin the complex work of receiving, storing and administering the state’s first COVID-19 vaccinations. The number of doses California receives is set by the federal government. For the initial rollout, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has determined allocation to each local health department, and local health departments further refine allotments to local hospitals. Questions about allotments to each county and how supplies are allocated should be directed to CDPH or local health departments.

The first doses — as determined by CDPH — will be given to those at risk of exposure through their work in any role in health care or long-term care settings, including in non-clinical roles; residents of skilled-nursing facilities and similar long-term care settings for older or medically vulnerable individuals; paramedics and others providing emergency medical services.

The importance of vaccinations in stopping the spread of COVID-19 cannot be underestimated. Vaccination is a powerful tool for halting this deadly disease. It provides health care workers with an important level of protection, in addition to personal protective equipment and other steps hospitals take to protect caregivers.

Stay informed about the vaccine with more information from Nevada, Placer and Washoe counties as noted below, as well as www.tfhd.com. Tahoe Forest Health System services are open, safe, and we are here to take care of you. Please don’t delay needed medical care. We strongly encourage mask-wearing, physical distancing and hand-washing as prevention measures to stay healthy during this time.


For additional information on COVID-19 vaccinations:

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

CDPH: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx

FDA: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

Nevada County: https://www.mynevadacounty.com/3148/Vaccine-Information

Placer County: https://www.placer.ca.gov/6367/Novel-Coronavirus-COVID-19

Washoe County: https://www.washoecounty.us/health/programs-and-services/ephp/communicable-diseases-and-epidemiology/educational-materials/COVID-19.php

Source: Tahoe Forest Health System

Numbers in Placer and Nevada counties reflect nationwide surge

As of Thursday morning, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nevada County was 1,895. There are 440 new cases since Thursday, Dec. 3, indicating a 30% increase.

Of the 1,895 total cases, 1,363 have been released from isolation and 513 are presently active, 142 more than last week. There have been 19 deaths by COVID-19 in Nevada County, nine in the last week.

Southern California was ordered to shelter-in-place by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week. Nevada and Placer counties fell under a stay-at-home order late Thursday, eliminating the option to dine in at restaurants entirely. Government officials said the order would last a minimum of three weeks to address depleting ICU capacities.

As of Thursday morning, Placer County reported 8,544 COVID-19 cases. Last week the county said its COVID data may be delayed.

Placer County had 1,880 additional cases this week, a 28% increase in cases since last week. The county death toll is 85 — 14 of which took place in the last week.

Placer and Nevada counties are currently both in the purple Tier 1 and case numbers continue to rise. Testing centers’ availability is limited and changes by the day. The government has strongly advised community members to wear masks and socially distance to mitigate the rising cases of COVID-19.


(As of Thursday morning)


Number of COVID-19 cases: 1,895

Number in western county: 1,244

Number in eastern county: 651

Number of active cases: 513 (up 142 from last week)

Number hospitalized: 14

Number of recoveries: 1,363

Number of deaths: 19 (9 in the last week)

Number tested: 30,380


Number of COVID-19 cases: 8,544

Number in East Placer: 417

Number in Mid-Placer: 1,041

Number in South Placer: 6,898

Number of recoveries: 6,505

Number of deaths: 85 (14 this week)

Number tested negative: 170,899

Regional stay-at-home order to hit Nevada County today at midnight

The regional stay-at-home order announced last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, applicable to any of the state’s five regions for three weeks should their regional ICU bed availability fall below 15%, will go into effect in Nevada County today.

According to the order’s guidelines, restrictions are to take effect 11:59 p.m. the day after a region falls under the 15% ICU availability threshold. For the region Nevada County is in, that happened Wednesday, meaning the stay-at-home order kicks in just before midnight today.

ICU bed availability in the Greater Sacramento region — a 13-county area which includes Nevada County as designated by the order — was 14.3% as of Wednesday afternoon.

Hair salons, barbershops, and personal care services are among the businesses ordered to close under the stay-at-home order. Under the purple — or “widespread” — risk tier, these were permitted to operate indoors with modifications, including facial coverings and distancing.

Christa Paul, owner of Bang! Hair Saloon in Grass Valley, said businesses such as hers would be better equipped to deal with closures if they received more financial support from state and local government.

“When they ask us to shut down, it’s not an easy decision to make,” said Paul. Business owners would be more willing to close, she said, if they knew that doing so “would not be forever.”

Paul said she believes her business would survive the three-week closure, but is “not going to go unscathed,” as debt accumulates and a dozen employees lose their income. The winter holiday season, according to Paul, is normally their busiest time of year, in appointments as well as product and gift card sales around Christmas.

Restaurants, which were required to limit dine-in service to outdoor seating under the purple-tier guidelines, will be further limited to takeout or delivery only under the stay-at-home order.

“We are doing our part, and we are following all the guidelines,” said Tracy Lapierre, manager of Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant in Grass Valley. As they do so, however, she said she is concerned customers will prefer to go to other restaurants which will flout the guidelines instead.

Lapierre said that, so far, relying more heavily on takeout with some outdoor seating was “holding us steady but not near what we’re used to,” leading to staff layoffs. She said more staff will be laid off as the restaurant shifts to a takeout only “skeleton crew.”

“Our feeling is we just want it to be over, and we hope everybody follows the rules so we can move on and start next year on a new slate,” she said.

Retail and shopping centers will also have tightened restrictions, according to the order, which will require both to reduce indoor capacity to 20%, and standalone grocery stores to 35%.

Critical infrastructure, schools, medical and dental care, and child care services are to remain open under the stay-at-home order.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.

Nevada County moves into regional Stay-at-Home Order beginning Friday


Good afternoon,

Today, the State announced that Nevada County, along with neighboring counties in the Greater Sacramento region, will be moving into the State’s Regional Stay at Home Order beginning Friday, December 11th. The order will remain in effect for a minimum of three weeks. Find more information in our media release on our website: https://www.mynevadacounty.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=3427.

To protect our essential and healthcare workers, first responders, vulnerable residents and businesses, please stay home except for essential needs. Learn more about the regional Stay at Home Order at COVID19.ca.gov.

Nevada County is hosting a COVID-19 Business Task Force meeting from 3-4 p.m. today, Wednesday, December 9th to discuss the most recent business resources. Register on Zoom at http://www.mynevadacounty.com/COVID19BusinessTaskForce.

The State is planning to send out a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA), similar to our CodeRED Emergency Alerts, to residents of Nevada County and neighboring counties in the Greater Sacramento region who will be under the regional Stay at Home Order.

Source: County of Nevada

COVID-19 in health care facilities a growing concern

With stricter shutdown orders looming across the state due to increased COVID-19 cases and deaths stretching hospital capacities, some skilled nursing facilities in Nevada County are already feeling the strain of staffing and supply constraints.

This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced regions with hospital intensive care unit capacity falling below 15% would be placed on additional stay-at-home restrictions, including shutting down some businesses like personal care services, salons and barbers. The Greater Sacramento region, which includes Nevada County, is currently at 76% of hospital ICU capacity and is expected to exceed it by Christmas Eve, according to state data.

According to Public Health Director Jill Blake, last month the county saw more COVID-19 cases (over 700) than all previous month combined. In just the first few days of December, the county has already added 200 cases and six additional deaths.

County officials say the spike has been fueled by continued social gatherings and workplace transmission, particularly in congregate living facilities.

“What we have witnessed more than once is people going to work with mild symptoms, and when their symptoms worsen, they then decide to stay home,” Blake said at a county meeting on the dramatic case increase.

During the first week of November, the state averaged 95 new cases in skilled nursing facilities per week and less than 11 deaths. During the final week of November that jumped to 288 new cases per week and 18 deaths at skilled nursing facilities, higher than it’s ever been.

According to state public health data, four Nevada County skilled nursing facilities — Spring Hill Manor Convalescent Home, Golden Empire Nursing and Rehab, Wolf Creek Care Center and Tahoe Forest Hospital SNF — have active cases among residents. Golden Empire and Spring Hill Manor are the only facilities reporting deaths among residents.

Spring Hill Manor has had 40 cumulative residents with COVID-19, Golden Empire has had 29, and Wolf Creek Care Center and Tahoe Forest have both had less than 11 cases.

Administrators for the skilled nursing facilities were not available to comment Friday.


County officials declined to give further demographic information on the recent deaths in skilled nursing facilities or their circumstances, but said the virus was not introduced by a transfer of a COVID-19 positive patient.

“When community transmission becomes widespread, as it very much has in Nevada County, outbreaks in our vulnerable settings such as SNFs become more and more likely,” County Public information Officer Taylor Wolfe said in an email.

According to state documentation, Golden Empire has indicated an “urgent need” for staffing and supplies and has been referred to the state’s Healthcare-Associated Infections program.

Similarly, Wolf Creek Care Center was granted a request to dip below state-mandated staffing ratios due to decreased availability of staff. According to state documents, the facility has asked personnel to work extra hours and substituted some Certified Nursing Assistant hours with Licensed Nurses.

“As testing becomes more widely available, more and more staff members who work in skilled nursing facilities are testing positive and becoming unavailable to work,” the request states. “Others are scared away by the situation.”

Heidi Steinecker, deputy director of the state’s Center for Health Care Quality, said Healthcare-Associated Infections data has shown 70% of hospitals have some kind of health care professional-related outbreak, leading the agency to recommend weekly testing of staff in the coming weeks.

“Hospital outbreaks have involved various combinations of nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians and techs, but also non-clinical personnel such as security staff. And, of course, patients have acquired COVID while in the hospital for another condition,” Steinecker said in a weekly facility meeting.

The surge has led to the county prioritizing contact tracing for those most recent and most vulnerable cases, and now the county is asking residents prioritize testing for those showing COVID-19 symptoms.

“During this pandemic we’ve seen essentially all the hospitals are asking for more help from temporary workers from traveler, nurses, etc., and so there haven’t been enough to go around in some cases. And then we’re also seeing part of the health care workforce getting sick and needing to go out,” Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital CEO Brian Evans said. “The number one thing that everybody could do for these health care workers is do not get COVID and don’t give anybody COVID,”

John Orona is a Staff Writer with The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. He can be reached by email at jorona@theunion.com or by phone at 530-477-4229.