Nevada County sees record new COVID-19 cases last week
Special to the Sierra Sun
In a Q&A Wednesday, Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver said that the county’s new COVID-19 cases recorded during four of the last five weeks have surpassed the peak numbers seen last winter.
“It had seemed like the cases were going down modestly, and then, last week, we set a new record at 488 cases over the course of the week,” said Gruver, adding that this has translated to not only general community transmission but outbreaks in a variety of settings, including schools.
County Director of Public Health Jill Blake said Wednesday that the county is “seeing more and more school-aged children diagnosed with COVID-19.”
In a news release Tuesday, Public Health stated that over 500 of the county’s confirmed cases last month were in the zero to 17 age group.
“And those are young people with lab-confirmed cases, and we know that we don’t capture everybody in the community, so we’re seeing an increase in that age group,” said Blake.
Blake added that “breakthrough cases,” or COVID-19 cases confirmed in fully vaccinated individuals, continue to represent around 20% of new cases in the county.
“If we didn’t have access to the vaccines and the entire population was getting sick at the same rate that unvaccinated people are getting sick, we would be seeing … 700, 800 cases a week instead of what we are seeing,” said Gruver. “So, even though this is a huge surge in cases, I’m very grateful that we do have the vaccines, because it’s much better than it could be.”
On the other hand, Gruver stated, the closer the community gets to being fully vaccinated, “the lower we can get those numbers down, and definitely the more we can ease the impact on our hospitals and other partners.”
County Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann issued a Public Health Order directed at school administrators Tuesday which clarified the requirements for any public, private, or charter school in the county intending to implement shortened or modified quarantine for students who have had an exposure to COVID-19.
According to the order, schools are authorized by the state Department of Public Health to implement shortened or modified quarantines for unvaccinated students who have had an exposure to COVID-19 if the school has “a robust and functional testing program and ability to perform contact tracing and reporting to the local health department.”
In that case, a shortened quarantine would allow self-quarantine at home after an exposure to be discontinued after the seventh day, if a specimen from the fifth day after the exposure tests negative; or, in a modified quarantine, some exposed students may continue to attend school as long as they are asymptomatic, continue to wear a mask, undergo at least twice weekly testing during their quarantine, and quarantine from all extracurricular activities during that time.
“The health officer order was … a response to outbreaks in schools, and how we can work in a collaborative relationship with the schools to ensure that the schools can remain open, and that they’re safe environments for the kids to study,” Kellermann said Wednesday.
The “extra step” in the order, aside from clarification on shortened and modified quarantine protocol, according to Kellermann, is defining Public Health’s collaboration with schools to verify the systems they have in place “conform to what is reasonable public health standards.”
Blake said that both she and two nurses employed by the county are working closely with local schools, which she described as needing “a little extra support” this year as they navigate new guidelines.
“If there are cases that are identified in those schools, if there’s an outbreak, those nurses are providing consultation to them and working very closely with them,” said Blake, adding that she also meets with local superintendents and principals every week. “And then, we certainly tap into health officers if we need the medical consultation.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nevada County had reached 7,745 by Thursday morning. There are 382 new cases since Sept. 3, indicating a 5% increase over last week.