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Public health officials provide COVID-19 update

As the surge in COVID-19 continues, Truckee was provided with an update regarding new cases, deaths, and vaccinations during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.

Nevada County Public Health Director Jill Blake used her time to offer perspective on the recent surge of confirmed cases. In the first eight months of the pandemic Nevada County had a total of 642 confirmed cases, said Blake, compared to 706 confirmed cases in November alone. So far in December — as of Tuesday — the county has seen 1,013 additional cases.

“At the end of October we had 51 active cases and that kept our department pretty busy. Currently, we have 497 active cases,” said Blake. “At the end of November we had a total of nine deaths as a result of COVID-19 here in Nevada County, and tragically, today we have over 40.”



That number had grown to 44 by Thursday morning.

Testing done at Truckee’s site is the 11th most used in the state, and currently has a current turnaround time of 84 hours, marking a substantial increase from the previously reported 49-hour turnaround time.




Nevada County interim Public Health Officer Dr. Richard Johnson warned of an increase in hospitalizations, which he said to expect within the next few weeks.

“As we see a tremendous increase in the number of cases, we know and can predict that even with better therapy, even with medications, even with better techniques in the hospitalizations, we are inevitably going to see more hospitalizations in the next two or three weeks,” said Johnson, who also serves as Alpine County’s public health officer.

“And I can say that even before Christmas and New Year’s, when people are not always going to do what we’d like them to do in terms of staying apart, because we know that people are fatigued,” he added. “People are tired of this. They want and they long to be with their families and their loved ones, and they are going to do what they have done for past generations and that’s be together in multi-generational large groups and families, and we are really afraid that we are going to encounter a surge on top of this surge come January.”

VACCINES

While there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of recently received vaccines, Johnson said there is still a long distance to go.

The county recently received shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and expects to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine soon. Johnson indicated that the first doses will go to frontline health care workers.

The Truckee-Tahoe area will also have a chance to move out from the state’s regional-stay-at-home order on Jan. 1. In order to move out of the stay-at-home order, the Greater Sacramento region must have an ICU availability rate at or above 15%, along with meeting a four-week projection of ICU capacity. As of Tuesday, the region was at 15.6% ICU availability, but Johnson said he doesn’t expect the region to move out of the stay-at-home order at the start of 2021.

“I have some doubt in my mind that that will actually happen on January 1, given the current cases that we are seeing, which will result in hospitalizations in two or three weeks,” he said.

After the Jan. 1 review, the county will be eligible to move out of the stay-at-home order on a weekly basis.

Ultimately, Johnson concluded his presentation to the town with a plea to reflect on those that have been lost and affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.

“As you sit down for that Christmas dinner, I want you to do two things. I want you to picture that young nurse working in the ICU, who may or may not be a single mom, who’s got two kids at home, but for the last couple months she’s done nothing but work double shifts five or seven days a week, and can’t see her kids because she’s afraid of bringing COVID home to her kids. I want you to stop and think about that a little bit,” said Johnson.

“And then I want you set an extra plate at your table and remember the tens of thousands of families who are missing a loved one during this holiday season because of what has happened this year.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.


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