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Healthy Tahoe: COVID’s impact on our community

The COVID-19 virus is widespread throughout the South Lake Tahoe community. Transmission is taking place at its highest rate to date largely due to cooler weather moving gatherings indoors. Any gathering outside of your immediate household is now the largest vehicle for spread.

Similar to other viruses, COVID-19 is most contagious when a carrier is pre-symptomatic (the two days before showing symptoms) through the first few days of symptoms.

Onset of even one symptom, as minor as it may seem, is an indicator that a person should call the COVID-19 Health Line as this may be the first of many symptoms to follow. One of the reasons we are seeing a higher level of transmission is that people may not recognize the need for taking precautions during this early phase of the virus.



Another concerning cause for the virus spread is the wait time between getting tested and receiving results. If you get tested because you have symptoms or an exposure to COVID-19, it is important to isolate and avoid possibly exposing someone during this waiting period.

COVID-19 is indiscriminate and people of all ages and backgrounds should be cautious.



El Dorado County COVID-19 positivity rate is 7.8% (as of Nov. 24) while Barton Health’s positivity rate is above 20% (as of Nov. 25).

Add this to the fact that, in California, cases have spiked 40% within ten days after a holiday, we are concerned that this trend will continue.

With many regional hospitals in Northern Nevada already reaching capacity, and Barton admissions for COVID-19 at its highest rate, this may have effects on everyone’s care whether you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or something else. It is our goal to ensure patients receive the most appropriate care in the quickest time possible, and we depend on our regional hospitals to support this goal.

More COVID-19 cases in the community also means more cases among health care workers. Like many hospitals around the country, hospitals are facing a global staffing shortage to meet the demands of COVID-19 and therefore, we are supplementing open positions with traveling nurses and temporary staff as well as requesting staff from state assistance programs to serve the needs of our patients. ​

This staffing shortage is further impacted by community transmission of COVID-19 resulting in staff members in quarantine as they are exposed to the virus in the community. We are deploying available staff to areas in need to ensure we are using all

available resources effectively; team members are working tirelessly and have been eager to help in other units as needed.

While there is promise for an effective vaccine and distribution in the future, now is the time to be proactive and look out for your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.

To slow the spread and avoid a hospital surge, we are asking our community to please help us by doing your part: wear your masks, avoid indoor gatherings and continue to maintain a safe distance from others both indoors or outdoors. If you or someone in your household does not feel well, please stay home and call the Barton COVID-19 Health Line: ​530-600-1999​ for free medical advice.

With the holiday season and its traditions of gathering upon us, it is not always easy to make the safe choice. But if we make the right decisions now, we can slow the spread of the virus and keep our community healthy. Please enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.

Dr. Wonnacott is Barton Health’s Chief Medical Officer.


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