Douglas suffers 4th virus-related death; area hospitals feeling the surge

Kurt Hildebrand

A fourth Douglas County death related to coronavirus was reported on Tuesday evening as the number of active cases and the stress on local hospital resources continue to climb.

There were 37 new cases reported by East Fork Fire Marshal Amy Ray and two recoveries. According to figures released from Carson City Health and Human Services, there were 501 active cases on Tuesday and are rapidly approaching the 547 recoveries.

Douglas County Public Health Officer Dr. John Holman said the county is feeling the strain on its healthcare system and first responders.

“Everybody needs to take the spread of COVID-19 in our community seriously,” Holman said. “We are at a critical point and the danger is real.”

He urged residents to refer to the guidelines from the state and the Centers for Disease Control.

The cases in the Lake Tahoe communities have also spiked. There are 19 active cases in Zephyr Cove and 15 in the Stateline area.

“Additionally, if you travel during the holidays, I urge you and members of your household to voluntarily quarantine for 14 days when you return and get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible,” he said. “This is not a directive, but a request to help protect our most vulnerable residents and to reduce the burden on our healthcare system.”

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, Northern Nevada has experienced more than a 250 percent increase in confirmed hospitalizations for the disease over the past 30 days.

The Northern Nevada health care infrastructure is now showing signs of serious strain with patients being treated in alternative care sites and hospitals functioning under crisis standards of care, the association reported.

According to federal and state health officials, due to the incubation period of COVID-19, the soonest any impacts from the Thanksgiving holiday would be evaluated would be in a couple of weeks from now. With the current growth rate and case rate, and several factors such as colder weather leading to more indoor activities and back-to-back holidays, numbers are likely to surge in the coming weeks.

“This has been very difficult, COVID-19 significantly impacts all our day to day lives and requires everyone to adapt to changing circumstances,” Holman said. “We understand there are various opinions out there about COVID-19, but as a physician and public health officer, I want to urge everyone to follow all current mitigation measures. Stay home when you can, limit your interactions with others to reduce the risk of exposure and reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus, wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing to help with slowing the spread.”

Tahoe Forest Health System is also seeing a large daily increase in positive cases. President and CEO Harry Weis sent a message to the community on Tuesday that said the hospital is moving into a “higher level of proactivity” to handle the growing care challenges.

The hospital handles care for some of Incline Village where the virus is active in 44 residents, according to the Washoe County Health Department.

“The amount of care we can provide is limited based on the availability of staff, equipment, and space,” Weis said. “We’re beginning to reach our higher limits on delivering this care and we strongly urge all residents and visitors to act responsibly to avoid catching COVID-19, including masking, physical distancing, and regular hand washing so we have available resources to care for all patients who seek and need our services. We are in the initial stages of COVID-19 vaccine planning, with certain categories of healthcare workers being given access to the vaccine hopefully before year-end. More information will be available about community vaccines this winter.”

For residents experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath, they should call the COVID hotline at 530-582-3450 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., seven days a week.

El Dorado County reported 35 new cases on Tuesday, with 13 in the Lake Tahoe region and 15 in El Dorado Hills. There were also 34 assumed recoveries putting the active case count at 894. The death count has stood steady on four since mid September.

There are 15 residents in hospitals, including three in intensive care, but the county dashboard does not break down at what hospital they are in between Barton Memorial Hospital and Marshall Medical Center in Placerville.

Barton reported recently that it is in surge protection mode and was bracing for an influx in patients.

Testing is available at Lake Tahoe Community College from 7 a.m to 12 p.m. and 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

To register for an appointment, visit Those without internet access can call 888-634-1123. 

Nevada residents in the Tahoe area and Spanish speaking residents can only register via the call center at 888-634-1123 at this time. 

The Tribune contributed to this report.

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