El Dorado County health officer: More restrictions ‘inevitable’
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — So far El Dorado County is one of 26 California counties that have avoided Gov. Gavin Newsom’s growing “watch list,” which comes with additional coronavirus health restrictions and business closures.
With local COVID-19 cases on the rise, that could soon change.
It’s just a matter of time until El Dorado joins Placer, Sacramento and Yolo Counties on the state watch list, according to Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams.
It’s “inevitable” the county crosses California’s monitoring threshold in the coming days or weeks as testing backlogs bear out, she said during an El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
If counties reported more than 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period, they’re placed on the state’s monitoring list. If a county remains over that threshold for three straight days, additional coronavirus safety restrictions are put in place.
“It’s coming, probably sooner than we expected,” Williams added.
As of Wednesday the county had roughly 86 cases per 100,000 residents over the previous 14-day period. That number is expected to rise as test results come back and new cases emerge from holiday gatherings over the Fourth of July weekend.
High demand for tests and a backlog at California test processing labs is causing delays in getting results back to patients, according to Williams. As those results come back Williams is predicting the county’s case count to continue its ascent.
Counties on the watch list are required to close indoor gyms, places of worship, non-critical office sectors, personal care services, hair salons, barbershops and malls. There are 32 counties on the state’s watch list as of Wednesday.
On Monday Newsom ordered a statewide closure of all indoor activities at restaurants and wineries and a complete closure of bars, movie theaters, museums, card rooms and entertainment centers.
If El Dorado does cross that threshold, District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl hopes the county falls back below it during the three-day, wait-and-see period.
“With the current trends we’re looking at, and knowing the delays in testing and getting the results back, I think there’s a reasonable possibility we will experience at least a short period where we may exceed the state’s threshold,” Hidahl said. “I’m hoping it’s just a few days.”
The number of total coronavirus cases in El Dorado County has nearly doubled since late June, jumping from a reported 184 cases June 30 to 350 as of Wednesday morning. The Lake Tahoe region has driven much of the increase. That area’s total case count went from 93 to 173 over the same period.
The region, led by the city of South Lake Tahoe with about 22,000 permanent residents and sparsely populated areas like Meyers and Tahoma, accounts for nearly half of COVID-19 cases across the county. In June Williams said the area was “the most worrisome to us on the county basis right now.”
Tahoe’s plight has some, including District 2 Supervisor Shiva Frentzen, calling for a regional approach to further business closures. “When we look at the data since we opened up the county it’s really the South Lake Tahoe numbers that are going to put us over that threshold … If we really don’t have an issue in the other parts of the county, why should everybody be penalized?” she asked during Tuesday’s meeting.
But rising COVID-19 numbers have Williams worried about the West Slope as well. She pointed to an increase in cases in the Placerville and El Dorado Hills areas as a cause for caution. Placerville’s 24 total cases jumped to 38 in about a week. In El Dorado Hills the case count went from 55 to 73 during that same time frame.
Williams noted Tahoe’s numbers might appear worse because of earlier exposure to the virus due to the area’s tourism industry.
“I would be cautious to say [the West Slope] is doing everything the right way,” she said. “If you talk to the folks here in Public Health about people not wearing masks and businesses not requiring masks, the majority of those are coming from this part of the county, not from Tahoe … I think we’ve been lucky because we’re a little more spread out, not because we’ve been doing everything right.”
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