El Dorado County eyeing ‘moderate’ tier with COVID-19 spread on decline | TahoeDailyTribune.com

El Dorado County eyeing ‘moderate’ tier with COVID-19 spread on decline

Cheyanne Neuffer

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — El Dorado County is on the cusp of moving into a less restrictive tier with coronavirus spread declining.

The Lake Tahoe region of the county has been on a steady decline for COVID-19 cases, although there were two deaths in the county over the past week, making four overall. Two of the deaths have been men above 50 years old from the Tahoe area.

But even with Labor Day weekend, the Tahoe region of the county has substantially reduced in active cases.

“Many communities are experiencing declining cases of COVID-19 over the past few weeks, including South Lake Tahoe,” said Dr. Kandra Yee, ​Barton Health’s Chief of COVID Emergency Operations, chief of staff, medical director of the emergency department and practicing emergency medicine physician.

Yee also says that forecasting is still difficult with COVID-19 because there is a lot of unknown around the virus.

“There is still a great deal to learn about COVID-19, and data is evolving; therefore, prediction models are not yet as reliable as we would like,” she said. “While other summer holidays and events resulted in an uptick in positive cases within two weeks, our community rates continue to be low 10 days past the Labor Day holiday.”

El Dorado County is in the red tier for California’s reopening blueprint which determines restrictions. Red shows that the county risk levels are still “Substantial” meaning that some non-essential indoor business operations are still closed and restaurants are stuck at 25% indoor capacity.

To move into the “Moderate” or orange tier, the county must have two consecutive weeks where the number of positive cases per day is less than four per 100,000 people and the positivity rate must remain less than 5%.

A county is still listed as red when four to seven daily new cases are being reported per 100,000 people along with a 5-8% positive test rate.

The state reviews county data every three weeks to determine their respective tiers.

Moving into the orange tier could allow for more in-person education and would allow expanded indoor restaurant operations, among other things.

“While we are all pleased to see the reductions of cases, we cannot lose sight that the virus still exists,” said Carla Hass, communications director for the county.

She said this is actually the most challenging time because some people start to think they can be more relaxed with personal actions. Hass said that these personal actions are the reason cases are down the way they are and it’s imperative more than ever to be careful.

“It can’t be said enough that as case numbers go down, we cannot let our guard down as well,” she said.

With the county on the verge of moving into a less restrictive tier, officials say the declining virus trend is pointing toward the ending of the “first wave” if it continues, but adds that it’s not time to relax on the guidelines.

“We believe wide-spread compliance of mitigation strategies has contributed to the decrease in transmission,” said Yee. “If residents, businesses and visitors continue to stay vigilant and follow these recommendations by wearing a face covering in public, physical distancing, and staying home when you are sick, the down-tick in positive cases will allow us to move to a lower tier as identified by the state, and potentially remain in that lower tier.”

Officials say the declining virus trend is pointing toward the ending of the “first wave” if it continues, but add that it’s not time to relax on the guidelines.

“It is crucial that as a community we do not become complacent with mitigation measures as we approach cold and flu season,” said Yee.

Since more people are wearing masks and have been paying extra attention to personal hygiene, Hass said it might actually have a positive influence on the cold and flu season, however people being indoors more increases the chance of spreading any communicable diseases.

Yee said that it is possible for people to be infected with both the flu and COVID-19.

Flu season along with COVID-19 poses hurdles for healthcare systems. Trying to figure out which virus is spreading, discerning which protocol should be implemented and ensuring capacity for patients are at the top of the list.

The flu and COVID-19 can potentially have similar symptoms. Yee says that while healthcare facilities usually experience a seasonal surge in patients, the addition of COVID-19 will add more challenges.

“Barton is prepared for an increase in respiratory illnesses this winter with plans in place to safely increase capacity and respiratory patient care as needed,” she said.

Yee highly recommends people to get a flu vaccination this year to minimize the spread of the flu and reduce associated medical complications along with protecting the community’s health.

Public health agencies and Barton have partnered to offer additional flu shot clinics throughout October.

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