Covid cases, face coverings focus in countyFree Access

Health officer says mask requirement is the law, based on governor’s order

The county health officer says if people don’t comply with Covid-19-related regulations, the county could be forced to go back to more restrictions.

He also said new rules about wearing face coverings should be followed by all county residents, without exception.

Dr. Eric Sergienko also said Tuesday there have been three more cases in Mariposa County, all involving community transmission.

“It has been a busy last 24 hours for us here in the county,” said Sergienko.

Two of the cases are a married couple, both of whom are symptomatic. The female is age 79 and is currently hospitalized while the 80-year-old male is in home isolation, said Sergienko.

He also said the two were tested at John C. Fremont Hospital, where they interacted with eight employees, all of whom are being evaluated for exposure.

Dr. Mimi Carter, chief of staff at JCF, said on Tuesday morning “everybody here is employing appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment),” something she has stressed since the pandemic outbreak.

“Absolutely, all are wearing gear,” said Carter.

Carter also noted it “takes a bit of time” before any information is known. She said the time from “exposure to being tested” to “have enough viral load to determine if they had the illness” also has to be considered.

The incubation period of the virus has to be taken into consideration, said Carter.

Carter said the one patient who is hospitalized is not at JCF but at a regional facility.

Sergienko said the cases were almost certainly from community transmission in Merced, where he said the couple was shopping.

He also said the couple had 28 contacts, all of whom reside in other counties.

“That points out one of the guidances in place,” said Sergienko. “That is stay at home if you are sick and stay away from people if you are sick.”

Sergienko also said on Tuesday a third person from Mariposa County tested positive for the virus.

That person tested positive in Fresno, he said, and is currently hospitalized in that city. He said it appears the woman, age 73, acquired the disease at a hospital in Fresno. Contract tracing has shown no local contacts, he said.

Sergienko stressed that at this point, there is not community spread in Mariposa County.

However, he added there is community spread in each of the surrounding counties in the Sierra foothills.

“We are probably on the verge of entering community transmission here,” said Sergienko.

To date, there have been 21 positive cases identified in Mariposa County.

“We were hoping we would have a little bit of a seasonal break,” said Sergienko.

He did stress the county has not hit a new threshold which would mean rolling back some of the regulations that have allowed various businesses to open.

“Based on what we know, we have not hit any indicators,” said Sergienko.

The face covering issue

One of the biggest changes for all California residents came last week when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered residents to wear face coverings in most public settings.

Sergienko said that safety measure is up to residents, who he said should follow the state guidelines.

“We know the message has been confusing,” said Sergienko.

But Sergienko again referred back to the scientific studies, which now indicate wearing face coverings can prevent the spread of the virus.

“By covering your face, you reduce the percent of spreading,” said Sergienko.

He said surgical masks and N-95 masks protect the users.

“We know that from multiple studies,” he said.

Cloth masks, said Sergienko, are less effective, but still can help stop the spread of the disease. But, added Sergienko, they can be effective, especially if people practice good hygiene.

“It goes hand in hand with good hygiene,” said Sergienko.

Sergienko said the “science has changed” since the outbreak of the virus.

“You learn new stuff,” said Sergienko. “It is protecting other people. That’s what we are all about.”

He also addressed the issue of whether the face mask issue is a law in California.

“It is an extension of the executive order,” said Sergienko. “That makes it a lawful order.”

He said not wearing a face covering where it is required is a misdemeanor under California code.

But Sergienko said the California State Sheriff’s Association said they are not likely to enforce the law.

“We do want voluntary compliance,” said Sergienko. “We are about taking care of our community and that’s what we need to do; especially now.”

Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies said he has monitored social media and talked to many people individually about the face covering situation.

“This guidance has come down from the state of California and our local businesses are navigating it the best they can,” said Binnewies.

Binnewies said there have been threats by some to boycott local businesses as well as “mask shaming” incidents.

“Do what you think is right, but please remain respective and supportive of our fellow community members,” said Binnewies. “We’re all navigating this together.”

“Every county around us has community transmission,” said Sergienko. “Facial covering is a way to reduce it.”

Close monitoring

Mariposa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Cann said in a recent meeting of county officials from around the state, some were clamoring for more control to deal with the Covid-19 issue.

“What is the regression process?” asked Cann.

“The state watches us all the time,” said Sergienko. “Every county is on the data monitoring list.”

He said if counties slip, they are given a 14-day window to “get the numbers back in line. If you don’t get back in line, they will ask you to implement any number of mitigation strategies you had taken off.”

Sergienko said if it is determined there is community transmission, then officials “have to make a hard decision about where we gather.”

Should that happen locally, Sergienko said health officials would have to “take a hard look” at “places like restaurants and bars.”

Sergienko said should it come to that, “the most likely way for me to slow down is to go back to take out only or if we are able to identify a nexus of transmission.”

After that, he said officials “would have to consider lodging and our tourism industry. Those are the kinds of things we would walk back first.”

He did say “we are not there yet,” but then asked, “Will we get there?”

Answering his own question, Sergienko said: “I would hope not until we get into the fall. We are seeing a lot of activity right now.”

Supervisor Marshall Long asked Sergienko about a recent study from China which indicated antibodies might not be lasting in the human body, which means a herd immunity might not develop.

“It is an unknown but it is a concern,” said Sergienko, who added the science is indicating it is “unlikely to build a herd immunity.”

Because of that, Sergienko said any vaccine might be similar to a flu vaccine where it has to be given annually.

Supervisor Rosemarie Smallcombe asked about community transmission and how frequently people are being tested, especially those who have contact with people from outside the area.

“One of my mantras is the more testing the better,” said Sergienko.

Sergienko said the county is hitting the state threshold of 127 tests per day, but he said “it would be nice” to test a full 1/10th of the county population. That’s around 1,800 residents.

That would give officials more information about the disease, he said, especially if it is being spread by asymptomatic people.

He was also asked about the 24 hour waiting time for lodging rooms or houses.

“It seems a reasonable ask in allowing the virus to die off,” said Sergienko.

He did say other counties in the region are following various strategies, including Mono, where the rule is in place for lodging facilities in Mammoth Lakes but not in the rural parts of the county.

In Madera County, he said officials are “dealing with other problems” and the lodging rule “is not a burning issue.”

One response to “Covid cases, face coverings focus in county”

  1. The front page of the last edition says that the governor ordering everyone to were mask is a law. It is interesting that Dr. Eric Sergienko and the county health officers do not know how a law is made. Does anyone take civics any longer? This may be an extension of a previous executive order, but a law IT IS NOT! To be a law the California Assembly has to put in a bill and then pass it by a certain percentage of votes and then the California Senate must pass it. Then the governor signs it into law. THIS WAS NOT DONE! An executive order is not law. That would make the governor a dictator.
    An executive order from a governor only applies to people that get a state paycheck as a mayor’s executive order only applies to city workers. Even under emergency powers which he is relying on, allows him to set aside statutes, rules and regulations for some purpose. The United States Constitution is not one of those and cannot be set aside for any reason. Plus California emergency powers appear to expire after 60 days. (which we are long over that) So he DOES NOT have the power to require mask, close private businesses, order you to stay at home, lock-down the state. He does not have the power to order Free Americans to do anything. Even the CDC guidelines are voluntary, not mandatory.
    States and countries such as Sweden that did not do any lock downs are not faring any worse than those that did, except that their economies are doing fine. Communist China did a severe lock-down so several States in “free” America did the same. WHY? We went from a fairly free country to a police state virtually overnight with no provable benefit.
    There is no settled science about mask, 6 foot spacing helping stop a flu. If it were settled, why are doctors disagreeing with the CDC and other doctors? There is no evidence the mask will help. No study says it does help. I read several and the best case says it may help. (or may not) There are many sources that say wearing a mask is harmful to the wearer as well.
    There is no such thing as nonessential businesses. Lives, people and businesses have been destroyed. If they are truly nonessential, then why does the country go into a depression without them.
    Americans are free people, the only ones in the world with such a wonderful Constitution and unalienable rights. I believe all executive orders issued all across this country about the pandemic are illegal and unconstitutional as applied to the citizens.
    The United States Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land and there is no law higher. The congress or states cannot pass a law to do away with the US Constitution.
    I do not believe that covid19 is the threat that we are being fed by the media and others. If you believe that it is and you want to stay home and take precautions, that is great. That is and should be your decision, not the governor or mayor or mine. If a person wants to go to a crowded buffet and chow down, that is their choice. After all we live in a free country, don’t we?
    Even if covid19 were as deadly as they first predicted, does not make any unconstitutional actions okay. If it is unconstitutional today then it was unconstitutional on the first day. The elected servants should provide information to the citizens and then each free person (you) would, on their own, decide what to do with that information.
    Two state supreme courts have already ruled the lock downs unconstitutional and those states are fully open. (Michigan and Wisconsin) Several others states are being challenged including California about the lock down. My prediction is that the US Supreme court will rule the lock downs unconstitutional and prevent any thing like this from ever happening again.

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