A Mariposa County resident has tested positive for Covid-19 — the first recorded case since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The person was tested in Madera County, according to Dr. Eric Sergienko, county health officer. She is a female who is age 23.
Sergienko said it is the “first case” of a person who lives in Mariposa County. He said the “good news” is the woman was tested on Monday night and officials “got the results back in hours.”
The woman and her family are in quarantine, he said.
In addition, officials from the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office are doing contact tracing of the woman, a program he said they have been working on for several weeks.
Because of federal regulations, Sergienko could not reveal where the woman lives within the county.
He did say officials believe the virus was “acquired outside the county” and in Madera County, which does have “community transmission.”
Overall, Sergienko said as of Tuesday morning, there have been 115 tests conducted of Mariposa County residents, with 111 negative and four pending.
Because of the reporting procedures, the woman who has tested positive is listed as the first resident to contract the virus even though it is likely she was infected in Madera County. No matter where a person contracts the virus, Sergienko said their home county is listed for the official count.
In addition, Sergienko said he continues to monitor ambulance calls in the county and said he was “concerned” about a “couple of calls” on Monday. However, he said there is no evidence those calls were for the virus.
As for testing in the county, things are changing quickly.
Testing for the Covid-19 virus in Mariposa County has been sporadic since the outbreak of the pandemic.
However, thanks to a program from the state of California, there will be much testing locally starting this week.
Sergienko, the county health officer, said Tuesday Mariposa County was identified as “kind of” a “testing desert” and was selected to be part of a program to offer more testing.
“We were the smallest jurisdiction to receive” the program, he said.
What that means is funding has been received to open a testing site in the county. That site will be at the former middle school on Silva Road. Sergienko stressed during a presentation Tuesday to the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors it is by appointment only.
As of Tuesday morning, a phone number had yet to be established for people to call. He said online registration is preferred, but the website, too, is still being created.
He said they are going to “try” a soft opening of the site on Thursday, testing county staff personnel to work through any problems.
“I know there are going to be hiccups,” said Sergienko.
Once the site is in “full swing,” he said the hours will be Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There will be capability to do 132 tests per day. The test will be administered by OptumServe, which is the company developing the webiste in order to handle appointments.
Sergienko urged people to continue to watch the county’s public health Facebook page for further updates as the testing site comes online.
“This is not a drop in site,” said Sergienko. “You have to have an appointment.”
There are also going to be priorities established, he said, about who gets tested.
Healthcare workers and first responders will be tested first. He said they are hoping to test those people every 14 days to keep current.
Second will be individuals with symptoms related to Covid-19.
Third will be asymptomatic healthcare workers and first responders as well as some essential employees from county, state and federal agencies. Officials were working on Tuesday to get lists of essential employees from those agencies.
Fourth will be testing of asymptomatic members of the general public.
Persons will have to go inside the gymnasium to get tested. Sergienko said there will be strict social distancing rules followed and the hope is to have “no more than a half dozen cars in the parking lot at any give time.”
A roadmap to reopening
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Sergienko and Chevon Kothari, the director of Mariposa County Health and Human Services, discussed the latest efforts on any phased reopening of businesses, childcare centers and schools.
It should be stressed the Mariposa County Unified School District has announced it will not reopen this school year. (See related story.)
“There are no clear time frames when the plans are going to be implemented,” said Sergienko.
He said there are various aspects to the guidelines, including those from the federal and state governments. In addition, officials have been working on the Yosemite Gateway Roadmap, which includes Mariposa, Madera and Tuolumne counties as well as Yosemite National Park.
There are specific guidelines in place before there are any modifications of the stay at home order. Those are:
• Ensure ability to care for the sick in the hospitals.
• Prevent infection in people who are at high risk for severe disease.
• Build capacity to protect the health and well-being of the public.
• Reduce social, emotional and economic disruptions.
In addition, the roadmap also requires six “capabilities-based” requirements to be in place before modifying the state health officer’s order. Those are:
• The ability to monitor and protect the communities through testing, contact tracing, isolation and supporting those who are positive or exposed.
• The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe Covid-19.
• The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges.
• The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand.
• The ability for businesses, schools and child care facilities to support physical distancing.
• The ability to determine when to re-institute certain measures, such as stay-at-home orders, when necessary.
Sergienko said the fifth point “is the biggie we will be working on.”
Though schools are closed now, he said in the fall, there will likely be measures that have to be put in place for any reopening.
Also, “how do we help businesses to reopen in a safe way when the governor orders it?”
He also stressed the last point, which could mean re-implementing measures should the conditions change.
Those conditions could include more outpatient visits to medical facilities, a spike in over-the-counter cold and flu medication sales, evidence of community spread (which could include more EMS calls or out-of-hospital deaths) and a surge in ICU patients.
“We have to build these out before considering relaxing the governor’s executive order,” said Sergienko.
He said the federal criteria are “disease driven.”
Those include a downward trend in the number of Covid-19 lab tests, adequate testing of healthcare workers and adequate personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
In addition, he said officials have to closely monitor skilled nursing facilities, particularly protecting the residents and staff.
Sergienko gave a “kudos” to officials at the Ewing Wing, which is the skilled nursing facility at John C. Fremont Healthcare District in Mariposa. He said they are “doggedly protecting their population.”
One issue brought up during the meeting was outdoor activities, something many fear will increase as the weather warms.
Supervisor Miles Menetrey asked specifically about houseboat use on Lake McClure.
Menetrey said some have asked why they can’t use their personal houseboats on the lake.
Sergienko said people should adhere to the “spirit of the stay at home order.”
He said when people leave their homes, there is “always the risk of popping that bubble.”
That bubble is trying to stay at home as much as possible.
“Once exposed,” said Sergienko, there is a “risk of spreading the virus. The longer you are out on the water, the more it is like non-essential travel.”
Sergienko said he is working with Merced Irrigation District officials about the use of Lake McClure. As of Tuesday, there was shore fishing allowed, although none at Bagby, which is the lake’s access point in Mariposa County.
He said it is possible if the shore fishing activities are done appropriately, there might be a possibility of opening the lake for boating.
“People need to know they need to be under good behavior,” said Sergienko.
He also said in talking with various health officers around the state, they caution the virus “sneaks up on you. We could go from zero to 60 really fast here.”