The slow path to opening upFree Access

Another case is reported of man who traveled to Bay Area; churches, hair salons may be able to open doors this week

There is another case of positive Covid-19 in Mariposa County, though it appears the man was not in the county when infected.

Mariposa County Health Officer Eric Sergienko said Tuesday morning the 64-year-old man “who had medical needs” traveled to the Bay Area.

“It is associated with community transmission but not in Mariposa,” said Sergienko during Tuesday’s meeting of the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors.

Sergienko said the man told officials he was wearing a mask and gloves while he was in the Bay Area “but didn’t know how he got it.”

Sergienko said that is a prime example of taking all of the precautions but still contracting the virus, which has no cure at this time.

The man did self-quarantine after returning from the San Francisco area, said Sergienko. After that, Sergienko said the man did go to the grocery store, pharmacy, out to dinner and went golfing. Sergienko didn’t say where, specifically, he did those activities.

During his quarantine, Sergienko said he developed symptoms. He did use the Covid-19 testing site in the county and was identified as being positive for the disease.

Since that time, Sergienko said officials have “identified a couple of close contacts who are family members.”

That contact, said Sergienko, was “early on before he developed symptoms.”

The doctor said it is “prudent” for those family members to be placed in a 14-day quarantine, which has been done.

“Things are fairly well with this case but we can expect to see these things to happen as we see the easing of restrictions over the next weeks and months,” said Sergienko.

The case brings the total to 16 in Mariposa County, with one reported death of an elderly woman who apparently contracted the disease through a long-term care facility not in the county.

Worship rules

Sergienko also made a major announcement concerning churches in the county.

As of Monday, Sergienko said the state is allowing churches to develop a plan within a 21-day period.

However, he said part of that plan is for churches to be able to hold services this Sunday — with strict rules.

The churches can have up to 25 percent of the building’s occupancy, or 100 people maximum.

“I think this is a good move forward,” said Sergienko. “There is a lot of specific details in the guidance so I encourage our churches to look at it.”

He said though it is not mandatory, churches can consult with the local health department in developing the plans. He encouraged church officials to contact the health department at (209) 966-2000 to get assistance.

Sergienko said they have until this Sunday to develop a plan and “carry out that plan,” including doing the services.

Following that, there will be a two-week period, said Sergienko, where his office will closely monitor if there is an uptick in the community which will determine the future of the services.

If there is not, Sergienko said then churches can move forward with expanded services, though he stressed how many people will be allowed is, at this time, an “unknown number.”

A cut above

Another major announcement from Sergienko had to do with hair stylists and barbers.

He said the state was scheduled to release its guidance Tuesday afternoon (after our press time) that will likely allow those businesses to open with strict guidelines.

“There will be a need for stringent guidance,” said Sergienko.

Public meetings

Supervisor Miles Menetrey brought up the subject of allowing members of the public into the weekly meetings of the board.

Menetrey cited the “consistency aspect” of “the latest guidelines,” especially with churches.

“If you just take the name off the building and put on ‘board of supervisors,’ why can’t you open this up?” said Menetrey.

He said 53 people would be 25 percent of the capacity in the board chambers.

“I think our community is jacked up” about not being able to come to the meetings and give input, said Menetrey. “I think we should allow our community to come in here and see what their county government is doing.”

Board chairman Kevin Cann said he agreed in having public involvement, but also said it is probably not feasible to allow 53 people in the room and “keep social distancing.”

Supervisor Merlin Jones said he agrees the public is not happy about how the current system is working.

“They say ‘we are not able to voice our opinions,’” said Jones. “They hate this system here. I think we are doing the best we can.”

“If everybody is unhappy, we are probably doing okay, but we could probably do better,” said Sergienko.

But Sergienko was also quick to point out how critical it is for the public to follow the guidelines from the health professionals.

Sergienko said it is “the public doing things” he recommends that is crucial and “if they start not to take heed of those … then we lose. Anything we can do to engender trust and is still safe and legal, that is a good thing.”

Sergienko said he would work with the clerk of the board in developing a possible plan to allow the public back into the meetings.

Other issues

Jones said he believes the current non-essential travel ban “is being totally ignored.”

Jones said he was at a restaurant on Monday and was “the only local in there.”

He said he spoke with some of the other customers and they were from around California, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and other places.

Jones also said he is aware of some owners of vacation rentals who are “taking cash under the table” to rent their homes.

“That is happening right here,” said Jones.

Sergienko said the “takeaway” from that and other incidents is why “we have to be vigilant all of the time.”

That includes good hygiene, hand washing and more.

“Individual actions become very important,” said Sergienko.

Sergienko was also asked about the “army” of contact tracers which are being hired by the state.

He said about 10,000 have been hired and another 10,000 will be hired.

“We’re going to need it when the park starts to open,” said Supervisor Rosemarie Smallcombe.

Cann called the park reopening the “other continual elephant in the room” that “will have an impact on everything we have just talked about.”

When that happens remains to be seen as park officials continue to develop necessary plans. (See related story.)

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