Sonoma County health officer: Residents must wear face coverings; plans to reevaluate stay-at-home order

“It’s a very fluid situation,” Larocque said of the county’s existing public health emergency restrictions to try to curtail the virus which has caused a global pandemic.

Mendocino County’s health officer last week eased some of the restrictions there, including allowing residents to walk or bike through parks close to their homes. That county only has four reported cases of the virus.

As of Monday night, Sonoma County had 81 active among the overall 152 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, since the first local infected person emerged on March 2. There are 69 people who recovered.

The county reported five new confirmed cases and 8 more recoveries in the 24-hour period ending Monday night. A total of 3,768 COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been conducted locally, with 3,616 or 96% coming back negative.

Still, Mase said it’s “really hard to predict” how the virus will spread in the coming weeks. A possible surge in Sonoma County is likely about six weeks away, according to the first batch of local case projection modeling done for the county by Imperial College London. The modeling showed that when the county reaches its peak in late May or early June, 1,500 residents could require hospital care.

“It is heartening that we don’t have the numbers, potentially, that we had expected,” the health officer said. “However, we’re kind of early in the whole situation. And as you know, flattening the curve is just that — flattening the curve so that we don’t hit that surge all of a sudden. But we’re still gonna see cases over time.”

Area health care providers have said reducing the potential surge of COVID-19 cases will keep local hospitals and medical clinics from being overwhelmed, allowing greater care and treatment to be devoted to the most severe cases, which in turn will save more lives.

On another front to tamp down the infectious disease, county health officials are targeting communities and institutions particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as skilled nursing centers, the homeless population and the county jail.

The county has launched an enhanced surveillance testing program to seek out virus cases at skilled nursing centers. That recently was instrumental in identifying a staff member at a Sebastopol facility who had been infected with the virus but wasn’t showing any symptoms.

County officials also conducted surveillance testing on several groups of homeless individuals, and are hoping to do the same at the Sonoma County Jail by the end of the week.

“The good thing is we don’t have any cases that we know of in the jail right now,” Mase said.

Meanwhile, county residents who defy her face-covering requirement could be charged with a misdemeanor, face a fine or both, officials said. As with other local public health orders, this directive stands until it’s rescinded.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” Mase said during the Facebook briefing. “I know this is hard for everybody, and it feels strange, but we have here in Sonoma County pulled through tough times before and emerged stronger. We know we can do this together, but we can’t do it without your help.”

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee. You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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