Even though Lassen County has no reported cases of Coronavirus as of late last week, the county has adopted an incident command structure to respond to the public health threat the virus when it arrives here.
Lassen County Administrative Officer Richard Egan and California Highway Patrol Officer Kristen Wilburn serve as public information officers for the incident command team that includes multiple state and local agencies — similar to the teams that would respond to an emergency such as a wildfire.
“We’re planning. We’re preparing, and we think we’re in a pretty good place,” Egan said.
Egan said the partners in this group are different than those that would be gathered in a fire emergency, but the group is following the same incident command system that’s been designed to respond to emergencies in Lassen County.
Egan said while the structure of the group is the same as would be used in other emergencies, this is a very different kind of emergency.
“The management model is in place,” Egan said, “but instead of the resources being things like fire equipment and that sort of thing, we’re dealing with different resources”
Egan said the command team is tackling two functions right now — “planning for contingencies and preparing for those so we have things staged if we do have a problem if the health care system becomes impacted. That’s the main concern right now — if the local health care system becomes impacted.”
Many different rumors circulate regarding Coronavirus cases in Lassen County in which infected people are sent to Reno and those become Nevada cases rather than Lassen County cases.
Egan said those rumors are false.
“We’ve seen some of that traffic on Facebook Friday,” Egan said. “There is interstate and intercounty coordination, so, if for example, a Lassen County resident drives to Reno, goes to a hospital and gets tested positive, they will let us know. None of that has happened yet. No positive cases have been returned … As of right now there are no cases of Lassen County residents testing positive anywhere else.”
Egan said if a Lassen County person traveled to Nevada and got a positive diagnosis, Lassen County would count and report that as a local case. But he said he didn’t know how Nevada officials would treat it.
“We’d report it for what it is,” Egan said.
He said sooner or later, the county will get a resident who tests positive, and “we’ll do a release immediately.”
And Egan said if Lassen County does get a case or two, he doesn’t believe there will be any changes in quarantine orders, based upon what’s happening in other counties.
Egan also said some residents are frustrated by the length of time it takes to get test results here in Lassen County.
“The results take quite a bit of time to come back, and we have quite a few tests pending,” Egan said. “There’s a reason for that. The tests are prioritized by tier — from the most severe to the least severe — in terms of which tests should be performed first. If someone is hospitalized with symptoms, then that test is going to be performed before somebody who just presented with mild symptoms and doesn’t have any significant risk factors or certain exposure. That’s why our tests seem to be taking longer to get back — lower priority.”
Egan said the highest tier tests are performed in a Shasta County lab.
“The samples are collected here, and are transported there and tests are actually done there,” Egan said.
Egan said the community can access daily updates at lassencares.org or on the Lassen Cares Facebook page.
Our Lassen County Times website, lassennews.com, also includes a link to the lassencares.org website, and we frequently update the COVID-19 information.
Barbara Longo, Lassen County’s director of health and social services, and Dean Growdon, Lassen County sheriff, will serve as the incident commanders, and Cynthia Raschein will serve as the deputy incident commander. Nick Garcia, Cal Fire, will serve as safety officer, James Moore, Susanville fire chief, will serve as the operations section chief, Isaac Thornton, Cal Fire, will serve as the deputy operations chief, Tony Shaw, Lassen County assistant administrative officer, will serve as the liaison officer, and Sarah Richards, California Highway Patrol, will served as deputy liaison officer.
The command reminds residents of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 19 executive order asking all Californians to stay at home unless they are part of the identified critical infrastructure sectors (gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants, banks and laundromats.
The command thanked local business for following the governor’s order.
On Friday, March 20, Growdon and Silas Rojas, assistant director of emergency services, proclaimed a local emergency due to the Coronavirus in Lassen County., and announced the opening of the Emergency Operations Center including Lassen County, the city of Susanville, the Susanville Fire Department, the Susanville Police Department, Lassen County Public Health, the Susanville Indian Rancheria, Northeastern Rural Health Clinic, Lassen County Health and Social Services, SEMSA, the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, Lassen Community College and Banner Lassen Medical Center.
The same day, Dr. Kenneth Korver, the county’s health officer, declared a local health emergency.