Lassen County moves to purple, supes receive COVID-19 update

With Lassen County now in the state’s purple tier and local COVID-19 cases rising, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors received an update on what’s going on locally.

At the end of October, there were 11 active cases, and 132 overall. Now, as of Tuesday, Nov. 24, there are 194 active with 375 total, Health and Social Services Director Barbara Longo told the Lassen County Board of Supervisors during a special meeting Wednesday, Nov. 25.

“With the reality of cold/ flu season coming into play, coupled with the aftermath of some of the Halloween gatherings, some of the activities that we as individuals chose to partake in, we’re now seeing an incredibly alarming increase of positive COVID cases,” said Longo.

Along with the rise in community cases, local prisons are experiencing outbreaks as well. As of Wednesday, Nov. 25, there are 606 active cases at HDSP, with 157 resolved and one reported death. At CCC, there are 28 active cases, with 626 resolved. According to the CDCR COVID-19 employee status, as of Nov. 25, there are 22 positive staff cases at CCC, with 97 positive staff cases at HDSP. Staff is counted in the local numbers only if they live in Lassen County.

“Our community has the COVID. It’s pretty aggressive right now. The transmission rate is incredibly high,” said Longo, while also encouraging facemask wearing, washing hands and maintaining distance from others.

During the Wednesday meeting, Longo also noted some of those who test positive are seeing more severe symptoms, which could be attributed to it being paired with the cold or flu.

Moreover, there was also discussion during the meeting about what prompted the Lassen County Health Officer’s School Closure Order, which closed all K-12 county schools for regular in-person instruction until Dec. 31.

“(With) the spread of this virus and the intensity of it, our health officer decided we needed to do something,” Longo said. “He felt, in the best interest of the community at large, that he would close the schools. Again, it wasn’t an easy decision”

Longo said the department was in discussion with the Lassen County Office of Education before the decision was announced.

However, there was some discussion during the meeting about why the closure was necessary, and the potential harm to the mental health of the students.

Some at the meeting questioned why some schools that did not have a positive case were forced to close in-person instruction, and why closing schools made sense since students were still gathering outside of school.

Another attendee asked if the county could take steps to ensure students’ mental health was not negatively impacted during this time.

Longo noted the decision to close the schools to in-person instruction stemmed from a broad look at contract tracing and activities taking place, the rapid rate of transmission and the increase of symptom severity.

“We weren’t looking at one sector, we were looking at the community at large,” said Longo. “We’re just asking that people really take it seriously and just take a pause.”

County Administrative Officer Richard Egan also commented that, if the situation changes, Dr. Ken Korver, the public health officer, has the ability to rescind the school closure order.

Regarding the move to the Purple Tier on the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy — of which the new restrictions can be viewed at this link — the change will make more things take place outdoors.

“Purple means, pretty much, we are going to be doing activities outdoors,” the health and social services director told the board.

Additionally, supervisors asked when vaccines will come to the area and when the county can get out of the Purple Tier.

Longo noted the amount of vaccines the county will receive is unknown at this time, but said the local public health team is very vocal and persuasive at getting supplies from the state.

Getting out of the Purple Tier will be difficult, though, unless the state changes its metrics for the new tier system or the local numbers improve.

Egan noted in the current rules it doesn’t seem likely, but “Every day is a new day in Sacramento,”

Longo also discussed the possibility of an outbreak in county departments.

“We are reaching a point concern with depth of our staff. Right now if we get an outbreak, and I say if, and I could even go further to say when we get an outbreak in one of our departments, especially public health, we’re going to really be in a serious situation,” Longo said.

Reflecting on the public health department, Longo thanked the exhausted but dedicated public health team, who not only responds to COVID calls, but who also conducted the flu clinics in October, while also engaging with public health providers in the area.

“In the end, facing the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, it is the position of Lassen County that we ask you lower your transactions so the infection rate can go down,” supervisor David Teeter said.

The board did not take any action during the meeting.