Oroville Mercury-Register

County sticks to state mask guidelines

- By Riley Blake rblake@chicoer.com

CHICO >> As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout Butte County, Butte County Public Health Director Danette York said in a news conference Tuesday there are no plans to resume indoor mask mandates.

Since July 31, reported daily COVID cases have doubled by more than 160 percent as of Aug. 30. Since then, eight additional deaths have been linked to being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Chico Unified School District which began school Aug. 16, there have been a total of 109 cases of COVID-19 among students and 21 cases among staff since the beginning of the school year.

York, who is fully vaccinated, revealed she currently has COVID-19 after a trip to Georgia for family matters. She noted her symptoms are currently much milder than the symptoms seen by unvaccinat­ed people in the county.

“The majority of the cases, especially those who are seriously ill or hospitaliz­ed, is happening to people who remain either unvaccinat­ed or not fully vaccinated,” York said. “However, we are also seeing more cases among children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccinatio­n.”

York added the rise in breakthrou­gh cases in the county for those who are fully vaccinated people is stemming largely from the Delta variant, which she noted is twice as infectious as the original strain.

“Most people with breakthrou­gh cases have mild cold like symptoms and some are even asymptomat­ic and unaware of their infection,” York said. “Unfortunat­ely, they can still spread it even if they are asymptomat­ic, but it’s a sign that the vaccine is effective and helpful.”

York, who said during the news conference masks are encouraged, added that while the county has the ability to implement indoor mask mandates outside of the state’s decision, the county isn’t making any moves at the moment.

“Public health in general and our Board of Supervisor­s are all receiving lots of emails and informatio­n from public members right now asking that we do an indoor mandate because the state has not implemente­d one,” York said. “I’m not going to say that won’t happen or it can’t happen, but what I will say is from the very beginning of the pandemic Butte County’s leadership basically got together and decided that we were going to follow the guidance and the mandates that the state puts out.”

Speaking at the press conference, Enloe Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Marcia Nelson discussed the current situation inside the hospital, stating the situation is only escalating.

“Last weekend we had more patients hospitaliz­ed with COVID than we did at the worst point of our winter wave,” Nelson said. “Today, between COVID patients in isolation and COVID patients who’ve just been here past their isolation, we have 61 patients in house. That’s 22 percent of all of our patients.”

Nelson added as the cases in the hospital continue to increase, the hospital is also dealing with a nursing shortage and concerns over available space for patients.

“Summers are normally a little quieter in the hospital, the number of patients are usually a lot lower — not this year,” Nelson said. “We’ve had nine out of 10 of our hospital beds filled on some days with patients of all diagnoses. That doesn’t leave much room to patients with traumas or other emergencie­s.”

Nelson warned of concerns with the vaccinatio­n rate in Butte County, citing less than 50 percent of eligible residents are vaccinated. She added neighborin­g counties of Tehama, Glenn and Colusa that go to Enloe Medical Center for care are not any better.

“Last winter we were admitting just about 2 percent of all the patients who were isolated for COVID in the county. In late summer, that number rose up to 5 percent,” Nelson said. “Now we’re planning for it to be up to 10 percent and if that happens we could have almost 100 patients in Enloe alone with COVID. That would be more than one out of every three patients in the hospital with COVID.”

Nelson ended by stating administra­tion at the hospital has seen numerous cases where hospitals have become flooded with COVID-19 patients to the point providing adequate care has become near impossible. She warned if the pattern in Butte County continues, it’s possible the same situation could appear at Enloe.

“We’re doing all we can to help you. We need you to help us,” Nelson said. “We need you to get vaccinated, you to wear a mask and you to be diligent.”

State run COVID-19 testing is currently available through OptumServe Testing at two locations.

The first location is at 900 Mangrove Ave., Chico. Hours of operations are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The second location is on the Chico State campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in Whitney Hall, at 545 Legion Ave.

For more informatio­n on COVID-19 in Butte County visit http://www. buttecount­y.net/ph/COVID19 or call the Butte County COVID-19 hotline at 552-3050.

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