(5/31/2020 – James) –Official Press Release attached at bottom
With the latest increase of 1 (ONE) positive COVID-19 case in Inyo County last Friday, May 29, there are some people on social media that seem to think that people are suddenly claiming that the “sky is falling,” but that is just not true. It’s not true for people in either Inyo County or Mono County. The doctors at the Northern Inyo Hospital District (and I suspect, Mammoth Hospital as well) have not been surprised in the least bit that another positive case might have shown up. If anything, they anticipated the likelihood that it will. [NOTE: Mono County has reported an increase of 2 (TWO) positive new cases over the past day, May 31.]
The increase of one positive case might be indicative of a “new surge” or it may mean “nothing at all.” No one knows, including the doctors. Very few people as a percentage of the population have been tested in both counties, and even with the low testing rates, the vast majority of those that have, have proven negative for the virus. If anything, the very low numbers of infection might indicate that the rest of the population is “naive” (i.e., have not had the virus). The problem with that is that there’s all the more people that are still susceptible and may become infected in the future. And if it happens during the upcoming Fall flu season, in combination with COVID-19, the results might well be devastating for public health.
The very low numbers of testing in both counties is the result of having a very limited number of test kits. Nothing more, nothing less. From the start, those given priority on testing are those that are seriously ill and essential workers, especially those working in the hospitals and first responders, i.e., those at greatest risk. While the country is being told at the national level in Washington D.C. that there are plenty of test kits and Personal Protection Equipment, it simply is not true as evidenced by the continuing shortages both locally and nationally.
Dr. Will Timbers, NIHD Interim Chief Medical Officer, and Dr. Stacey Brown, NIHD Chief of Staff, have said for weeks that the numbers could change at any time either because increased testing becomes available or the virus has started to spread through the population as strict protocols increasingly become ignored by the public. Both doctors have said that it is very likely that the efforts of local residents in “flattening the curve” has been effective in keep the numbers low in Inyo County.
Everything is complicated by the asymptomatic nature of the disease. No symptoms: No need for a test. Even a negative test result, if taken again the next day or a few days later or anytime in the future, might prove positive…and there are clearly not remotely enough tests for people to be repeatedly tested that often.
With the increased visitors and tourists anticipated to be coming to the area as it “reopens,” and given the time it takes for symptoms to become evident is anywhere between several days up to 14 days, the NIHD doctors have always said that the effect of reopening of public venues always holds risk in spreading the disease.
Northern Inyo Hospital has been confident for some time now to take on whatever comes its way, and they have access to outside resources they can count on to come in to help, if needed. The hospital healthcare district is confident that it can finally start offering many of its services that have been put on hold for two months.
Both doctors, Timbers and Brown, strongly encourage the public to continue wearing face coverings, practice social/physical distancing, and washing hands with soap and warm water. If they have concerns, it’s more that people will just decide to let down their guard, stop practicing the things that have keep the virus at bay, and by doing so, allow the pandemic to take off. Let’s not let that happen.