The Mono County Supervisors and Mammoth Lakes Town Council met Tuesday afternoon for an update on an increasing number of COVID-19 cases throughout the County. With the Mountain View Fire out of control in Walker, claiming one life and destroying property, the meeting took on the feel of an update on the Apocalypse.
This has not been a good year.
Bob Lawton, Mono’s chief executive officer, reported on an increase of cases not related to the outbreak at the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center outside Bridgeport. The County’s total cumulative numbers as of Wednesday morning totaled 493 cases, 259 associated with the training center, 188 in Mammoth, 17 cases in south county, 29 to the north. Those numbers, Lawton said, represent a 400-percent increase over the last three weeks. “Hospital capacity is a concern,” he said and hospitals in Nevada have also been impacted.
The County shifted from the moderate tier to substantial on California’s matrix, a rating that has reduced capacities in restaurants and lodging, closed bars and requires additional modifications across all business sectors.
Both Lawton and Dr. Tom Boo, public health officer, admitted the effort now was to stay out of the more rigid widespread tier. “We were candidates to go purple (the color code for the top tier),” Lawton said. “Adjudication kept us in the red (or substantial) tier.”
Mammoth Lakes Fire Chief, Frank Frievalt headed up the Emergency Operations Center set up to deal with COVID-19. “We had good luck in the past,” he said reference the EOC’s ability to influence people’s behavior, “but now people have COVID-fatigue.” There may be a need to revisit enforcement, he added.
The COVID-19 testing is another snag, said Public Health Director Brian Wheeler. The surges in cases state-wide have backlogged labs. “We don’t have the capacity we’d like,” Wheeler reported.” Testing also dropped off during the Center Fire as air quality plummeted and residents were sheltering indoors.
The literal elephant in the room was Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, more specifically the influx of workers and how they were housed. “We’ve reviewed their housing plan,” said Mammoth Lakes Town Manager Dan Holler, “but we don’t have the authority to regulate how the employees live.” He went on to say the Mountain has been cooperative.
“We’re working to set up a convenient testing site at Mammoth Mountain for both the community and the workforce,” said Wheeler.
To get back to the whole Apocalypse comparison—the original definition is “the ultimate victory of good over evil and the end of the present age.” Let’s just hope that happens soon.