Mounting COVID cases worry public health officials; but it’s not the firefighters

By Debra Moore

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While fire has dominated most discussions in Plumas County, including at the Board of Supervisors, there is another cause for concern.

“I’m going to talk about another emergency that is slower moving, but still dangerous,” said Public Health Director Dana Loomis during the board’s Aug. 10 meeting.

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He reported that 39 new cases were confirmed in the week ending Aug. 9. That’s an alarming increase,” he said. That puts the county case rate at 29 per 100,000, when just a couple of weeks ago it was at 3.

“Most of the new cases are in clusters,” he said. They are workplace breakouts related to large gatherings that are cascading down, he explained.

Some in the community have suggested that it’s firefighter related, but Loomis said that’s not the case. A large event that involved a number of people from a workplace triggered the increase in cases.

Moving forward though, Loomis thinks that the Dixie Fire will have an impact due to the influx of fire evacuees. He said that historically illness and infection spreads “when people are displaced.”

In addition to the increase in cases, hospitalizations are rising. While there hadn’t been any for a long while, there have been several in the past few weeks, he said.

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Vaccination rates in Plumas County continue to hover at the 50 percent mark for the fully vaccinated, and 55 percent of the eligible population has at least one dose. Vaccinations are becoming required in some workplaces.

If the case rate continues to rise, Loomis said that a mask mandate is one option that could be used to help curb the outbreak.

Public Health is working with the local schools to develop COVID protocols as classes resume. That includes Feather River College that reported two positive cases today, though they won’t be included in the Plumas County count.