Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, continues to infect and reinfect residents of Colusa County, although the number of positive cases has ebbed and flowed at times.
On Monday, Colusa County Public Health reported 416 active cases of COVID-19, a drop from 457 active cases on Friday.
A total of 1,613 people have tested positive with COVID-19 to date, with nine deaths to mostly elderly people with underlying health conditions. The most recent death, however, was a 59-year-old female with several underlying issues, including chronic lung disease, who became infected with the disease twice.
The woman, now the youngest person in Colusa County to die, was first infected in May, and then had a positive test again in December, according to Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Kelly.
“The state is quantifying that as a reinfection,” Kelly said. “So that is an individual that was reinfected as it stands right now.”
Coronavirus vaccine is now being distributed according to the phase and tier system developed by the state.
About 200 Valley West patients and health care workers received the Moderna vaccine in the first distribution. After the initial distribution of 195 Pfiser vaccines to healthcare workers, five more health care workers at Ampla Health, 20 at Colusa Medical Center, and 75 firefighters received vaccine on Jan. 5, County Counsel Marcos Kroph said Monday.
The county also received 50 additional doses of Pfiser vaccine on Monday to begin vaccinating in-home care providers to the elderly and disabled.
Colusa County must follow the outline for vaccinations that will eventually include all health care workers, dentists, laboratory workers, people 75 and older, law enforcement, food packing and distribution, agriculture and grocery workers, teachers and school staff, childcare providers, high risk individuals with severe underlying conditions, and U.S. Postal workers.
Eventually, vaccines should become available for individuals ages 65-74, individuals 64 and younger with severe medical conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19 complications, and other essential workers in accordance with the state’s phasing program.
Each individual that has received the first dose of vaccine will be given a notice for when the second dose is due, but each will be responsible to attend the shot clinics when they are scheduled to get their second dose. Firefighters should receive their second dose on Feb. 9, officials said.
“If people don’t follow up on their own, we are not going to (contact) them,” Kelly said. “They have got to be responsible for ensuring they get the second dose.”
Vaccines are not mandatory, nor will the county track individuals who decline.
“If they got vaccinated, we will have that documented,” Kelly said. “If they decline, then we don’t document that. We don’t track that.”
Kelly said that while mainstream media has hyped a slow rollout of available vaccines in California and elsewhere, the primary lag is the lack of available staff to administer the vaccine and monitor recipients.
“Once a person receives a vaccine, they have to sit for 15 to 30 minutes in case there is a severe allergic reaction,” Kelly said. “That is staffing time. It’s not like a drive thru clinic where you shoot them in the arm and they drive away. That is not the case here.”
Colusa County Public Health is one of only 61 health departments in California, with many notifying the state that staffing levels would also not permit continued testing and contact tracing while their time is dedicated to administering vaccines. The county, on Friday, ceased reporting quarantined individuals for that reason.
“We didn’t grow people,” Kelly said.
Colusa Public Health staff, which includes just two nurses and possibly some contract help, will continue to administer the vaccine as it comes available, but likely additional help will be needed to vaccinate the willing population, expected to be about 50 percent, which is about the same willingness as the flu vaccine. Another allocation of vaccines is expected next week.
“If we need to call in the national guard, then we need to do it,” Kelly said. “We reported to the state, we need 15 to 20 people additional nurses or staffing to support this vaccination process.”
Meanwhile, officials urged people to maintain safety protocols such as handwashing, wearing face coverings in public, keeping a six foot distance from others, and staying home if sick.
It is yet unknown how long the vaccine will guard against coronavirus, but the Centers for Disease Control speculates about six months. They also recommend people who have already had COVID-19 to accept a vaccination, because natural immunity from having the virus may also not last long.
As she did six months ago, Kelly said coronavirus is and will remain in the community (composed of largely essential workers), and that people must learn to live within it and start focusing on vaccination.
“It’s here and it is spreading,” Kelly said.